Elements of Craft

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Week 7 - Your Writing, Your Rule

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It’s no secret that successful authors possess an extraordinary ability to write, but, believe it or not, they too can at times find themselves unable to put pen to paper. We’ve discussed writer’s block and how writing in a restricted form (a sestina, for example!) can help you overcome it. The same can be said for writing with any type of self-imposed constraint.

French writer Georges Perec was unable to write the story of his parents’ deaths during World War II and the Holocaust. It wasn’t until he decided to write A Void, a novel that does not use the letter “E,” that he was able to touch on the subject of his parents. This unusual constraint didn’t allow him to write mère, père, famille, parents:  the French words for “mother,” “father,” “family,” or “parents,” so he was forced to think in new, often metaphoric ways in order to refer to them.

As writers, it's hard not to fall into our familiar writerly habits. We tend to follow paths of least resistance in our prose. Writing with a self-imposed constraint can force us to think differently about our writing, and thus the stories we choose to tell. So, for this prompt, write a piece that follows one of the following bizarre literary rules:
  1. Lipogram: A piece of writing that avoids a letter of the alphabet (like “E” in Perec’s A Void).
  2. Snowball: A  short piece or poem where each consecutive word is one letter longer than the last. For example: “I go one more level higher—jumping, laughing, screaming!"
  3. Monosyllabic: Write a poem or very brief story using only monosyllabic (one syllable) words!

Have fun, and good luck!