Two Truths and a Lie

May 8, 2014  Prompt #7

cat shadowCreative Falsehoods and Other Ways to Stretch Your Imagination

Perhaps you’ve played “Two Truths and A Lie” as an ice breaker in school, at work, or with friends. This prompt expands on this “get-to-know-you” game.

Instructions

On a blank piece of paper, write three sentences about yourself, your family or a character you are writing about. Two must be true. One must be a lie. Here is an example:

  • When I was four, my favorite toy was a ring of keys that my grandfather gave me.
  • When I was thirteen, my grandmother moved back to New Jersey where I lived.
  • When my brother Sam was eleven, he had a Halloween party that altered his life.

Next, write one of these sentences each on the top of three blank sheets of paper. Continue to write out the story (real or imagined).  Write for 3 to 5 minutes per sheet of paper. Here’s an example of how I followed up:

  • When I was four, my favorite toy was a ring of keys  my grandfather gave me. I carried them everywhere. I played with them when I was bored. I shook them when I wanted attention. I put them under my pillow at night. It wasn’t until I was six that I even understood that keys unlocked doors.
  • When I was thirteen, my grandmother moved back to New Jersey where I lived. Turns out, she was nothing like grandmothers in books. She didn’t bake cookies or wear an apron. She played Bridge and drank Scotch at 5 o’clock every day. Her refrigerator was sparse: a half-carton of eggs, a jar of creamed herring. Half-size cans of Michelob beer lined the refrigerator door. She told me she could never finish a whole one.
  • When my brother Sam was eleven, he had a Halloween party. We decorated the basement with orange balloons and black crepe paper. We taped huge sheets of Kraft Paper on the wall so his friends could write graffiti on it. At first they wrote things like Boo! and Watch out for black cats. Soon they got mean and wrote Jojo smells and Meryl is a witch. Then: Sam is queer. After that party, nothing was the same. Sam wondered how they  knew.

How “Two Truths and A Lie” Strengthens Your Writing

  • It encourages your imagination and asks you to dig deeper with your writing
  • It highlights the gray area between truth and lies, fiction and non-fiction.

Next Steps for More Writing

  • Re-read your “truth” stories and circle a word or phrase that still holds a charge—disturbing, melancholy, or particularly sweet. Write that phrase at the top of a new sheet of paper and write in response to it for 10 minutes.
  • Re-read your “lie” and circle a phrase that contains a slice of truth. Or circle a phrase that, again, holds a charge—wistful, exciting, or speaking to an unnamed desire. Write that phrase on a new sheet of paper and write in response to it for 10 minutes.

Tips and Variations for Writing Groups

  1. After you write your three short paragraphs, read them aloud to each other. Guess which is the lie and talk about why you thought so.  Discuss if the “lies” have a different writing style than the “truths.”
  2. Write a piece based on one of the other members lies.

Reminder

For a prompt later this week, find an old postcard. If you don’t have one, check antique shops or  tourist shops. Or, type the phrase “old travel postcards” into Google’s image search or another search engine and choose one from there.

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