Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A few writing exercises for your Wednesday?

Or tomorrow. Next week. Don't worry--they'll keep...

1. Child Narrator/Adult Narrator:
This one was inspired by the novel Father of the Rain by Lily King. The first part of the novel is told from the pov of the narrator as a child, and the second and third parts are told from the pov of the narrator as an adult.

In the child section, the narrator is all perception--"My father hates all my mother's friends."--and every observation is immediate, the narrator intuned to any change in her environment: "Three days ago my mother told me she was going to go live with my grandparents in New Hampshire for the summer. We were standing in our nightgowns in her bathroom. My fahter had just left for work. Her face was shiny from Moondrops, the lotion sheput on every morning and night. "I'd like you to come with me," she said.

In the following sections, where the narrator is first in her twenties, ready to accept a prestigious anthropology fellowship, and second, thirty-something, with children and a husband, her perceptions are filtered through experience--she has come to a firmer grip of how she feels about her past and what else is happening around her: "I look at her hard because she should know this if she's going to be a shrink someday. 'Some people are just assholes.'"

Here's the exercise: Take your character and write two scenes or maybe just two descriptions, small perceptions, in the present tense. The first should occur when your narrator is a child, the second when he/she is much older. Think about your narrator as a child--what she/he saw and how she/he experienced it--and think about how these experiences shaped your narrator's perceptions of the world as an adult.

2. Exclamation Points Are Your Friend!!!
This is just for fun: take a piece of writing advice or a kind of well-known dictum--only rarely, and with great trepedation, should thou use exclamation points--and go against it. You never know when this will work, when ignoring good advice will work to your advantage.

I dreamed up this one while reading Joyce Carol Oates's The Gravedigger's Daughter. The book is chock-full of exclamation points, especially in the beginning. Only JCO can get away with such a thing, and for her, in these opening sections, they communicate the nervous, trembly, awkward main character perfectly.

3. Draw Something
A few weeks ago, I heard Audrey Niffenegger speak at the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival on her dual art: visual and literary. She presented a slides show of her artwork and I was transfixed--so beautiful, so haunting. She made me think about how art melts and overflows into all sorts of mediums. As habitual writers, we are also habitual artists--we should constantly be seeking new ways to express ourselves and new ways to see the world. She suggested anyone interested in drawing begin with the book Drawing on the Right Side of Your Brain by Betty Edwards. Also, I fell in love Niffenegger's graphic stories, especially The Three Incestuous Sisters. You must check it out!!