Prepared by: Rhéal Nadeau and Patricia Johnson
Posted on: February 22, 2003
Reposted on: December 26, 2005
This week's exercise is a Free-for-all
centered on the remembering
available at the practice archive. If you prefer you can come up with
remembering theme to use for your story. The archived remembering
covered the topics of remembering beauty, fear, peace, fun, anger,
embarrassment, anticipation, sadness, awe, and faith. You can find them
When writing your story keep the following
One of the most insidious traps in writing
is falling into abstract
Too often, for example, when a character has an experience such as
afraid, we just say, "John was afraid". Or we try to dress that up,
fear seeping through his veins", which isn't a big improvement. Neither
those sentences will make the reader share the experience (in this
How can we share the reality of that
experience, in that particular
writing? We have to draw, first of all, on our own experiences. We have
experienced fear, or beauty, or hope. Can we remember that experience,
it to fuel the scene? Now, we haven't all faced a tornado, or stared at
loaded gun pointed as us - but we've all had scary experiences, and
moments of despair, moments of joy.
This exercise is about remembering. If we
can't remember being
scared, or optimistic, how can we hope to describe those experiences in
writing? So let's forget about characters, plot, fancy phrases, for a
Let's remember, and describe that memory. No embellishments, no
just what *we* felt at the moment.
So, the exercise. From your own life, in
300 words or less, describe
experience that embodies the concept of one of the archived remembering
or another topic you find that interests you. Be truthful. Don't make
up, or dress them up to be scarier, prettier, etc. Our memories are one
most valuable resources, if we treat them with respect. (That includes
negative aspects of the experience - when I described this exercise to
she said: "you mean, like the first time I gave a piano recital and
my pants?") The exercise is to get back to the reality we were living
time - if we can't draw from that, how can we make others believe us
try to write something like it? It's not necessary to write about the
frightening experience in your life.
Make it something you can now look back on
comfortably and write
honestly. Make sure that you pick an experience that will not be too
embarrassing and that you are comfortable sharing. When you pick the
have some distance and detachment from the experience. The event should
distant enough to be comfortable, but not so distant you can't remember
clearly. This will allow you to achieve the goal of good writing and
true to your memories. Tap into the great resources available in your
Patricia Johnson's wrap-up
Posted on: March 3, 2003
Hello Practice-w members,
New types of experiences were added to the
remembering list with the
free-for-all. They included love, inadequacy, panic, captivation,
shock, pain, anxiety, loss, terror and even an Icy Hell.
Most submissions stayed within the 300
word limit. There were some
over that limit. One critique commented on how much there is to be
the practice exercises by trimming a story down to a tight word length.
a story to exercise criteria is another way of improving writing
The critiques were careful to bring out
points for improving writing
kept a sympathetic understanding for the courage it took to write
that covered life experiences. Some critiques empathized, but did not
in the way of writing advice. The deep empathy seen in the readers'
affirms out how successful the writing was.
In a discussion it was asked if there
could be more than one emotion
the experience conveyed. The answer is yes, there can be. Often an
will encompass more than one emotion, or lead to a different emotion in
end. Most experiences bring out more than just one emotion, but the
should develop the most central emotion while still giving some
to the other emotions that result.
Thanks to each and everyone of you who
participated with submissions
critiques. Some of the submissions were light-hearted and humorous, but
covered issues that brought out the hero in us as individuals. It took
a lot of
determination to write so honestly about such difficult life
appreciate the strength and sharing found in all the submissions.
Patricia L. Johnson
Web site created by
Rhéal Nadeau and
the administrators of the Internet Writing Workshop.
Modified by Gayle Surrette.