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IWW Practice-W Exercise Archives
Exercise: Remembering hatred

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 Writers Workshop (http://www.internetwritingwor kshop.org/).

Prepared by: Rhéal Nadeau
Posted on: Sun, 30 Jan 2005

This is another exercise in our "Remembering" series. The idea behind these exercises is that our own life is our most basic writing resource. By remembering key moments, and how they felt, we can inject those emotions into our writing. For example, I will never win an Olympic medal - but I can remember a sporting success and use that to imagine what it would feel like.

I've known love, grief, hope, fear, and so on. Those are experiences I need to draw on in order to make my characters come alive. (This applies to nonfiction as well as to fiction; the very best nonfiction lets us know what the people involved feel, and why they act as they do.)

Of all the emotions, few are as powerful, and as corrosive, as hate. Hatred can cause people to lose all rational powers, to perform stupid or unjustified actions. Think of the terrorist suicide bomber; think of the divorcing couple fighting over who gets the dog, when neither actually wants the dog all that much. Much of the violence in our world, overt or subtle, derives from hatred. (Note that hatred is closely related to anger, which we have covered in a previous exercise.)

So, for this exercise: 300 to 500 words, write about a time when you hated someone or something. Be honest, don't embellish. Tell us what brought on the hatred, what it felt like and how it changed your behaviour. If applicable, tell us the outcome - did the hate fade out over time, or as you learned more? Did it lead you to words or actions you later regretted? Do you still feel the same way?

Of course, be careful. This is a sensitive subject, so don't write about something that could get you into trouble, or that would be too embarrassing. You don't need to evoke the most extreme example of hatred in your life; pick something you can remember well, but are comfortable about sharing. In this particular exercise, you can hold back some of the information if needed (but do so with care, so you don't defeat the purpose of the exercise.)

When critiquing, look at how well you can understand what the author was feeling at the times; if things are unclear, or cliched, say so. Remember, we are not here to judge anyone's emotions. Our emotions are not rational or moral, they are our most basic and immediate reactions to events.

Rhéal Nadeau's wrap-up
Posted on: Sat, 5 Feb 2005

I'm always nervous when we run a remembering exercise - and even more so when the exercise deals with such a loaded topic as this week's.

But every time, the list members prove themselves up to the task, and validate the decision to run the exercise.

We had some great submissions this week, many of them powerful or even disturbing (and I mean that in a positive way - writing must be able to tackle the disturbing topics!) We saw many forms of hatred: against oneself, abusive parents, strangers, entire groups, even against god or fate. Some of the memories must have been painful to recall; I can only hope people found it worth the pain.

Another lesson I always learn from these exercises (and yet, it always comes as a surprise) is how dramatic the lives of so many of us are. This is a very important point for us to make note of. We tend to dismiss people we don't know well, or who play minor roles in our lives, as not interesting - but let's remember that their lives are likely as interesting to them and as full of drama (if not more) as our own.

We did have a few submissions that fell outside the scope of this exercise. One or two wrote of having hate directed at them - a valid topic (and one we may well cover someday), but not the one we were looking for. A few wrote about hate they witnesses (without experiencing it directly). And one or two submissions seemed to be fiction.

Now, some of these submissions were very good, but please remember in future that there is a reason we're running an exercise, and that there is value in sticking to the exercise limitations. (We are then free, of course, to write anything we want once we have done the exercise!)


Web site created by Rhéal Nadeau and the administrators of the Internet Writing Workshop.
Modified by Gayle Surrette.