Thursday, February 19, 2015

Time To Play!

Now that the Writers Conference is over, I’ll be going back to writing about books and authors in subsequent posts. But, today, let’s play and show off our chops.

Carol Casella,, has kindly given me permission to share with you the writing exercises she designed for her workshop entitled, “The Devil is in the Details.”

Exercise I: Are you an adder or a subtractor? Write a scene with as many details as possible. Use all senses: sight, sound, taste, smell, touch.

Photo by Evan Bench
[Suggestion: You are a teenager, and it’s the first time you’ve realized you are attracted to someone who’s among your group of friends. You’re all at a swimming hole together, on a hot summer day].

Now, go back and delete half the details in the scene you wrote.

Now, do the opposite: write the scene as briefly as possible to get the action on the page, then go back and add detail.

Exercise II: Experiment with Negative Space: Choose a character at a specific stage of life and write a short scene in which the character finds
an injured dog. Do not tell me the character’s age, race, class but I should know all of these by the end of your scene.

Exercise III: A woman discovers her husband has been having an affair for the last eight years. He doesn’t yet know that she knows. They are shopping for groceries, as they have done together each week for years. Write the scene and set up this conflict using only action, nouns and adjectives. No thoughts, no specific reference to the conflict. Consider all the details at your disposal – the foods, color, temperature variations, smells, other shoppers, lighting, sound of shopping carts, cash registers, cans.

Now write the same couple, but instead of an undisclosed affair, she has just discovered she’s pregnant after ten years of infertility, and she has not yet told her husband.

Exercise IV and my very favorite: Write a scene using the worst details you can choose. Here’s my first paragraph:

“The sand was pale yellow, like pus, and smelled as if a dozen decaying bodies had washed up during high tide. There were pieces of driftwood scattered about like the charred and amputated limbs of bombing victims. The rocks were deeply ridged and covered with pale green lichens that looked for all the world like warts and growths on an old man’s wrinkled ass. In front of me was the Atlantic, wave after wave of putrid oily water topped with caps the color of a squashed cockroach’s insides.”

Happy writing, all! 

1 comment:

  1. Can't beat that, Marian. Thank you for sharing. Great stuff.