How many Es are in TREE?
E is the most popular letter in the English language. It appears in the majority of our words. Trying to write without it is HARD- your staple words like “the”, “he” and “she” are out. Past tense is impossible, as all verbs ending in “ed” are banned- unless you write “did” before each verb (e.g. “Matt did ban that symbol from his writing.”) Glance back at this paragraph and you'll see what I mean. I haven't even engineered it this way, but I've used “e” a lot.
Entire novels have been written this way- even in past tense. So it's possible, but emerges very clunky.
We tried this for a 10-minute exercise at a local writers meeting. Before I told them what we were doing, I asked the group members to think of their own word, that didn't include an “E”. This was the title and theme for their piece.
Here was my forced effort:
“It works!” Alan says. “My contraption is working!” Alan, though, works solo, no assistant to throw around his thoughts or plans with.
Buttons turn and grills hum, functions working from within that iron box. Static shoots across Alan's workshop floor, startling Oscar, his tabby cat.
“Sorry,” Alan says. “You should go, Oscar”.
Oscar slinks out as iron grinds, forcing history through.
So. 64 words. Incredibly hard. There were a lot of crossed-out words on the page, and a lot of exasperated sighs coming from me and the rest of the group. I found that, when thinking of a word, I'd realise the word contained “e”, so I'd think of a synonym. But the synonym would also contain “e”, so I'd have to think of a way of rearranging the entire sentence. Hence, the construction of the whole piece didn't get very far before the deadline. 2 out of 8-or-so people at the group managed to pull it off.
An exercise like this is great for stretching your vocabulary, for thinking of alternative ways of writing what you want to portray.