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Exercise #25: "Permutation"
Take a particularly vivid and rhythmic sentence or two from someone else's book or story, and then exchange the verbs and/or adjectives and/or adverbs and/or whatever to make it your own. For example, while reading Conversations with Gore Vidal (edited by Richard Peabody and Lucinda Ebersole), I came across this vignette in the piece by Larry Kramer, "The Sadness of Gore Vidal":
"He is very fat. His face is lined. His hair, all of which he still has, looks like it's in the end stages of a coloring job. He says he has to worry about his health. He orders a steak."
Here is my permutation on that:
"She is very thin. Her face is smooth as a child's. Her hair, which is sparce and frizzed, reminds me of what might be a fried mermaid's. She says she is ravenous. She orders the sardine sandwich, sans bread."
Hey, I'm having fun, so here's another:
"He is huge. His face appears to have been inflated. His hair has been slicked back with a strong-smelling lotion. He says he hasn't time for more than a quick bite. He orders the rack of lamb."
Do as many permutations as you can on this, or on another selection. No rules.


My quote is a bit long, but it's one of my favorite Dumas passages (from The Three Musketeers, Ch. 8). It is as follows:
He was thinking alone, and seriously racking his brain to find a direction for this single force four times multiplied, with which he did not doubt, as with the lever for which Archimedes sought, they should succeed in moving the world, when some one tapped gently at his door.
As I said, long. But all sorts of wonderful writing in there...

Deep breath...

And permutate away. heh

1. They were thinking together and desperately searching the deepest confines of their minds to solve the problem of where they were, of which they had no clue, by observing their desolate surroundings, when a wizard, all of the sudden, appeared in front of them with an owl perched on his shoulder.

I think I'll do a permutation on the above sentence instead of referring to the Dumas sentence. It will be interesting to see where the structure goes, I think, if I just alter the most recently "permutated" sentence.

2. The little boy was playing with his friend and joyfully jumping up and down on the trampoline as high as he could just for the fun of it - because it was so very diverting - by "double jumping" whenever possible when his friend, Jill, tumbled off the side of the trampoline, scraping her arm.

3. Christoff had just entered the forest, bravely venturing toward the glen where so many had lost their lives simply for the bragging rights which he felt he needed in order to survive in his small town, when an unseen vulture squawked ominously from a tree branch somewhere above his head.

5 minutes up.

That one was harder than I thought it would be. You're free to talk about whatever you want, but you're still confined within the grammatical structure of the sentence. I wobbled on that line pretty precariously, but I think I did ok. As is the case with most of these writing exercises, you feel like you could have done better if only you'd had just a little bit longer than 5 minutes. Oh well. I guess that's the point. Quick thinking = easier, better writing. I'm all for that.

3 cheers for better writing!

A few days ago, I stumbled across a blog called La Belette Rouge (French for "red weasel"). I was looking for blogs by aspiring / published writers, and I'm so happy that I came across this one. Her use of the English language is so evocative, and you practically see everything she describes. Either way, go give her a read. I very highly recommend it.

That's all for today's Exercise.



Patrick said…
Well, if it makes you feel better, I am actively trying my best to bring reason, coherence, and proper grammar and spelling back into Yahoo! Answers.

I mostly answer stuff in the Religion & Spirituality section, because everyone in there is either a really annoying antitheist, or a religious person who can't explain their religion in any way that's intelligible.
Stef Howerton said…
Hah Yes, Patrick. It does make me feel better.

Thanks for the comment, buddy!

(P.S. Looking forward to the a cappella group audition! heh)
I am loving your 52 weeks and your permutation. I prefer your permutation to that of Larry Kramer's.

Thank you for the VERY nice shout out. You made this red weasel's day. Merci!!!!

I will be back!!
Stef Howerton said…
De rien, La Belette Rouge! De rien...

I'm always up for shouting out about a blog that I enjoy. :)

Thanks for the comment!

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