A dare that begins with a writing prompt…

Word count: 238 words

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

A great way to improve your writing skills is to emulate the work of others. Here is a sentence I read recently that I’d happily imitate.

I received the marvellous book Swallowing the Sea, by Lee Upton, as a birthday gift from a friend. It was not only a welcome gift, it continued giving by providing me with my sentence of the week. Let me share it with you now:

Frankenstein is a warning not only about unlimited ambition, about unintended consequences, about scientific adventurism, about parental abandonment, about a daughter’s fear of being monstrous, but also about the dread of failing to fulfill a dare that begins with a writing prompt. 

There is probably a name for this type of construction. The author presents a list of exciting and/or dire predictions — scientific adventurism, parental abandonment and the fear of being monstrous — but then concludes with an item that seems almost banal — a writing prompt! Is she being funny? Or, perhaps she’s trying to make a point.

Upton is a professor of English and and writer in residence at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. Her writing is thoughtful and intriguing. She has a poet’s ear for metaphor (consider the title of her book) and her chapter titles reveal her unusual approach to considering the act of writing: Ambition. Failure. Boredom. Purity, Bigamy for Beginners. Secrecy.

It’s unlike any book I’ve read before. It’s also a worthwhile addition for any writer’s bookshelves.

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