Prepared by: Patricia Johnson
Posted on: July 5, 2003
Have you ever read a poem or a story and
wondered if it could be
to produce an opposite story from the original? Have you written a poem
that might work well if it were switched to bring out the opposite
This new and opposite story or poem is like a photograph negative, most
features and images of the scene are reversed. As if we have created a
reality, we seem to be gazing at something faintly recognizable, but
totally different -- eerie and unfamiliar.
What would it be like to rethink a novel
to its opposite? What would
a Mockingbird look like in reverse? What if the trial had turned out
differently? What if Boo Radley were really evil? What if the lawyer
been against the man he defended? Each of us might imagine a totally
different outcome to this story, depending on each of our unique
imaginations. Consider a poem, for instance, Edgar Allen Poe's The
How different it would be if the character of the black raven were a
dove; if Lenore were sitting beside her lover, sipping tea. This is
humorous, but it illustrates how writing a negative of a work can bring
existence a brand new story or poem.
This week's exercise is to take a poem or
a story that you have
one that another author
has written and write the opposite of it. Give a lot of thought to the
or the poem's main theme, and how it will change; how characters'
personalities will change. How these changes influence the finished
Then in 300 words tell the new story. Remember to keep author's
by mentioning the original, instead of putting the original in your
submission. If you have a URL where we can read the poem or story, then
the URL in the submission. If you do not, then tell us the main plot or
ideas. If you are using one of your own stories or poems, then put the
original in at the beginning of your submission so we can compare it to
new, opposite story.
When critiquing the submissions, tell if
you found the new work to
believable. Did it change enough to be the opposite, the negative of
original? In what ways did the characters change? Which version did you
more compelling and why? Would you have done anything differently?
Patricia Johnson's wrap-up
Posted on: July 17, 2003
Thanks to all the participants in last
week's Negative Capability
The stories submitted used poems, fairy
tales, dreams, paintings,
story forms, tonal variations, and historical period fiction as
for reversals into an opposite story line.
This was the first run for this exercise,
and several concerns
acknowledged. In writing the opposite story it was noted that often a
of a story sufficed, often a whole story or all the characters would
too involved for the 300-word limit of the exercise. In the area of
instructions, it was noted that believability may not be a necessary
for fiction and for this exercise.
Some of the developments noted in the
exercise were that it opened
imagination, allowed for a variety of different forms in which to
opposite story line, and some readers became inspired to research for
information on the original from which a story was derived.
Some of the opposite stories seemed more
compelling to critiquers
original from which they were created. Even critiquers who were
unfamiliar with poetry found the poem form of the exercise interesting
critique and this leads me to wonder if the poetic form is best suited
Again thanks for your great participation.
Patricia L. Johnson
Web site created by
Rhéal Nadeau and
the administrators of the Internet Writing Workshop.
Modified by Gayle Surrette.