Style Imitation Exercise

As the year winds down in American Lit, I assign a style imitation exercise to review the major works we’ve read and the styles of some important authors.  The students’ job is to write a brief version of any four stories, each in the style of a different author.  Either the story or the author has to be one we studied in class. 

Here are two examples I gave them (I know, neither Shakespeare nor Star Wars is American Lit, but I had the idea and couldn’t resist):

The Empire Strikes Back, as written by William Shakespeare

VADER:  Fair young apprentice, it is I who am the father of thy fleshly tabernacle!

LUKE:  Oh, forswear it, vile wretch!

Never shall the days come when I shall agree

To partake of the black compact thou hast proposed.

The very seraphs of heav’n shall blow their mighty trumps

Ere I rule the galaxy with thee!

Napoleon Dynamite, as written by Emily Dickinson 

Alas and woe is me,

For bereft of the sweet tots am I.

My lily-white palm reaches–

Out–to cast away the button of

The flippin idiot who–

Votes for Summer in place of Pedro–

My heart drops and yearns for…

Ninja skills!

They came up with some pretty impressive stuff.  Here are some ideas, just to give you a sense for their creativity:

  • Twilight, by Mark Twain (he highlights the pathetic flaws in every character by sarcastically mocking their lame, emo worldview)
  • William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow,” by Herman Melville (a sixteen-word poem becomes a stark, 1000-page epic: “So very much of the innermost intensity of our eternal, ethereal souls depends upon the minutest particularities of crimson hue inherently blasted, seared into the fibre of the side of the wheelbarrow…” etc, etc)
  • A Walk To Remember, by Edgar Allan Poe  (The way it was meant to be–less corny romance, more gory phantasms torturing the dark secrets hidden inside us all.  The girl still dies.)
  • William Faulkner’s “A Rose For Emily,” by Dr. Seuss  (“I would not, could not with a corpse…well, maybe I could.”)
  • The Crucible, by Dorothy Parker (the men accuse all of the women of witchcraft because they’re neurotic and needy–the women tartly retort at first, but end up agreeing and hanging themselves.)
  • Moby Dick, by Stephen King (Ahab can’t kill the whale because it’s a psychic, flying alien!  But Ahab turns out to be a vampire from another dimension!  Now we’ve got a story.)
  • The Great Gatsby, by Mr. Huston (everybody dies on page 2)
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Parodies By Literary Giants

As the year winds down, I like to have my classes review the things we’ve read–and the elements of style employed by great authors–by having them write parodies of things as if they were done by literary giants.  We start by reading these examples, done up by yours truly.  Enjoy!

 

The Empire Strikes Back, as written by William Shakespeare

VADER: Fair young apprentice, it is I who am the father of thy fleshly tabernacle!

LUKE: Oh, forswear it, vile wretch!

      Never shall the days come when I shall agree

      To partake of the black compact thou hast proposed.

      The very seraphs of heav’n shall blow their mighty trumps

      Ere I rule the galaxy with thee!

 

Napoleon Dynamite, as written by Emily Dickinson

Alas and woe is me,

For bereft of the sweet tots am I.

My lily-white palm reaches–

Out–to cast away the button of

The flippin idiot who–

Votes for Summer in place of Pedro–

My heart drops and yearns for…

Ninja skills!

 

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, as written by Ernest Hemingway

      Harry chased the snitch. It flew away. He didn’t give up. Draco came up from behind and bashed him. Hard. Harry was used to sabotage. 

      Harry lurched forward and grabbed the snitch with his hands. Darkness settled and Harry awoke to victory. Draco stood still, and alone.

 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, as written by Ray Bradbury

      The old hag cackled a high screeching blare of ugly maniac laughter. 

      Snow White bit into the rosy orb apple, expecting the sweet juices of intoxicating simple life. Her brain screamed foul as she recognized the betrayal of memory and couldn’t stop the coming end, like an alien doomsday weapon had fired upon all her youth.

      Dwarves, seven, flew through the wood, hoping but late.