Monday, 15 April 2013


So today is the 15th of April, which must mean that it's the thitreenth day of the A to Z challenge.  I've decided to share my love of writing through this challenge, and hopefully introduce people to the world of Oulipo.  I first heard about Oulipo when I was at university, and I was fascinated by their approach to writing that I decided to delve deeper into the world of experimental writing.

In a nutshell, this group of writers likes to assign constraints to their work in order to push creative boundaries.  Not only is this fun to do (the process of writing something with a constraint really does open the mind), the results are brilliant.


"The notion of a story whose evolution can be partly determined by the reader was apparently first introduced to the Oulipo by Francois Le Lionnais.  At the group's 79th meeting, he presented the schematic plan of a detective novel in which, early on, the reader would be asked: do you prefer a mystery story (go to page x), a novel of suspense (go to page y), a sado-erotic continuation (go to page z)?" 
Oulipo Compendium ed. Harry Matthews & Alastiar Brotchie (London: Atlas Press, 2005) page 198 & 199.

You can write an original story.  I remember reading books when I was younger where you got to choose where the characters went and they did at the end of each chapter.  It meant that one book could give a handful of different stories.  However, I adapted 'The Tyger' by William Blake

What Happens Next?

A Tyger is wandering through a forest at night.  Suddenly it catches a glimpse of a fire out of the corner of its eye.  Intrigued by this, the Tyger creeps slowly towards it.  However, the Tyger is very wary. 
If the Tyger walks up to the fire go to 2.
If the Tyger turns and takes a different path go to 3.

The Tyger takes a closer look at the fire.  After a short while the Tyger discovers that it is looking in a mirror.  The fire is actually in its eyes.
If the Tyger stays to look at the fire go to 8.
If the Tyger turns and takes a different path go to 3.

The Tyger turns around and continues walking.  It happens to come across a large building.  The Tyger doesn’t know what it is.
If the Tyger goes into the building go to 4.
If the Tyger turns and takes a different path go to 10.

The Tyger approaches the building and pushes the door open.  It walks inside and notices that it is in some sort of workshop.  The workshop is full of tools and jars containing body parts, including hearts and brains.  The Tyger sees a man working at a desk.
If the Tyger stays with the intention of talking to the man go to 5.
If the Tyger stays with no intention of talking to the man go to 9.
If the Tyger immediately leaves the workshop go to 10.

The Tyger ventures towards the man and observes that he is quite old.  He looks like he should have died years ago.  He has a white beard and is peering through a pair of round framed spectacles which are perched on the end of his nose.  His hands are frail and shaky but he holds his pencil with confidence.  He is so engrossed in his work that he doesn’t notice the Tyger.  The Tyger sees a picture on the old man’s desk.  It is of a Tyger and a Lamb playing together.
If the Tyger makes his presence known to the man go to 6.
If the Tyger leaves the workshop in silence go to 10.

The Tyger coughs and the old man puts down his pencil.  The Tyger notices that he is working on a sketch for some sort of animal.  The old man says he is putting the finishing touches to a design he has been working on for a while.
If the Tyger stays with the old man go to 7.
If the Tyger leaves the workshop go to 10.

The Tyger spends many days with the old man, finding about the work he does and the tools he uses.  He demonstrates how he makes things, not only with his hands, but with hammers, anvils, chains and furnaces.  The Tyger is amazed by this.  One day the old man takes the Tyger into another room of the workshop to show it one of his previous creations.  The Tyger is scared but ventures in, prepared to be faced with a monster.  It is surprised to see a little Lamb sleeping peacefully.  They Tyger is in awe and wants to see more.  The old man tells the Tyger that he will show him more, but all in good time.
If the Tyger stays with the old man in the workshop go to 11.
If the Tyger leaves the workshop go to 10.

The Tyger is so enchanted by the fire burning in its own eyes that it stays in front of the mirror for days, just watching.  The flames do not go out, even when the Tyger blinks.  After a while the Tyger drops down dead from starvation.

The Tyger continues looking around the workshop and assumes that it is in either the costume department for a production of The Wizard of Oz, or in Damien Hurst’s holiday home.  The Tyger is greatly disturbed by the thought of both; so much so that it leaves quickly and runs off into the forest never to be seen again.

The Tyger continues on his journey through the forest.  It is always night time for the Tyger as it does not know where it came from and what its purpose is in the great scheme of things.  During its lifetime of night times it has an inkling in the back if its mind that there are answers in the universe somewhere.  As it walks, unaware, it gazes up at the heavens where it sees weeping stars which act as a backdrop to the forest in which live echoes of a Tyger’s roar.  The Tyger is lost forever.

The Tyger helps the old man around the workshop; tidying up, making coffee, keeping Jehovah’s Witnesses away from the door, etc.  In return, the Tyger is given food and water, and its own room to sleep in.  One day, however, the Tyger wakes up to find itself in a cage.  The Tyger roars to be released, but all the old man does is smile and bring a mirror to the cage.  “You wanted to see another one of my creations?” the old man says as he holds the mirror up to the Tyger’s face.  “I made the Lamb and I made you.”  With this, the stars begin to weep.  The Tyger roars again and this sound echoes around the forest for eternity.  


  1. Too many options for my wee mind to deal with.

    1. I guess it is a bit too much for a Monday morning!

  2. This is fascinating, Rebeccah, I'll need to bookmark this and read through the rest of your Oulipo posts when I can. I'd never heard of Oulipo before!

    1. Thank you :) I'm only skimming the surface of what the Oulipo do, so it goes a lot deeper, to even more fascinating levels :D

  3. It takes some time for this to dig in. But great info. :)

    1. Thank you. Yes, some of these things take some time to sink in, but I can assure you that it's worth it :)

  4. This is interesting, and oulipo is quite new to me too.

    Have fun with a-z. :)

  5. 1. If you enjoy writing your blog, go to 2. If it is a chore, go to 3.

    2. I love your blog!

    3. I love your blog even if you don't!

    LOL... I wasn't sure how to adapt that one for a comment, but I hope it works. :)

    #atozchallenge, Kristen's blog:

    1. Hahah, thank you. Yep, that comment worked :D Glad you liked it!