General info:

  How it works
  Using Listserv

Critiquing Lists:

  Children &- Young Adult

Discussion lists:
  Creative- Nonfiction

Other Topics:
  IWW History
  Showcase of- successes
  Other lists
  Writers' links
  Books on-

  Administrator Login

IWW Practice-W Exercise Archives
Exercise: Opening the door

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 (

Originated by: Florence Cardinal as The Doorway; original exercise at  
Posted on: 21 Oct 2001
Reposted on: 6 Oct 2002
Reposted, revised, on: 21 May 2006

This is an exercise in creating a setting--keep that in mind. Your submission may be the beginning of a story or a scene, or it may introduce a character. But above all, this is your chance to practice developing a backdrop.

Imagine yourself or your character at a door. The character opens it. Did she need a key? Did he knock, ring the bell, or just turn the knob and walk in? Or is there a knob? Does the door lead inside, or outside?

The door and what the character sees need not be anything fantastic, although it can be if you so choose. Make sure you take the time to fully visualize the setting before you start writing.

Once the door is open, what does the character see, hear, smell? How about the sense of touch? What does he touch? Does anything touch her? The wind, perhaps? Describe it all so your readers can experience it along with you or your character.

In these short excerpts, we see only the opening of the door, but perhaps they will
help you get started:

Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady (1881):

One afternoon, towards dusk, in the autumn of 1876, a young man of pleasing
appearance rang at the door of a small apartment on the third floor of an old Roman
house. On its being opened he inquired for Madame Merle, whereupon the servant, a neat, plain woman, with a French face and a lady's maid's manner, ushered him into a diminutive drawing-room and requested the favour of his name.

Agatha Christie, The Mysterious Affair at Styles  (1924):

"I have discovered that there were only five short minutes in which he could have
taken it--the five minutes immediately before our own arrival on the scene, for before that time Annie was brushing the stairs, and would have seen anyone who passed going to the right wing. Figure to yourself the scene! He enters the room, unlocking the door by means of one of the other doorkeys-they were all much alike."

For this exercise, let your readers see the opening of the door, and then show us what's on the other side, in not more than 300 words.

In your critiques, concentrate on the setting. Can you *see* the place the character is standing or sitting? Setting affects characters, so see if you can perceive any such effect. And, of course, comment on the writing in general.

Web site created by Rhéal Nadeau and the administrators of the Internet Writing Workshop.
Modified by Greg Gunther and Carter Jefferson.
Page last updated: 09/15/2006 20:58:56Page last updated: 09/15/2006 17:37:02Page last updated: 09/15/2006 10:36:06