Writing prompt: Channeling your favorite authors


[Feature photo: Ding Yuin Shan]

You are what you eat; you write what you read. I’m sure you have heard this before. You can only learn so much about the art of writing from studying the art of writing – for some important lessons, you just need to read.

For this writing prompt, start out with a couple of sentences in your own normal writing voice. It can be anything. Write about what you had for breakfast, what you think of your sister’s boyfriend, what it was like the first time you went to the movies by yourself. Anything.

Then, take two books off of your bookshelf. They should be two books, written by authors with different styles. Hemingway and Charlotte Bronte. Melville and Pynchon. Doesn’t matter. Open these books at random, or flip to a favorite passage and read for a few minutes. Notice the author’s style, the length of sentences, the types and number of adjectives used, the seriousness of the tone, the speed of the action.

Then rewrite your passage twice, once for each author you have chosen.

One example:

My draft:

There was a typhoon last night, but it didn’t really pick up until we were brushing our teeth. I slept through most of it. This morning the waves are wilder than usual, but the sun is out for the first time in four days.

After reading a few pages in Sandra Cisneros’ Woman Hollering Creek:

Typhoon last night. I waited for it all day. The wind started to sneak into the house right before we went to bed and it shook the glass door in the bathroom. Not like last time when I thought it would fall right off the hinges. I like to sleep in bad weather. This morning when we woke up the rain was gone and the tide was high and the waves were heavy when they crashed against the break wall, but the sun was out. Thank God.

After reading a few pages from Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not:

Last night at around 10 o’clock, the wind from Typhoon Neoguri arrived. The storm had weakened considerably since it hit Okinawa earlier this week. In the morning, the bay was stirred up and the sun was out.

If you try out this writing prompt, leave a comment below with your work or a link to where you have shared it.
MatadorU Students: you can submit your writing to the weekly Labs to get feedback from the faculty.

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