Hampton Roads Writers


Here's an exercise to lure you away from the need for everything in a paragraph or poem to make sense and lure you toward the pure, mysterious, playful qualities of words. This exercise was developed by the French literary group OuLiPo (short for Ouvoir de Litterature Potentielle).

Take a paragraph or poem of yours or someone you admire and remove all the nouns. Now take out a good dictionary and look up each word you removed and replace it with words that are seven entries away from the original word. Seven entries is not very far; very often the replaced word will share the same root as the original word. You are allowed leeway to change tenses, to make a singular word plural or vice versa, and of course, when editing you may even change the sequence of things. What this exercise brings to the writer is an unfamiliar vocabulary that breaks you of a dependence on the same words used again and again--- and of course, the wonderful element of surprise.


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