Paragraph Imitation Exercises
Practice the sentence structure of professional writers. Change nouns, verbs, adjectives of the following paragraphs to alter meaning. Leave basic sentence structure the same (articles, prepositions, commas, colons, etc.)
Paragraph Imitation #1
Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest.* The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of the sunshine. The long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overshadowed distances.
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
Example Imitation: Going to that club was like traveling back to the early days of rock n' roll, when TV teenagers gyrated nationwide on American Bandstand, and Elvis was king. A crowded dance floor, throbbing rhythms, deafening guitars. The air was smoky, sexy, electric, powerful. There was ecstasy in the undulations of the bodies. The long sets of music played on, overwhelming, into the hearts of frenzied youth.
Paragraph Imitation #2
It is time for the baby’s birthday party: a white cake, strawberry-marsh-mellow ice cream, a bottle of champagne saved from another party. In the evening, after she has gone to sleep, I kneel beside the crib and touch her face, where it is pressed against the slats, with mine. She is an open and trusting child, unprepared for and unaccustomed to the ambushes of family life, and perhaps it is just as well that I can offer her little of that life.
Joan Didion, "On Going Home"
Paragraph Imitation #3
The space between the idea of something and its reality is always wide and deep and dark. The longer they are kept apart—idea of thing, reality of thing—the wider the width, the deeper the depth, the thicker and darker the darkness. This space starts out empty, there is nothing in it, but it rapidly becomes filled up with obsession or desire or hatred or love—sometimes all of these things, sometimes some of these things, sometimes only one of these things.
Paragraph Imitation #4
At the far end of Giotto’s chapel, rank after rank of angels throng the skies. Today "angels" can be found on the internet, where millions of disembodied cybernauts fly around in an idealized, immaterial realm. . . On entering net space, the frail ties of the flesh are left behind. Fat, acne, bad eyes, weedy physiques and creaky joints are jettisoned.
Margaret Wertheim, "The Medieval Consolations of Cyberspace"
Paragraph Imitation #5
This, after all, is the most pagan city in the world; it is consumed by the present. The greatest sites and monuments, Rome tells us, mean nothing unless they stimulate and accommodate the body; unless, that is, we can eat, drink, and lounge among them. Beauty always gives pleasure, but in Rome, beauty is born of pleasure.
Andre Aciman, "Roman Hours"
Paragraph Imitation #6
If the old quarter is Hanoi's heady bia hoi (the pungent, cheap local brew), then the French Quarter is the pure black coffee you drink to sober up. From the topiary to the croissants, what has felt like an Asian city -- with low stools, chopsticks, and handleless teacups -- now feels faintly French. Cramped streets open onto tree-lined boulevards and avenues. The atmosphere is suddenly serious and serene.
Kathleen Lee, "The Scent of Two Cities"
Paragraph Imitation #7
I walked a little ways down a deserted side street, and, finally, out of the gloom came two women caked in dust. One was middle-aged and white, the other elderly and black with tightly braided hair, limping. I couldn't tell if they were friends or coworkers or simply found each other on the way out, but they were very protective of each other, the white woman hovering close as the other settled into a chair on the sidewalk.
Scott Anderson, "Below Canal Street"
Paragraph Imitation #8
And beneath the sun and the moon was our own four-cornered earth, where every cardinal point was tinged with color: red for east, white for north, black for west, yellow for south. In the center of the universe stood a mighty blue-green tree -- its branches spiking up to heaven, its roots thrusting down to the underworld, its presence a certain connection between the humans and the gods. Sometimes, in the eyes of the Maya, the earth was a crocodile floating in a bed of water lilies. Sometimes it was a turtle.
Beth Kephart, Still Love in Strange Places
Paragraph Imitation #9
When it was time, when the peasants had filled the narrow porch and spilled out into the courtyard, when the sun had dissipated the chill of the morning, when Bill himself, or a brother, or a cousin, had taken his place beside Father Ascue in his own best Sunday clothes, the mass began. Behind his altar, Father Ascue stood: intoning, instructing, condemning, forgiving, pausing now and again for Maria Lopez, who would sing all the right hymns in their right order.
Beth Kephart, Still Love in Strange Places