Sunday, January 22, 2012

This Week's Practice Exercise

Message From The Void

Prepared by: Charles Hightower
Posted on: 22 January 2012

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In 400 words or less, open a scene with a character who receives an alarming message. Something apparently has happened, is happening, or is about to happen. Show what follows when the recipient is unable to quickly clarify the situation or to fully participate in its outcome. Your goal is to produce a character in distress; help us to feel the mounting tension.

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In the past one received a message by letter, telegram, carrier pigeon, or even a note placed in a prominent place. Now we have answering machines and voicemail, e-mail, and text messaging. But all of these are one-way communications. If the initial information is incomplete or confusing, the recipient may not be able to learn more without the sender's cooperation.

How would an individual react to an e-mail message from a family member in the military, on deployment, saying, "Not badly hurt. More later." Or a whispered voicemail saying, "Holdup, Bank of America." Or, in a note left on the kitchen table from wife to husband, "Derek in trouble." Or a text message, "Man following me." Or an answering machine message, "I have your daughter." How would the character behave when attempts to reestablish communications fail?

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In 400 words or less, open a scene with a character who receives an alarming message. Something apparently has happened, is happening, or is about to happen. Show what follows when the recipient is unable to quickly clarify the situation or to fully participate in its outcome. Your goal is to produce a character in distress; help us to feel the mounting tension.

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Critique: Did the opening of the scene capture your attention? Would you read on? If not, why? Were the characters and/or the situation believable? Could you feel the character's emotions?


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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