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IWW Practice-W Exercise Archives
Exercise: Observing Behavior

These exercises were written by IWW members and administrators to provide structured practice opportunities for its members. You are welcome to use them for practice as well. Please mention that you found them at the Internet Writers Workshop(http://www.internetwritingworkshop.org/).

Prepared by: Alice Folkart
Posted on Sun, August 5, 2012
Posted on Sun, April 27, 2013
Posted on Sun, January 18, 2015
Posted on Sun, October 1, 2017

____________

In 400 words or less write a sketch in which we witness a character’s (or characters’) behavior from a distance. We are too far from the action to hear any dialogue. This is a sketch, a visual exercise. It’s the sort of thing you might do if you like to draw-- a quick observation of a character at an interesting moment.

____________

Some possible approaches to the exercise follow:

‘Bob came home mad!’ What do we see? Do we see him come in the door? What does he do? What is his face like? His body? Is this silent anger or an outburst. What do we learn about Bob? Can we tell what has triggered his anger?

Or let us watch someone trying to train a dog-- a puppy, an old dog, or a scary dog. Who is in charge? How can we tell? What do the actions we observe tell us about the human and the dog?

Or let us watch a child go to a new school. We can be with her as she approaches the building, goes in, walks down the hall looking for the right room. Does she hesitate? Do we get the feeling that she is brave or scared? What do we see when she enters the classroom? How old is she? What grade is she in? Try to tell us visually.

____________

In 400 words or less write a sketch in which we witness a character’s (or characters’) behavior from a distance. We are too far from the action to hear any dialogue. This is a sketch, a visual exercise. It’s the sort of thing you might do if you like to draw-- a quick observation of a character at an interesting moment.

____________

In critiquing this exercise let the author know how well you can ‘see’ the character and situation via the verbal sketch. What details bring the scene to life or give it depth? Does the observation tell a story? Do we understand what’s happening? Does the sketch make you want to know more about this character(s)? Could the piece be improved? If so, how?


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Modified by Gayle Surrette.