Sunday, June 28, 2009

This Week's Practice Writing Exercise

2009 © Savannah Newsome


Where Are We?

Prepared by Carter Jefferson
Posted on 28 June 2009

__________________

Exercise: In 400 words or less, write a portion
of a story or memoir that clearly portrays the
setting and its importance to the events that
will follow. Your characters should show us the
surroundings in which they act.

__________________

Settings influence stories; sometimes they are
almost as important as the characters. Readers
may not think they pay attention to the details
of the location of the drama, but they are
influenced by the stage on which events unfold.
They expect characters to behave differently in
different settings. In a church people may be
solemn, at a football game noisy, in a country
club formal and polite.

Some writers start their stories by simply
describing the setting, but in this exercise
let the actors show us the stage and the props
in such a way that readers will know where they
are fairly early in the story.

Just setting the story in a barn won't do.
Details are important. Is it light or dark?
Mice rustling around? Horses in their stalls?
Hay in racks above? Or is it completely deserted,
with cobwebs in the corners and old tools rusting
on the ground? How does it smell? Is it dry or damp?
Barns differ, and so do the stories they house.

Here's a sample from Raold Dahl's story, "Man
From the South":

"It was getting on toward six o’clock so I thought
I’d buy myself a beer and go out and sit in a deck
chair by the swimming pool and have a little evening
sun.

I went to the bar and got the beer and carried it
outside and wandered down the garden toward the pool.

"It was a fine garden with lawns and beds of azaleas
and tall coconut palms, and the wind was blowing
strongly through the tops of the palm trees making
the leaves hiss and crackle as though they were on
fire. I could see the clusters of big brown nuts
hanging down underneath the leaves.

"There were plenty of deck chairs around the swimming
pool..."

This could be done in third person as well: "he thought
he'd buy himself a beer..."

__________________

Exercise: In 400 words or less, write a portion
of a story or memoir that clearly portrays the
setting and its importance to the events that
will follow. Your characters should show us the
surroundings in which they act.

_______________

In your critique, tell the writer whether you can
visualize the setting. Does it hint at what might
be coming? What role does the setting play in the
story? What other details could have been added to
improve the submission? And, as always, critique
the writing.

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/).


No comments:

The Craft of Writing in the Blogosphere

Loading...

News from the World of Writing

Loading...