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Famous Starts, Humble Endings – an exercise

side by side comparison of poorly restored art

Hello! Welcome to the writing game of Famous Starts, Humble Endings. Each week, I’ll bring you some superb works by famous writers, and we’ll ruin them and laugh about it. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll get ideas for a project…but that’s not the goal. The goal is to have fun.

Let’s start with writing poetry. I’ll give you the first line. You write the rest.

from Yeats, The Grey Rock
Let’s go full freeform on this one. Internal rhyme and alliteration get you bonus points. Try for a stanza.

You kept the Muses’ sterner laws,

You kept the Muses’ sterner laws,
fed them bone and breath, trickling
tragedies into their delicate lips
parted only slightly, far enough
to exhale sweet melodies.

his ending:
You kept the Muses’ sterner laws,
And unrepenting faced your ends,
And therefore earned the right – and yet

How’d you do? I struggled with this one. Sometimes the constraint of form makes a writing exercise easier. I find an open-ended prompt like this much more difficult.

Here’s a line fragment. This time don’t make it a poem. Make it a story bit. Don’t go with your first thought. Try to go with the more difficult third idea you find.

from Yeats, The Grey Rock
The shouting of an unseen man…

caught my attention when none of the other distractions could. The library patrons all stilled their hands, some didn’t raise anything other than their eyes, but we all paused to find the cause.


man, a chorus picked up by those around him. Incoherent words coalesced into a chant. The crowd surged against the steps. The line curved, then broke.

I scanned the water, and almost missed his boat. The sail was stowed, and the sun had already passed the hills, so nothing glimmered, and nothing moved. The shout echoed round once more, and I waved to him to let him know I’d find help.

How’d you do?

If you’re so inclined, please share your lines in the comments. It helps everyone, and makes me feel pretty good, too.

Thanks for playing!

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