Saturday, March 24, 2012

This Week's Practice Exercise

Creative Anachronism

Prepared by: Norman Cooper
Posted on: 25 March 2012

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Write a scene, in 400 words or less, where some part of the scene is inappropriate for the time period. You might have an event that occurs before or after the actual timeline. Or you might include / reference a person that would be impossible, given the setting. Or you might simply include an item created or an expression coined many years later.

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There are many examples of anachronism in literature where time and events don’t agree. Whether a mistake or planned, anachronism plays a part in many of our favorite stories.

Hank Morgan, after receiving a blow to the head in 19th century Hartford, Connecticut, awakens to find himself in medieval England during the time of the legendary King Arthur in Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. T.H. White also uses anachronism in another Arthurian tale in his 1958 novel The Once and Future King. In this retelling of the legend, Merlyn lives backwards through time, and because of this makes many references that are not in the correct time period, namely a reference about Hitler and the presence of the Encyclopedia Britannica in Merlyn's house.

In Julius Caesar, Shakespeare makes reference to a clock that didn’t exist in 44 AD. In Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark attends the University of Halle-Wittenberg, which was established in 1502 AD, but the play was set sometime between the 7th and 13th century. Also, the rapiers (straight swords) that Hamlet and Laertes used in their duel didn’t exist until early in the 16th century and Cleopatra plays billiards in Antony and Cleopatra about 1,500 years before the game was invented.

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Write a scene, in 400 words or less, where some part of the scene is inappropriate for the time period. You might have an event that occurs before or after the actual timeline. Or you might include / reference a person that would be impossible, given the setting. Or you might simply include an item created or an expression coined many years later.

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In your critiques, let the author know how well the anachronism was applied.


These exercises were written by IWW members and administrators to provide structured practice opportunities for its members. You are welcome to use them for practice as well. Please mention that you found them at the Internet Writing Workshop.

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