Written by Emily Harstone May 28th, 2013

Writing Prompt: Tell it Slant

Emily Dickinson Quote
“Tell all the Truth but tell it slant–” is a famous quote by Emily Dickinson. It is a principle many writers have adopted both in fiction and non fiction.

In this exercise the point is to tell a story you know well. It does not have to be your story though, it can be the story of how your parents met, or a story a friend told you repeatedly. It can be something that happened to you, a car accident, or a purse snatching, how you met your significant other, or how you left them.

You take this story and write about it. But instead of writing it down exactly as you believed it happened, change one key element of the story.

This key element should vary depending on the story, but it should affect the way the story is told. If you are writing about how your parents met, you could write from the point of view of an omnipresent narrator. If you are writing about the time your purse was stolen you can write from the point of view of the thief, or the cop who arrived late to the scene.

If you find it hard to switch narrative perspectives, you can always change another element of the story. If you were uninjured in the car accident, you can alter that fact in the story, but make sure whatever ‘truth’ you alter affects the story as a whole.

This is a great exercise for defeating writers block because it involves mining your life and friends life for material that already exists, but retelling it from a fresh perspective.


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