Imitation of Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah


Let's imitate the opening paragraph of "Friday Black." In class, we talked about how this opening could be split into lines of a poem and still work--each sentence is giving us such a sharp and intense image. So let's try this ourselves.

1. Open with a short line of dialogue. "Get to your sections!" Angela screams.

2. Add a short sentence that gives us a sound. "Ravenous humans howl."

3. Add another sentence that begins with a sound and shifts into an image. "Our gate whines and rattles as they shake and pull, their grubby fingers like worms through a grating."

4. Add a sentence that positions that main character in the scene.

5. Add a prop that the character has, and what the character uses it for.

6. Add another use for this prop. 

7. Shift to a few sentences of history / backstory for this character, as Adjei-Brenyah does with "It's my fourth Black Friday. On my first, a man from Connecticut bit a hole in my tricep. His slobber hot." Include a three line sentence in the same way.

8. Move us back to the present the way Adjei-Brenyah does, too, with a sentence that conveys a sound. "I hear Richard's shoes flopping toward me."

Leave your imitation in the comments below.


  1. "Before everyone leaves please look up at the board to see your group assignments." Dr. McDonald projected across the room.
    The sound of bags and books moving around cease. Everyone look up at the as the projector hummed and a flash of the bulb show the Excel document. I sit in the front of the class. Mostly due to professors using the smallest font possible on power point slides. As well to avoid a tall person sitting in front of me and blocking the view. I use my phone to take a picture of the screen to aquire the names and emails of my group members. I open up my email on my phone and begin an email thread. sashabaker@student.UBU, jackwillson@student.UBU, and faykaiser@student.UBU.
    I know with past groups if I didn't take the initive there would be a whole two days gone before anyone did anything on the project. That group project caused me to get a low B+ in that class. It urks me. That B+ will perminatly stain my academic record.

  2. “Why don’t you get the fuck out of my room!” Ralph yells.
    The vitals cart beeps impersonally. Air whooshes out from under the mattress and slaps against the cold tile floor as Ralph flops back down, his rotund torso jiggling for a minute while it finds its fleshy equilibrium. As I have been told many times, I am standing at the entrance to Ralph’s room to make for an easy escape in the event a patient becomes hostile. The wheels on the vitals machine squeak as I make an involuntary step backwards from the large man. Someone has glued a hook on it to keep the clipboard that holds the 15-minute rounds on, and the papers ruffle from the motion. I see the jumper on the door that says 519, and I remember an incident from about four months ago that happened here. One shift, the staff was short one nurse, and the ER shuffled a patient of similar build up to the BHU last minute. While trying to settle him into the room, he reached out two meaty hands and wrapped it around the nurse’s neck. In the moment, my friend, Raquel, could think of nothing better to do than jump on his back. He swung her off easily and dashed her head several times into the floor. Then he stopped and sat in the blue plastic chair. His rage sated. The vitals cart trilled its sleep mode song. I notice Ralph appears to have gone back to sleep. I briefly consider wrapping the blood pressure cuff around his limp arm, as I have done countless times, but turn and walk down the hall.


  3. Flip. Flip. Flip.

    The papers are monotonous. The people are annoying. Dark bags obvious. I think even I have some under my own eyes. Even if we all pretend like they aren’t there.
    “Tell me Nick. Is this the right thing?” my coworker asks, cutting me back to reality.
    “No. You should do it like this. See” point it out to them, make them understand. It’s a lot easier to push coworkers in the right direction. At least compared to my own family.
    My wife just sits there, with our daughter or staring blankly out a window. Rosalie is too cramped up in that room. Always reading. Always that; flip, flip, flip.

    I wonder if she really enjoys the sound, rather than the content. Like me.

    (Hope this works with the prompt)

  4. “Please stop,” Mack whimpered.
    Silverware clattered against plates. Mack’s father shoved the dishes in front of him as he stood up from the table. It is Christmas, when Mack was ten, and they are eating a meal of ham and potatoes. He still had the fork with a slice of cut ham on the end that he was previously using to eat, but it had become something to wave around, emphasizing his point and scattering bits of ham over the table. He had become angry about something Mack’s mother had said, although Mack was too engrossed in her food to notice what the argument was about. She was used to this sort of thing. Her father often became unusually angry about the smallest things. She knew that. It was better to try to ignore it as she swirled her potatoes around on her plate, creating intricate designs. His fist pounded on the table, shaking her plate and bringing her out of her trance.


  5. "By the way, Robbie is coming over for Spring Break." My mother said. A cat outside meows. My father drops his fork onto the floor and cures at no one in particular. I look up from my barley started plate in confusion. I put my fork that I was using to eat the green beans and the shells and white cheddar. I'm the only child Jones family and Robbie is my cousin that I haven't seen since my first year of high school. Robbie herself was notorious for getting in trouble from pranks at her school to ditching church activates. But during my sophomore year, she got arrested for some crime that my parents didn't want to talk about to me. Even when she got out, they didn't even invite her or her parents to the family reunion. I hear my mom take a sip of her milk glass.

  6. “I’m gay,” Hannah tells me.
    Finches chirp outside. The drone of hummingbird wings fills the quiet as the birds bob back and forth, iridescent feathers flashing like light through a kaleidoscope. I stand in the kitchen, facing the window. My hand rests on the cutting board, and cut apples pile up next to my wrist. I hold my paring knife, a two-and-a-half inch long blade fixed to a heavy, lacquered wooden handle that offers me control while carving through fruit. I also use it to cut loose threads off cloth. It’s the week after the end of Hannah’s second year at college. The first year, she came home with a friend. Her hair cropped. Her roommate had buzzed Hannah’s head at her request. Now her hair falls to her jaw. It fans out when she turns her head, a little streak of black against olive skin. I hear Hannah cough to get my attention.


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