Sunday, August 16, 2009

This Week's Practice Exercise

"Suddenly, things change."

Prepared by: Carter Jefferson
Posted on: Sunday, 16 August 2009

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Exercise: In 400 words or less, show us a character at the moment this person's life is suddenly changed by an event outside his or her control. Some examples: a death, a lottery win, a physical accident, an award, a failure. Let us learn from the character's immediate actions what sort of person he or she is.

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Different people react differently in similar situations. While one man might cry and call his wife when he hears that his father has died, another might breathe a sigh of relief, head for a bar, or make plans on how to spend his inheritance. What he does depends on circumstances both past and present, what he has learned about life, whether he is rich or poor, and any number of other things.

What you are to do is show the event that causes the change, and then use whatever happens next to show us something of what the character is like. This doesn't have to be the start of a story, but it could be.

If you need an example, read Roald Dahl's "Lamb to the Slaughter." In that case, the sudden change comes in the middle of the story, and the ending is classic Dahl.

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Exercise: In 400 words or less, show us a character at the moment this person's life is suddenly changed by an event outside his or her control. Some examples: a death, a lottery win, a physical accident, an award, a failure. Let us learn from the character's immediate actions what sort of person he or she is.

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In your critiques, let the writer know that you see the event and understand the character's reaction. What does that reaction tell you about the character? As always, critique the writing--comment on the setting and the way the events are presented.

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/).

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