Play It Backwards

June 27, 2014  Prompt #56

DSCN6122Today, more random play as we explore ways to re-vision, re-see, and re-imagine our work. This exercise comes from writer and translator T. Begley, from whom I took a writing workshop 20 years ago at The Naropa Institute (that’s what it was called back then).

 

Instructions

  1. Choose a section of a story or essay you’ve written that is about a page long. Or choose a single piece of flash fiction or a short to medium-length poem.
  2. Retype it or rewrite it backwards.  That is, on a fresh sheet of paper, write the last sentence of the paragraph, followed by the second to last sentence, and so on until you write the original first sentence as the new last sentence.
  3. Read it out loud.
  4. Highlight something that surprised you.
  5. Circle something that has taken on a new meaning with the rewrite.
  6. Underline something that you think could be improved or changed.
  7. Underline a sentence or phrase that particularly speaks to you. Write it on the top of a new sheet of page and write for 10 minutes.

 

Further Writing

  • Thinking about #4 above, for 10 minutes, write in response to what surprised you. You can continue in the same style (fiction, verse, etc.) or try more of a self-review.
  • Thinking about #5 above, for 10 minutes, write in response to what has taken on new meaning. Again, you can continue in the same style (fiction, verse, etc.) or try more of a self-review.

Variations for Writing Groups

  1. Cut up your original poem or prose excerpt into individual sentences or long phrases.
  2. Swap one each of your sentences or phrases with two other writing group members.
  3. Rearrange your sentences and your newly-obtained sentences into a new piece.

Considerations

If your style or subject matter is feeling stale or repetitious, prompts like this can help you step back from your writing and see it in a new light.

 

 

 

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Double Double (Toil and Trouble?)

June 25, 2014  Prompt #54

DSCN5693_2 DSCN5693

Sometimes, a successful story is the result of careful planning, clear outlines, and a well-conceived structure. Other times, random play generates surprising results. For today’s prompt, we are going to play.

Instructions

  1. Choose a section of a story or essay you’ve written that is about a page long. Or choose a single piece of flash fiction or a short to medium-length poem.
  2. Reprint it or rewrite it by starting every sentence on a new line AND leaving two blank lines between sentences. See example below.
  3. In the white spaces between the lines, write new sentences. They can be a logical extension of the existing work or something less directly connected.
  4. Don’t over think this one. But do have fun.

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Original Paragraph:

“When does a Jew become an adult?” Mrs. Glickenstein asked. “Twenty-one? Eighteen?” Clarissa Wallach and Yackov Winpool raised their hands, but I hesitated.  It didn’t matter: Mrs. Glickenstein answered her own question. “Thirteen. Thirteen is when a boy becomes a man.” Every Jewish kid knows this. Thirteen is the age of Bar and Bat Mitzvah, after which boys are counted in the minyan and can read from the Torah in front of the congregation. For girls, nothing changes, but, let’s face it, Bar Miztvahed boys aren’t adults either. It’s not like anyone of us can drive a car, vote for president , or buy beer the day we turn thirteen.

 

Prepared Paragraphs for the Writing Prompt

“When does a Jew become an adult?” Mrs. Glickenstein asked. “Twenty-one? Eighteen?”

 

Clarissa Wallach and Yackov Winpool raised their hands, but I hesitated.

 

It didn’t matter: Mrs. Glickenstein answered her own question.

 

“Thirteen. Thirteen is when a boy becomes a man.”

 

Every Jewish kid knows this.

 

Thirteen is the age of Bar and Bat Mitzvah, after which boys are counted in the minyan and can read from the Torah in front of the congregation.

 

For girls, nothing changes, but, let’s face it, Bar Miztvahed boys aren’t adults either.

 

It’s not like anyone of us can drive a car, vote for president , or buy beer the day we turn thirteen.

====================================================

Further Writing

  • In the blank spaces, write from the point-of-view of a different time period. For instance, if the existing story takes place in the past, write a parallel story in the present. Or write a parallel story from 50 or 100 years earlier.
  • In the blank spaces, write an interior voice.
  • In the blank spaces, write in a distinctly different style.

Variations for Writing Groups

  1. On index cards, write down feelings or emotional states. (For example: doubt, joy, sneakiness, outrage, enthusiasm, uncertainty, distrust, drunkenness, or despair.)
  2. Choose an emotion from the pile and rewrite your sentences in that style. In other words, shift the tone or mood of your original piece.

 

Considerations

Read over what you’ve written, then make note of anything you’ve learned from the prompt.  For instance, you might discover ways to add depth to your original work. You might realize your original piece needs more sensory details (or fewer) or more summarizing (or less summarizing) and so on.  Overall, prompts like this shake up your work and, in the best of circumstances, give you fresh eyes for revision.