Posted by: Jodi | July 2, 2010

Writing Exercise – Pick a page

A while back Rik over at Uphill Writing asked a mutual friend, Cindy, of The Only Cin to share a writing exercise on his blog.  The exercise was to grab a book off the shelf and turn to page 91 and take the first complete sentence and write it down.  Then turn to page 40 and write down the first complete sentence found there.  Using the sentence from page 91 to start and the one from 40 to finish, you must string the two together in a story.   To see the Cindy’s writing exercise on Rik’s blog go here.

I thought I would give it a try.   I grabbed “The Power of One”  by Bryce Courtenay and flipped to page 90 and got a tidbit of dialogue.  On page 40 the first sentence was also dialogue and was rather crude so I cheated and went to page 41 instead.   Although the original exercise had no time limit I only gave myself 15 minutes.  This is what turned out, the borrowed sentences are bolded:

“He may look silly, man. But believe me you don’t want to get on his bad side – he’s got a mean streak a mile wide and won’t take nothing from nobody,”  said the pencil thin boy in desk directly to my right.  He was referring to the math teacher, Mr. Judge who had stepped out of the room to ‘talk’ to one of the other students.

It was my fourth day at Mathesen Jr. High.  The rest of the students started three weeks ago.  Pa had to move again for his work, uprooting my family for the fourth time in the past five years.   The first time we had to move it was really tough, leaving all my friends behind, being forced to fit in somewhere new.   Now I only felt numb, I didn’t care if I fit in or not.  Pa promised that this would be the last move.  He promised that the last time and the time before that as well.  No one in our family believed him anymore but we didn’t have the heart to tell  him.

The teacher returned, black bow tie slightly askew on the red plaid shirt.   His arms looked too long for his torso and his teeth too big for his mouth.  He reached for the chalk and started scratching equations onto the board.  The student returned a few minutes later, eyes red and face blotchy.

Mr. Judge cleared his throat and spoke, his voice squeaky, “let’s begin again, starting with these new equations.”  He insisted that the work be done orally, thought that we learned better that way.  To be sure, his two assistants wandered the room listening.  I learned to mumble a number if anyone came close, but mostly I did the Judge’s homework in my head.

Not award-winning material, but enough to get some wheels turning.   I have to admit, Cindy did a much better job at creating a story than I ever could.  If I had limitless time I might be able to turn this into something worth reading!

Any of you care to give it a try?  If you use it as a blog post,  post the link in the comments so everyone can come check it out!



  1. Oh I think it has lovely bones for a good, strong story. I was left wanting more!

    • Thanks Cindy, that means a lot to me. I’m not used to writing in first person which made it more of a challenge.

  2. Will do! Sounds like fun! Think I’ll use one of Stieg Larsson’s three books for my two pages…results later! Thanks for the idea… and I think yours is quite good! Don’t you love it when the wheels turn?

    • I can’t wait what turns out – let us know when you’re done!

  3. Well, not one to be contrary (cough, cough), I think you did quite well!

    • [takes a bow]
      Thanks Rik! Someday maybe I’ll develop it into something, when I have a little time…

  4. Great post. Nice job putting that together in 15 minutes by the way. It would take me much longer to reach that level of polish.

    Now all I have to do is figure out how to justify posting a fictional vignette in my blog.


  5. What a great idea. I think I’m going to give it a try. Thanks!

    • Go for it, I’d love to see what happens!

  6. Ok. I’m done. I will admit it took me longer than 15 minutes (more like an hour) and I had to create a new blog page for it.

    The book I chose, for no reason other than it was the first one on the shelf, was Richard Matheson’s novella “I am Legend.” The first line (bolded) is the first on page 90 and the last line (bolded) is the first line on page 40.

    Or click on my name above and go to the “what?” page, which you’ll find on the upper right of my home page.

    • Great work! What are the odds that I name my Jr High “Matheson Jr” and you choose a Matheson book? Thanks for giving it a shot – hope you had some fun giving it a try!

      • It was fun, even if I had to put on a pair of headphones to tune out my wife nagging my 8-year-old to do his summer math practice (poor kid).

        That exercise can help inspire a story idea if you’re stuck. You never know what might come out.

  7. Excellent post, Jo.

    And I loved your glimpse into Matheson Jr. High . . .

    Your narrator reminded me of the Harper Lee’s narrator in To Kill A Mockingbird. : )

    • Would you believe that I still haven’t read “To Kill a Mockingbird” yet? I need to put it on my list. Glad you liked it!

      • To Kill A Mockingbird is a glimpse into standing up for what you believe in, even if it means alienating yourself from those who are pressuring you to conform to “small town” values.

        The narrator is the daughter of the attorney defending an “unpopular” individual in a small town.

        Excellent book.

  8. This would be a fun exercise for students in school.

    • I agree, I think it would be great fun for a class to try!

  9. Nice story! It’s an interesting skeleton that begs to be fleshed out :)!

    • Finding the idea is easy. Finding a way to flesh out the idea and how to end the story is tough. I’ll keep this one around, perhaps one day I’ll turn it into something fun.

  10. […] like the idea of this exercise, from the My Literary Quest […]

  11. Where’s everybody else’s? I want to see what people came up with.

    Snap to it! It’s not like it was a holiday weekend or anything.

    • I don’t know why my replies are reading “Anonymous.” It’s Old Ancestor.


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