Writer’s Wednesday: Rephrasing Juliet
Hi Rams! We are launching a new weekly series with our beloved poet Chase Ambler revolving around writing exercises. Each week, Chase will present a new writing exercise fresh off the press! This will be a great opportunity for writers of all levels to strengthen their skills. Of course, this is also a fun task to do at the breakfast table while Mom does the crossword puzzle and Dad reads the sports section.
Writer’s Wednesday with Chase Ambler
Have you ever read a novel in first person narrative and found the voice unbelievable because the author’s age comes through? I think it takes a special talent to write in first person and really sound like the character—especially when the character/narrator is of a different age group, different economic class, or different sex. It’s something we all need to work on.
Take The Hunger Games for example. Katniss is supposed to be a 16 year-old from the poorest, uneducated dump in the land. Her narration frequently falls out of character in my eyes. To me, this doesn’t sound like a 16 year old girl from the working class:
“I bite my lip feeling inferior. While I’ve been ruminating on the availability of trees, Peeta has been struggling with how to maintain his identity. His purity of self. “Do you mean you won’t kill anyone?” I ask.” (Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games)
This is what I think a poorly educated 16 year-old would sound a lot more like:
I bite my lip feeling shitty. While I’ve been stuck on trees, Peeta’s been all about his identity. Staying true. Staying real. I’m like, “You mean you won’t kill anyone?”
I recently came across RealUltimatePower.net and it baffled me when I found out that the author was not a 13 year old boy like I had assumed ever since I first found the site while in middle school. The author was an adult pretending to be a super psyched 13 year-old, and I personally think he nailed it. His language embodied the character he created. The author creates a character who’s extremely excited about ninjas yet has failed to research enough about them, so his 13 year old mind fills in the gaps with things that he knows creating a hilarious outcome.
“Seppuku is the ancient art of killing yourself if you get super pissed and can’t find anybody else to kill. Ninjas use all sorts of crap to kill themselves—guns, ropes, knives, lasers, spears, etc.—and don’t even think twice about it.” (realultimatepower.net)
For this exercise let’s take some famous lines by a 13 year-old character, Juliet, from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Now, let’s fast forward to the year 2015 and try and re-write this section as a modern Middle Schooler.
Here’s the original text:
“What’s here? A cup, closed in my true love’s hand?
Poison, I see, hath been his timeless end.—
O churl, drunk all, and left no friendly drop
To help me after? I will kiss thy lips.
Haply some poison yet doth hang on them,
To make me die with a restorative.
Thy lips are warm.”
Once you’ve done that—if you’re looking for extra credit—try the same section as an 89 year-year old woman upon finding her husband of many years dead.
Chase Ambler is an American writer who spent his childhood in South and Southeast Asia. His life has been shaped by strange obsessions: heavy metal music, mountains, travel, and soccer. These subjects have all molded his poetry and prose in some way, but the birth of his daughter may have the greatest impact yet. He lives with his wife, baby daughter, and dog in Colorado. If one went looking for Chase, they could find him anywhere from changing diapers to summiting 14,000 foot mountains, but odds are he’s in front of the computer working on his next novel. Visit the FB page for his Novel: Snowsong