Suspend Your Disbelief

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Get Writing: Steal on the First Pitch


In our “Get Writing” series, we share some of our favorite exercises for classroom (or personal) use. Enjoy!

You’ve played your most inspirational music. You’ve flipped through your most weathered paperback. You’ve stood on your head, gone on a jog and even cleaned your apartment.

Twice.

But if that first sentence just isn’t coming to you, don’t force it. Borrow someone else’s.

The secret to this writing prompt is not having access to that second sentence. With two, you’re just a reader enjoying the fruits of someone else’s labor. You’re going down their path.

But armed with just one sentence, you can build an entire world. It’s up to you whether the sentence is reliable or not. Make it a flashback or a dream; the start of a joke or a tragedy. Make it all of them. None of them. Whatever you do, the second sentence onward is yours.

Thanks to Poets & Writers’ “Page One” feature, you can go back into the archives for hundreds of first-sentences, each one boasting unique rhythm and syntax, perspective and voice.

July’s “Page One” hosts a wonderful range. Here are just three excerpts:

“It is afternoon.”

One Day I Will Write About This Place by Binyavanga Wainaina

“Nine years ago, in the summer of 1999, I was hired to be the director of the Great Midwestern Humanities Initiative (GMHI), a federally funded program designed ‘to foster a greater sense of community, increase public literacy, and strengthen levels of civic engagement in the American heartland.’”

My American Unhappiness by Dean Bakopoulos

“There was a great deal of shouting and then a shot.”

The Curfew by Jesse Ball

Step in someone else’s shoes and walk the path for as long as you want. The resulting story will be yours when done, and odds are you’ll have traveled so far that the first sentence can be deleted altogether.

The best part? Not only did you get some writing done, you’ve already gone on a jog and cleaned your apartment!


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