Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mad Libs

Time for yet another writing exercise from my favorite writing book, Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande. This time, though, it’s an exercise I always skip when I read the book. I decided it was about time I give it a try.
This exercise has to do with critically reading published books to find ways to improve our writing. She says to first read a book for fun then go back through it and read it for what you liked or disliked. I do this pretty naturally when I read but she has a suggestion to take it even further. Look for parts in the story that you normally have problems with, like the passing of time. Then you break the sentence down to every last noun, verb, adverb, etc. Once you figure out what each word in the sentence is you make your own sentence. It’s basically like Mad Libs on steroids only she couldn’t say that in her book because it was written in the 1930’s before Mad Libs were invented.
Ok, so for this exercise today we are going to use the book I just finished reading. Thanks to Christine’s wonderful review I decided I needed to read Janette Rallison’s “Just One Wish”. I tried to get it from the library and found that every copy at all three branches in Glendale were checked out! I mean, how cool will that be when I publish a book to know that people have to put my book on hold just to read a copy? I finally got the book and once I started reading it I couldn’t put it down. I took the kids swimming and I still read, all the way back out to the parking lot. Some beefy guy from the gym caught me reading while crossing the street and said, “Wow, that must be a good book.” I just mumbled a positive reply and made sure my kids were still alive, because, helloooo, that was really irresponsible, but I couldn’t help it. I did manage to pull my eyes from the book long enough to drive home. Since this book really worked for me, I’m going to use it for our little exercise.

Let’s use a sentence that showed the passage of time as an example:

“Three hours later, I woke up to the sound of things clanking in the kitchen and Jeremy yelling at the TV.” (From “Just One Wish” by Janette Rallison)

Ok, now we have to break this down:

Noun noun adverb, pronoun verb adverb preposition (“the”, what the heck is “the”??) noun preposition plural noun verb prep (“the” is a preposition, maybe? One of you will know) noun conjunction noun verb preposition (preposition?) noun.

Here’s my attempt, mind you this is coming from the girl that doesn’t know if “the” is a preposition or not!!

Five days passed, I looked longingly for the sight of horses galloping on the road and Dimitry coming to the ranch. (This sentence is for you, Jenni. You know how much I love writing romance!! *insert sarcasm here*)

Wow, that was harder than I thought, now I know why I always skipped this exercise. I had to look up all those words in the thesaurus, but “the” isn’t in there. Oh well, so now it’s your turn to give it a try. I will be out of town but I will check on your sentences later. Have fun with it!!


  1. sorry I meant to schedule this for tomorrow but I am in such a hurry it didn't work out that way. I gotta go, no time to fix it. See ya'll later.

  2. What an interesting exercise!

    Grammar notes:
    "The" is an article, which is a subset of determiners, which is a subset of adjectives.

    Also, "woke up" is a phrasal verb, rather than a verb + adverb.

  3. Hey guys. I told Janette about this post and she came and saw and had technical difficulties. Here is the post she wanted to leave for you.

    "Hey Nikki,
    Thanks for the kind words about my book. You walked into a parking lot still reading? Reviews just don't get better than that! Janette "

    Thought you'd want to know she was thrilled with your post.

  4. thanks Christine for bringing Janette onto our humble site. Janette, I really did love your story. I haven't been that engrossed in a book for awhile.

    To everyone-I'm glad to see I'm not the only one that was intimidated by this exercise!! LOLOL!



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