Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Writing Exercise

Writing exercise.

Leave your comfort zone. Go somewhere different than where you normally write, unless you normally write in a bus terminal or a coffee shop or some other public space. I think most of us tend to write at home, shut away from the world. I certainly tend to think better when I can shut off the world and concentrate without distraction.

For this exercise, it is necessary to orget comfort, to give up on your hidey hole where no one dare indtrude. You need to go out into the world. So go. I'll wait.

Okay. (I'm patient, but a few of you took your sweet time, not that I'm complaining.) Sit down with your pad of paper, your lap top, your fancy writing apparatus that I would name if I new what it was but being rather slow technologically, I am not certain what else there is for a writer to write with.

Be that as it may, we can begin with the exercise.

  • Set up the scene: What does the air smell like, what time of day, who is there with you, what are you surrounded by, are you inside or outside?

  • Remember, details matter: This is scene building, not plot building. See colors and shapes and sounds and show with your words, forgetting why these things are there, concentrating instead on their physical reality. 

  • Metaphors, similes, they matter, too: Start making connections. Don't worry about continuity. If you already described the soda machine, you can still revisit that machine if you have a metaphor that strikes you as apt. Revisit a third time if you want, don't worry. Maybe there's just something that strikes you about that soda machine that you keep coming back to, that you need to describe.

  • Forget the above point: Don't get stuck spending all day on that damn soda machine. What's wrong with you, anyway? If an object or person or the condition of light really strikes you, it probably will be with you for awhile. No need to spend too much time on this one thing- you will remember when you get home and you can expand this element more later. So move along There exists too much of a good thing.

  • Scene building is the first step, got it?: If you have the scene set, decided due diligence is done, then it is time to move on. Maybe there is an odd individual walking about, or there is an interesting position of objects that are out of the ordinary. Or maybe there is to much order or- you get the picture? Pick an element and then tweak that element. 

Who is that girl who seems so nervous? She was sitting, then pacing, then kicking that soda machine as if it owed her money. Now, is she crying?


  • Introduce your imagination: What if a man with a gun runs on scene? A dog who seems agitated and ready to bite? What if that soda machine starts to glow? Unleash the writer's eye onto your well-known (now) scene. How does everything play out, what are the interactions?

Go home, take what you wrote and see if you can enliven your own writing by including more detail, more showing, more scene setting. Remember we live in a world and so do your characters. Show it.


Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Love this post. I write best in a bar. Always have. Hope your trip is amazing!

MT Nickerson said...

I had a college writing class in a bar, once... but that's another blog post, isn't it?