Before I continue with more of the very cool things I learned at
My free time is limited so I always feel like what little of it I have should be spent adding words to my story. I used to think that time spent writing anything else was just a way to procrastinate about my WIP, but I’m not so sure about that now. If I could wind back the clock to the point where I really got stuck on The Foundling Wheel, I’d use the time I wasted on obsessive circular thinking to try some exercises that might have gotten me moving sooner. I'm learning.
Here are more of the exercises I did in the workshop with Shari Caudron:
1. Draft a scene wherein the character is getting dressed. Show us the room he’s in, the clothes he’s putting on and bring us into his inner-most thoughts. What is he thinking about as he gets ready for his day? Note: When telling a story, don’t introduce these details all at once. Allow readers to get to know your character gradually.
My free write was the inspiration for the new, real first chapter of my WIP. The original free write had lots of details that told me things about this character’s marriage and her husband. I hadn’t written anything about where my character lived before, but I suddenly saw it all. When I wrote about her getting dressed, I saw her pulling clothes from a stack of folded laundry in a basket. I knew she’d been washing and wearing the same few outfits for weeks and not bothering to put them away. I saw a whole lot of things I hadn’t seen before. This simple free write was the one that opened the floodgates for me. Funny how that works.
I didn’t recognize the significance of Shari's exercise note until I started writing this post. I knew that in the free write I was loading on detail because it was just an exercise. I would never include six or seven details about setting in my WIP, but by going overboard on detail in a free write, it helped me find one or two keepers I might not otherwise have thought of.
2. Choose an important secondary character – ideally, an ally – and answer the following: Who is he? Does he have unusual tics or mannerisms or figures of speech? How is he affiliated with the main character? Describe his relationship with the protagonist.
3. Choose another secondary character – one who is opposed to the protagonist. Who is she? What is unusual, or striking or memorable about this person? Actions? Profession? Personal history? How is she opposing the protagonist? What does she want?
4. Create a scene with your protagonist and his main adversary. Show your character wanting something, and his adversary opposing him. Weave in details about your character from the exercises above, or perhaps some odd things you noticed about people here.
5. Now take that same scene and weave in some realistic dialogue. See if you can work in some overheard dialogue from the last couple of days.
6. Now that you’ve spent time getting to know your character, introduce him or her to readers. Look at the character introductions on the next page [the attachment had sample excerpts from a short story, a novel, a personal essay and narrative non-fiction]. Using them as models, draft a page wherein your character first appears on the scene.
The exercises on secondary characters netted me a lot of great new material. There is a character I knew I needed to write and I knew he'd play an important part of the last third of the story, but I hadn't written anything about him yet. Prior to working on him at Grand Lake, I had too many ideas about who he was and I hadn't focused enough yet. He came to life for me up there.
I wanted to share what I got out of this workshop for two reasons. The first is that maybe one or more of these exercises will come in handy for one of you. The second is that blogging about the exercises really helps me to clarify how and why they work for me and in fact, that’s probably the biggest benefit to blogging about the writing process. I find that trying to capture my thoughts on an aspect of craft helps me to figure out what I really think.
I’m curious. Do any of you find that blogging about a subject helps you to understand what you really think about it?
We’ve all experienced periods of working on our WIP when we’ve been in the zone. I find that free writing puts me in another type of zone. Has anyone else felt that? Do any of you back away from your WIP and use writing exercises to help you to solve specific problems?