writing exercise

I’m doing this quick little writing exercise in response to a post yesterday called “Write on Wednesday.” Basically, the exercise was to take the opening paragraph of our favorite book, and then write our own content into the paragraph, keeping the structure, tone, language, etc.

I followed the links to a few writers who attempted the exercise, and many seemed to have some trouble figuring out what they were actually supposed to do. It was interesting to read those attempts, because it helped me refine my idea of what the exercise entailed.

I didn’t use my favorite book because it was downstairs in the library, and it was dark and cold down there last night, and being James Herriott it probably opened with a scene in a barnyard, and, well … I was lazy. I did see that others used Orwell; one blogger used Down and Out in Paris and London and another used 1984, and I thought a classic sounded like the way to go so I went looking for my copy of Animal Farm among my upstairs bookshelves. It didn’t have a very useful opening paragraph, and neither did Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World, I so I used 1984 instead. Adam had already used it, but I figured it was a wonderful opening paragraph and there was no reason I couldn’t insert my own content and it would be different from anyone else’s.

AND, it seems I now have the opening paragraph to my historical novel written.

Here is the original paragraph:

IT WAS a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansion, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.

I approached the exercise intellectually. Rather than trying to just insert my own words into Orwell’s sentences, I decided to try to figure out what the structure actually was. Here is what I thought was the essence of the structure; what the information the paragraph was intended to convey:

  • WHEN was it? (describe)
  • WHO did WHAT, and what did the action look like?
  • What unintended/unwanted action also happened?

So here is my finished paragraph, attempting to use the structure, tone and language of the original:

IT WAS a warm clear morning in early May, and the birds were still chirping their morning songs. Christopher Willingson, his bow already stretched taut to avoid making a sound, stepped slowly out from behind a bush, though not slowly enough to prevent the leaves at his side from fluttering gently.

I like it. I wasn’t anywhere near the point of writing any actual sentences of this story; I’m still outlining and researching up the wazoo, but I think I’m going to end up using this as a stepping stone into the story once I’m there. 🙂


2 responses to “writing exercise

  1. Fantastic! Love the way you approached the brief and explained to us the process you used. This is just what the exercise is supposed to do, help us to create our own ideas and give us a stepping stone in our writing. This exercise works like scaffolding – and you have just proved that rewriting another paragraph can help us in our own writing.

    I hope you enjoyed WoW! Please come back for more next week

    Gill x

  2. A cool exercise, but you’ve made it so much more helpful, thank you. I would find it very helpful to have a first paragraph, even (perhaps especially) while still outlining.

    Fellow historical fiction campaigner here–woefully behind on my blog visits 😦

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