Prepared by: Rhéal Nadeau
Posted on: March 24, 2002
Reposted on: May 1, 2005
This exercise is part of our "Remembering"
series. The basic concept
these exercises is that our own memories form our most authentic source
material. We do learn from research, of course, and from reading the
of others - but how can we truly express fear, for example, if we don't
remember being afraid ourselves? Too often, we see writers trying to
report emotions second-hand, not trusting their own experiences and
imagination to extrapolate from them, with the result that their
feels, well, second-hand rather than fresh.
These exercises, therefore, ask us to
remember a moment when we felt
particular emotion, or experienced a particular sensation. We must then
describe that moment honestly, without trying to "improve" it or
it. The key is being honest to the moment, to how we truly felt. At the
same time, of course, we need to express that as clearly, as vividly as
can - we need to try to truly share that moment with others. So all the
usual writing techniques apply: involving the senses, using strong
avoiding generalities and clichés.
One of the key emotions in life - and thus
in writing - is
anticipation. Life - and writing - is a matter of wanting or needing
something, then of trying to get it. Usually, this means waiting - a
or goal granted instantly would not seem as valuable, or important, as
that was deferred.
In addition, anticipation is a
double-edged emotion. We may
(hope for) something favourable, of course, but also anticipate (fear)
something unfavourable. Anticipation can apply to the child eagerly
awaiting Christmas, and opening presents, or the child sitting in the
principal's office, fearing punishment for a misdeed. And both times of
anticipation may turn out unexpectedly: the first child may not get the
desired present, the second may not be punished at all, or receive a
lighter punishment than feared. (And the difference between what we, or
our characters, expect, and what occurs, is part of what makes things
So here's the exercise: in 300 to 400
words, describe a time (a
months or even years) when you anticipated something, favourable or
not. Take the time to remember how you felt, how you reacted. Were you
nervous, excited, joyful, stressed? How did those emotions manifest
themselves, physically and in your actions? What did you do, or not do,
that was different than usual?
Optionally, you can show how things turned
out - but don't let the
distract you (and your readers) from the prior anticipation. Don't rush
through to the conclusion, take the time to share the anticipation that
preceded it fully. Remember Hitchcock's comment about an exploding bomb
creating a shock, but an unexploded bomb is what creates suspense, and
Web site created by
Rhéal Nadeau and
the administrators of the Internet Writing Workshop.
Modified by Gayle Surrette.