Monday, July 2, 2012

Writing Prompt - Modeling Your Favorite Author

Writing Hand

A couple of weeks a go I read a fantastic book called So, You Want to Be A Writer by Vicki Hambleton and Cathleen Greenwood (the review is on its way!). It is geared toward a young adult audience, but I, personally, think it is an invaluable resource to anyone thinking about jumping into the writing profession. Amongst a number of other resources and tips, there is one section of the book which provides writing prompts. I would like to attempt one that has captived my attention and share it with you. The suggestion/prompt is to "Use an Author as a Model" (p.67), here is a description from the authors of what it entails:
Try looking at the first few paragraphs of a favorite book. Choose three sentences and copy them, substituting new names and mostly new verbs, nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. Keep the basic sentence structure the same.[...] Keep going after you've written these first few sentences, using your author as a model whenever you'd like. [...] This technique is like learning to ride a bike: at first, you need someone to hold the back of your seat. But once you get going, you can do it all by yourself. Once you've gotten started, let go of the original author's plot and characters, and let your story go off on it's own adventure.
 I'm going to give this a shot with one of my favorite authors, J.K. Rowling, using Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as my jumping off point. This might be a little awkward because the first paragraph has only two sentences, the third sentence will be in the next paragraph. Here's the model I am going to use:
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such nonsense.
Mr. Dursley was the director of a firm called Grunnings, which made drills.

OK... here is my new version. I'll put all my changes in italics:

Mr. and Mrs. Roddington, of number one, Rodding Ranch, were proud to say that they were extremely important, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything banal or mundane, because they just didn't hold with such simplicity.

Mr. Roddington was the director of a firm called Fulfillment, which made dreams come true for those who could afford his lofty price.
Wow. I told myself I was going to stop writing at the three sentences, but I can definitely see how this prompt works. I'm curious about the Roddingtons now! I want to write more. What is this "Fulfillment" firm all about? How lofty is Mr. Roddington's price? I have to be honest with you, I sat down in front of my computer with no idea of what the heck I was going to write today. That's why I pulled out the prompt section of the So, You Want to Be A Writer book in the first place and now, here I am, three sentences later, with some new characters lurking about in my brain. What fun!

Fellow writers, you have to try this out. It's fun and easy. If you do, share your link in the comments below! You don't have to use Harry Potter, go ahead and use whatever book you like.

What do you think of the Roddingtons?
Have you used a writing prompt like this one before?
Would you use a prompt like this one in the future?
What kind of writing prompts get your juices flowing? 

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