Prepared by: Patricia Johnson
Posted on: March 10, 2002
Where do we get our ideas for a story?
Inspiration can come from
from our own life experiences, or from creative works of others. If we
inspired by someone else's work, we have to consider their rights.
we use must be made into our own original work. Picasso was famous for
borrowing ideas from other's works and from the world around him. If we
at his paintings, we can see the influence of his study of African
Greek art. Picasso took an idea and instead of making a copy, he used
talent and creativity to make it his own.
Writers borrow ideas from all aspects of
life to turn into fresh new
One example is Jane Smiley's novel A Thousand Acres. Her novel is based
Shakespeare's King Lear, but has been updated to a modern Iowa family's
struggle to keep their farm. It is so original and imaginative that it
received a Pulitzer Prize. Another example would be the recent movie by
Coen brothers titled O Brother Where Art Thou? This is based on Homer's
Odyssey. This update takes place in America's Deep South with the
of prison escapees during the depression. Although the original ideas
the Odyssey are present in the story, it is definitely not Homer's
Poems can succinctly express ideas that are often found in novels.
a power in poetry to evoke a whole story in a very few words. Since
sentence of a poem is saturated with meaning, it is easy to find enough
material for a story within even a short poem. This exercise will
a poem or song lyric into an original story.
Examples of poems that translate well into
stories include lyrics to
children's nursery rhymes, ballads, historical poems, and poems based
legends like the poem 'Twas the Night Before Christmas'. Read it in the
exercise titled 'Everyone's A Poet' archived at Practice-W:
exercise for poetry information that will help you in preparing this
A helpful article on poetry appreciation is at the Borzoi Reader,
Kenneth Koch. Here is the URL:
If you do not have a poem or song in mind,
you may wish to select
- Shakespeare's Sonnet 43 at Bartleby.com
- Emily Dickinson's Poem 48 at Bartleby.com
- William Wordsworth at Bartleby.com http://www.bartleby.com/106/251.html
If you use copyrighted material, mention
the poem/song that was the
of inspiration, but do not type it in the submission. If you choose a
follow this public domain rule: most compositions registered between
and 1922 are in the public domain even though they are not yet 95 years
Songs after 1922 are copyrighted.
For Public Domain information, visit this
Exercise: Use one of your own poems, a
song lyric, or another
to write a fresh and unique story. You can use an extracted portion of
song or poem or the whole work, keeping in mind that your story will
length constraints. From the original work, find at least three
that are central to the poem and rework these into your own creative
When you critique a story, mention these central characteristics.
how well the poem's devices translate into story form. Critique whether
not the main idea of the original poem is at the heart of the new
whether other characteristics from the poem might be incorporated into
story. Try for a story of about 300 words. Follow all copyright laws.
fun, remember, we are all poets!
Patricia Johnson's wrap-up
Posted on: March 16, 2002
Hello Practice-w members,
Thanks to all you brave people who
submitted an exercise this week.
a complicated exercise and everyone put forth admirable efforts.
There was somewhat of a misunderstanding
with the directions. My
to have the critiquer do all the hard work of finding the reference
to the song or poem without having them listed in the submission. Many
submissions outlined the reference points.
It was sometimes a challenge to find the
song or poem and read it
putting the original in the submission. Most everyone did an excellent
with this. Some people gave detailed histories of the song or poem.
interesting and added to the exercise in an unforeseen way.
The stories varied as in several ways both
from other submissions
the original song or poem. Some stories stuck closely to the original
poem/song. Others used the poem/song as a starting point from which the
story took a totally different direction. Sometimes the story used
images from the original, and sometimes intangible ideas and concepts
used. Dialogue was used heavily, and in other stories mood and tone and
voice were the decisive elements. Some stories brought out different
and emotions from the poem/song, but kept surface details. I think the
successful element of this exercise was that each writer brought their
unique perspective to it. Creativity and originality definitely come
in the submissions.
Most of the critiques were detailed and
focused on the translation
original work into the author's own work. As Val mentioned to me,
critiquer find the references without having them listed in the
by the writer helps the writer determine how successful he/she was in
reinventing the original.
In some cases the critiquer interpreted
the poem/song in a different
form the writer. This made some critiquers focus on the two works
separately. Mood, style, and atmosphere of the were the opposite of the
poem/song in some of the stories. Some critiquers noted that
certain feelings in the lyrics and verses were not easy to capture in
form. One critiquer mentioned that if the reader did not read the
poem/song, the interpretation of the story would be very different.
I think the writers tapped into their
unique creativity in the
The main focus of this exercise was to make a poem/song into your own
and I think this was well accomplished by all. Thanks for submitting,
congratulations on tackling a tough exercise. I hope everyone enjoyed
learned, I know I did.
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Rhéal Nadeau and
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Modified by Gayle Surrette.