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IWW Practice-W Exercise Archives
Exercise: Borrowed Words

These exercises were written by IWW members and administrators to provide structured practice opportunities for its members. You are welcome to use them for practice as well. Please mention that you found them at the Internet Writers Workshop (http://www.internetwritingworkshop.org/).

Originated by: Alice Folkart
Posted on: Aug. 10, 2008
Reposted on: April 18, 2010
Resposted on: March 2, 2014
Resposted on: April 19, 2015
Resposted on: February 12, 2017

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Exercise: Create a story in 400 words or fewer that begins with an opening line "borrowed" from something you have read--novel, short story, poetry, travel guide, cookbook.

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Imagine how many different stories might spring from the following opening lines: 

"Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself." (Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf)

"When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow."  (To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee)

"I am ninety.  Or ninety-three.  One or the other."  (Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen)

"We lived at 2029 Lafontaine, the last house on the west side of the street from 178th to 179th, a row of five-story tenements that ended in a hat factory."   (Bronx Primitive - Kate Simon )

Of course you needn't use any of these.  You are free to choose from the whole world of literature.  Just let us know at the top of your Sub where your opening line comes from and who wrote it.  That information will not be considered part of your word count.

See where the vehicle of someone else's voice and vision might take you.

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Exercise: Create a story in 400 words or fewer that begins with an opening line "borrowed" from something you have read--novel, short story, poetry, travel guide, cookbook.

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When critiquing, if the quote is a familiar one, consider what kind of leap the writer has made and how well it works.  Is it interesting, new, radical, or does it echo the voice and intentions of the original author and work? Is that good, or not so good?  If the work and/or the author are new to you, discuss how well the writer has used the springboard of another's voice and idea to stretch his own voice. Have fun.


Web site created by Rhéal Nadeau and the administrators of the Internet Writing Workshop.
Modified by Gayle Surrette.