Exercises for Writing Creative Nonfiction Help (page 4)

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By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Sep 14, 2011

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Here's a prompt Heffron suggests:

  1. Read a piece you've written and cut five details from it, ones you feel aren't essential to the piece.
  2. Then add five details to it. How has it changed?
  3. To extend the exercise, choose two details that are mentioned only once or twice and find ways to mention them at least two more times.
  4. How has their meaning changed within the piece?

I think you can create a lyric essay from this exercise, one built in parts where the insight and emotion gain momentum across the white space that separates the parts:

Write a paragraph describing a place where you lived or hung out in a time that you wanted something—to be recognized, to be able to purchase something, to win a contest or athletic event, to be loved. Number that paragraph number one and then go on to write another paragraph that you'll number two. In this paragraph, follow Heffron's exercise by repeating paragraph one and adding five details. Reflect for several sentences on those details. Then write a list, which you'll number three, that repeats the details you previously mentioned. Write a next paragraph in which you take out all the added details and add back in only some of what had originally been in the first paragraph.

What do you feel as you exit this essay? Whatever that feeling is should help you find a title to the four paragraph piece, a piece which releases some feeling in you about the time you wanted someone or something so badly.

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