Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Green Eggs & Ham: A Story with 50 Words

These days, in the age of soundbites, we challenge ourselves to tell stories in no more than 140 characters (on Twitter), or no more than six words (see the Six Word Memoir project). Here's a challenge from Dr. Seuss, a.k.a. Theodor Geisel, that I was intrigued to learn about at the Dr. Seuss exhibit, and that might be a little harder: Write a story using only 50 words, i.e. the same 50 words.

He, in fact, did just that: He bet his publisher $50 that he could write a story using no more than 50 words, and then he did it, writing his bestseller Green Eggs & Ham. Not only did he write it with 50 words, all the words have only one syllable, except for one: "anywhere." And all this in 1960.

Many of his books are based on a list of 220 beginner words, which makes them easy to read for children. Another secret: They are often written in anapestic tetrameter, a cadence easy to follow for young readers.

I loved these two insights into the craft of Dr. Seuss, and maybe one day I shall challenge myself to learn more about rhyme and rhythm, and consider the simplicity or complexity of the actual words I use.

12 comments:

  1. Very interesting. Got to love Dr. Seuss. :)

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  2. Sehr spannend. So zu schreiben erfordert viel Fantasie, waehrend die Gedanken gleichzeitig verdichtet werden muessen. So stelle ich mir das zumindest vor. Vielleicht bewahrt es auch vor Schwafeleien.

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  3. What a fantastic challenge. No doubt the man was a genius.

    Looking forward to exploring your blog!

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  4. wow what an interesting bit of trivia!!! Knowing this information makes the book all the more special-- that is definitely a daunting task-- writing an entire book with just 50 words! Amazing!

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  5. I enjoyed a hint fiction contest not long ago. Write a complete story in 25 words or less. Another contest was 15 words or less. They are a lot of fun!

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  6. Kelly - thanks!

    Barbara - tja, Fantasie hatte der auf alle Faelle, und Disziplin. Und vor Schwafeln bewahrt es unbedingt.

    Brock - yep, genius he was. Welcome to my blog.

    Anjuli - yes, that would be a daunting task, at least for pure prose writers like me.

    Diane - those kinds of challenges sound like a chance to stretch those writing muscles in unusual ways.

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  7. I love Dr. Seuss (it's hard not to!). I signed up for a poetry class this year, at my local university, so that I could learn more about rhyme and rhythm.

    @Diane - Those sound like fun challenges!

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  8. What a great challenge. I've been looking for more writing challenges, but I'm definitely not ready for one like that.

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  9. Rhythm, for me, is the very most important part of a sentence or turn of phrase. I can't imagine not paying attention to this kind of information. Everything I write I hear in my head beforehand. I like the six-word stories - writing one forces you to think about how you choose your words. Here's the link if anyone is interested: http://www.sixwordstories.net/

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  10. Wow, I've loved learning this, thank you! What fascinating insights, indeed.

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  11. Love that this went viral, it's a good one. I had never heard that story about Green Eggs and Ham. I'm such a fan of Dr. Seuss, so this was fun!

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  12. Amazing, creative, I just can't find the words! Perfect article!

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