A couple of pieces of exercise writing.
There’s so much in New York City to satisfy your creative cravings!
I found a writing class in Brooklyn. And you could try out the first class, and choose to sign up or not. I knew I couldn’t sign up for it right away, but decided to try it all the same. And I was pleasantly surprised. Now, as an engineer, I look down on all artsy-fartsy types, and am wary of all writing classes, because I’m under the impression that all those folks dont get the madness down to a method that works well, and if anything gets done there, it’s by pure chance. I hate being told to wait for inspiration or to channelize it. I hate whining about writer’s block even though I do it all the time.
Anyway, the class I attended was none of that. It provided a form and structure to screenwriting and formulating plot points. At the same time, it didn’t hinder creativity, but provided a channel for it to flow when stuck. The rules helped you express yourself better, more smoothly.
We did two exercises. The first one was a meditative sort of thing where we tried to think of a character, give them a tactile need, and create conflict by putting a locked door between that tactile need and them, and add another character who has the power to open the door but for some reason doesn’t. And we were given fifteen minutes to write what we saw in our heads.
The characters I came up with were inspired by people I saw on the subway earlier that day…. there was a big black woman next to me on the train, who was reading a novel, and she looked like Aretha Franklin, only with martinet-style glasses and flecks of grey in her hair. Then there was a thin, petite black man in his early twenties sitting across from me. And there was this old big black man on the downtown Express.. so here goes.
Aretha stepped urgently across the narrow street, looming large over the petite thin people around her. She opened the black metal gate forcefully, not caring for the ivy covering it. She faced a large, thick, teakwood door with a shiny brass knob. Kieran usually left that open.
She tried the knob, but the huge door refused to budge. She pushed hard, in case the door was jammed, but to no avail. Locked.
“Kieran! Open the door!”, she yelled through the open window. “I need to see Amos. Tell him I’m here!”.
“Sorry Aretha,” came the reply. “After all the hurt you’ve caused, none of us want you here”. He paused hesitantly. “Amos doesn’t want you here”.
“You’re lying!”, she retorted. “Amos wouldn’t turn me away”. Her eyes welled up. “I just want to tell him I’m sorry”.
“No, Aretha”, Kieran was firm. “I can’t let you upstairs to see Amos. There’s only so much emotional trauma a man confined to bed can take.
“Just go away, Aretha. If you love Amos, you know he shouldn’t be seeing you”.
I surprised myself there. I really thought I couldn’t write any fiction with any feeling before this!
Then we had the second exercise. Everyone had to write about the same characters with the same tactile want. So we came up with a protagonist Charlie, a.k.a ‘Chuck the Duck’, who has a tactile need – a cheesecake. Then there’s our antagonist, Marlene, a.k.a ‘Marlee the bitch’, who tries to prevent him from getting the cheesecake. Mind you, we came up with all this on the fly. So here’s what I came up with to fit all these things. Again, fifteen minutes to write.
Charlie sighed unhappily on his walk around the park. He hated exercising All he wanted to do was sit back in his La-Z-boi and eat Doritos while watching reruns of The Drew Carey Show. He was tired after two rounds of jogging around the jogging track, and he didn’t want to go through two more rounds of walks. His muscles ached. He felt hungry. His system craved something sugary and fatty. Two weeks since his trainer had allowed him a treat.
He hated, hated, hated her. She was tough, and she could be nasty when she felt you hadn’t been following her instructions. She would berate you, hurt your body image and lower your self-esteem. Not for nothing was Marlene Cooper called Marlee The Bitch.
Charlie sighed some more as he waddled across the tiny bridge; his weight made it hard to keep a steady stride. That memory of a schoolboy nickname of ‘Chuck the Duck’ still rankled in his mind. And Marlene had somehow found that out and began calling him that whenever he groaned during his workouts. He felt unpleasant. He decided to ditch his walk. He couldn’t take it anymore. All he wanted was a creamy white cheesecake with bright red strawberry jelly covering it.
He walked to the Cheesecake Factory a stone’s throw away, ready with his wallet out. As the bell rang when he opened the door, who should he see but… Marlene! At that moment, he hated every inch of that slim athletic figure he’d once found appealing, every last inch of it.
So… how are these? What do they sound like? How do these bits make you feel? Do let me know!
Now maybe I’ll give the next NaNoWriMo a real shot!