Listen to the tunes of speech, the intonation patterns we use to connect our thoughts in conversation. The next step is using those patterns as the skeleton of thinking: Find a voice, then think.” (Dona Hickey, Developing a Written Voice)
No INBETWEEN today. Instead, I’d like to tease you with a writing prompt. It’s basically what I did for part of a style/grammar class assignment this week. My professor related it to trying on clothes: Style is like clothing. Writers can try on all sorts of styles, maybe collect a vintage wardrobe and mix in a few chic accessories — or stick with stuff that’s more Vogue and modern. Mary Oliver, as you’ll find if you click through to the following link, has a distinct voice and style. My class had to imitate her voice, wear her clothes, try on her style, and so will you if you try out this prompt.
Click through to this link. It’s an excerpt from Mary Oliver’s Blue Pastures. I’d paste it here, but it was pub’d in 1995 and I’m uncertain of copyright rules. So just scroll to page 19, the paragraph beginning “When the great horned…” Just read that paragraph; it’s not too long. Gorgeous writing. I’m obsessed.
Now list a couple qualities of Oliver’s writing. I got:
- sentence length moves from long at the beginning of the paragraph to short at the end
- hard alliteration
- LOTS of piled adjectives
So, for the assignment, I wrote this little 150 word paragraph in an attempt to imitate Mary Oliver.
On foggy fall mornings when I trudge out to the car, ice clings to the leaves on our Japanese maple and turns them into red crystals that sparkle when the sun comes out to melt the ice into condensation. All through the day, condensation drips onto the dewy grass or steams into the softening air until the crisp coming of evening freezes up the leaves again. Almost always the changing fall air burns the Japanese maple more brilliantly red by the day until veins of flame-colored orange streak through their centers and sear their crinkly edges brownish-burgundy. Then I pluck the leaves from creaky branches or scoop them off frozen soil, and press them flat inside fat phone directories. When all the leaves I leave on the maple are plastered to the pavement by deluges or rain or piled around the storm drain, I peel back the pages of the phone books. Suspended in time are my September leaves. Fresh fall fire fills my house.
Will I get 100%? Yeah? What would you do differently or similarly? Give it a try. It’s fun to try on new clothes.