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A Smackdown Writing Exercise from Halle Butler

A Smackdown Writing Exercise from Halle Butler
This week, Halle Butler offers a prompt loosely based on her newly released novel, JILLIAN (Curbside Splendor). You can respond to the prompt in the comments or by email to for a chance of publication at Real Pants. (We will only reply if we would like to publish your piece.)


For a second, think about something or someone you really, really don’t like (SUVs, your boss, someone you envy, people who don’t recycle, etc.). It should be your hardest-held and most sanctimonious opinion. Write something where you and your opinion get a huge victory. Like staircase wit, but if it happened during the conversation. A true smackdown, where you and everything you think are totally right. This will be fun, and you should write it really fast.

Then, immediately after the victory, have something really really awful happen to you. Punish yourself for your smugness and your fleeting, misplaced happiness. Oh you really liked yelling at that person, didn’t you? You really made them feel small, didn’t you? I bet you think you’re pretty smart and cool, huh? Now you’re going to get fired, or rejected, or physically injured in some way–or whatever you think is the worst. This will also be fun. Word count-wise, it should be twice as long as the victory.

While you’re writing, try to imagine both the victory and punishment as meaningless.

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Real Pants was founded in 2015 as a website about literature and the new literary community. If you have an article you'd like us to consider, please see our submission guidelines.

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Good hair, crooked gait

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