Thursday, February 19, 2009

Writing Exercises: The Plot-Variant One

Try this: next time you see a stranger or strangers doing something interesting, take the image home (in your mind; I think strangers don't like it when you photograph them) and write a little mini-story about what's going on, how it came to occur and/or what happened next. Then write another that has nothing to do with the characters and situation of the first, but still explains the scenario. Then another. Do as many as you feel like, but three is a good number to break you loose from that sense that a good idea is good for one thing only.

If you are low on interesting strangers in your life, you can have some of mine:
--teenaged boy talking on cell-phone, teenaged girl berating him and is ignored. Finally, she kicks him in the shins.
--woman attempts to step into crosswalk, man jogs a few steps to catch up from behind her and grabs her arm to pull her back
--extremely attractive young couple in restaurant, talking extremely loudly. Man congratulates woman repeatedly on "respecting herself" and "standing up for hereself"
--middle-aged couple in Bulk Barn, puzzled and argumentative over selection of popcorn-shaker flavours

Writing exercises just sort of float in the ether and there are a million different versions of everything, but I suppose I should be giving credit to where I've found'em. This exercise adapted from one in the (very good) book What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter (and the strangers, for good or ill, are my own). The last one is one I made up, and the one before that was originally given to me by my very first (and brilliant) writing teacher, Pam North.

Enjoy! I'll post my version in few days!

The lights are on and the party's over

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