May 18th, 2011 by writethebook
This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest William Lychack. He calls it AN EXPERIMENT IN SYNTAX: THE NEGATIVE INVERSION. Choose a piece of writing that you particularly like or need to think about in some way. Rewrite the piece by copying down the opposite of each word in the excerpt (except, perhaps, for "little words" like articles and prepositions.) Since most words don't have exact opposites, the possibilities are endless, and that's the point. Here's an example that William Lychack provided, inspired by an excerpt from Emerson. Unfortunately, I don't believe I have the legal right to write out the Emerson excerpt here, on my podcast site. You can probably find it online, though. It begins "I dreamed that I floated at will in the great ether," and ends, "I ate the world." [Emerson]
Here is William Lychack's Negative Inversion of the quote:
You awoke on the tiny tip of a pin, attached against your will, blind to all but that pinpoint of fire, a vast emptiness beneath these nightmares of a boy. Then a demon took you by the needle and carried you down and said, "Open your mouth." And you opened like a dark void. [Lychack]
Your poem or letter or postcard probably won't make much sense at first, but continue writing your negative inversion until you have your own draft. Work quickly on this first draft, letting your unconscious decide the antonyms. Now put the original away and see what you can make of your draft. Look for a sense of place, character, or subject to develop; cut out what you can't make work; alter details as much as you wish.
Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.
Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several South Burlington High School students)