Sunday, January 8, 2012

This Week's Practice Exercise

Believe Me

Prepared by: Alice Folkart
Posted on: 8 January 2012

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In 400 words or less have a seemingly believable narrator tell us a story. Present this narrator as telling the truth, but gradually lead us to doubt the story. This could be just a scene. It needn't be a complete story. You could leave the reader hanging, not knowing whether what is being told is true or false, or you could show clearly that the narrator has been playing with the facts and perhaps our minds.

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Your narrator might be an absent-minded professor, an excitable teen with a taste for drama, or someone trying to cover a mistake. Anger, fear, pride, jealousy, or shame are only some of the many emotions that might lead the narrator to heighten or play down the facts of the story.

How will the reader recognize that the narrator's story is not to be trusted? Perhaps it does not match facts hinted at in dialogue with other characters, or shown in the setting of the scene, or described in the logistics of the plot. Perhaps the narrator's body language or actions give the lie to what he is telling us.

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In 400 words or less have a seemingly believable narrator tell us a story. Present this narrator as telling the truth, but gradually lead us to doubt the story. This could be just a scene. It needn't be a complete story. You could leave the reader hanging, not knowing whether what is being told is true or false, or you could show clearly that the narrator has been playing with the facts and perhaps our minds.

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When critiquing, tell the writer whether the narrator struck you as untrustworthy and identify the specific details that tipped you off. If the character/scene didn't work for you, tell why. Were the clues too subtle? Was the author trying to squeeze too much into 400 words? Would you read on? And, as always, point out any editorial issues – grammar, spelling, etc.


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 Writing Workshop.

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