Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Exquisite Corpse

At our last writing meeting, Brian Wittenbrook ( introduced us to a writing exercise called The Exquisite Corpse. I’d like to take a couple of minutes to share the exercise with you because I was pleasantly surprised by the results.

There were five of us participating in the exercise and I think the more people you have, the more interesting the results. I can imagine that you need at least three people.

Start out by giving each participant a long strip of paper about an inch wide, give or take. Each participate writes an article and an adjective, something like “A blue” or “The long.” They then fold the paper so that what they’ve written is hidden and they pass it to another participant.

The second participant writes a noun, folds the paper then passes it.

The third participant writes a verb, folds and passes.

The fourth participant writes another article and adjective combination, folds the paper again, and passes it along.

The final participant writes another noun. At this point you can pass and open the paper, or just open it without passing.

We took the sentence we each received and used it as a twenty-minute writing prompt.

The sentence I received was, “A green duckling lollygagging the sweet whale.” Now I know that sounds kind of ridiculous, but I was actually able to create the beginning of a short story that I plan of completing. And what I found so wonderful about it, the sentence prompted me to write in a style that I’ve never tried before and is completely unusual for me.

So if you’re finding yourself in a writing rut, get together with some friends and give The Exquisite Corpse a try. It might be just the thing to kick you back into gear.

~Doug McIntire

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