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Writing activity example

Alison McGhee's activity, taken from What If? Exercises for Fiction Writers,"#70, Practice Writing Good, Clean Prose," by Christopher Keane:

Too often beginning writers think in terms of story, rather than in terms of woods--of building a story with words. As a result, their early efforts are often overwritten and flowery. The following exercise will challenge your use of language--and it might change the way you write.
Write a short story using words of only one syllable.
To make you conscious of word choice.



by Shirley Durr

In case Grand would fall as she limped off the porch, my eyes stayed wide to watch her. Small chicks squeaked when she brushed past them. One step to one side gave her room but put me close to catch her.

When she stopped, her gnarled hand reached for a hen and grasped the neck in both hands. With a strong twist, she turned and turned and turned. A crisp snap and squirt of blood took off the head. If I had not known, I might have thought the head flew when Grand threw it at my feet. She turned to me with a soft, “Get it, girl.”

Eyes closed, I picked up the hen by its feet and hung it to drain on the line strung in the yard.

Grand once more moved on a hen. Grasp, twist, turn, and toss. She stopped at three and did not fall.

When the hens had drained, I took them to the pot Grand had boiled and left at the edge of the porch. Dried blood and bits of wing would float to the top. When the pot cooled, I took out each hen to pluck her quills with my quick hands.

As my fingers flew, Grand leaned in back of me and watched with eyes that knew. Her bent hands made slow strokes on my head and neck. I felt the strong pull of her peace.