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IWW Practice-W Exercise Archives
Exercise: 9-1-1

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: Nan Hawthorne                                 
Posted on:  August 5, 2007

Exercise: In 400 words or less, write a story showing the events or circumstances
that lead a character to make one of the 911 calls listed below. Your story should end
when the protagonist picks up the phone and dials.  

Use one of the following calls in this exercise. They are real calls heard on a police
scanner in a metro area on the same evening:

1.  "Caller complains that his wife just won't leave him alone."

2.  "RP (requesting party) states that neighbor at this address was heard shouting
for help. Other neighbors and he went to the residence and found the door standing
open and the man's dogs barking."

3.  RP is calling from out of the area asking officers to check on his wife. He is afraid
she may attempt suicide. They had an argument during a phone call."

4.  RP is the resident. She states that a female subject  who appeared to be drunk or
high knocked on her door and asked for a glass of water. The subject is now  walking
south on 24th.  Described as a white female, brown and brown, about 30,  on the
heavy side, wearing a light colored sweat suit. RP wants negative contact. (Brown
and brown are hair and eye color; "negative contact" means the  person calling does
not want the police to contact her.) 

Characters' actions follow on a series of stimuli combined with something in their
own makeup that provides motivation to act.

People usually are disinclined to call the police. There's a famous story of a woman
who was repeatedly stabbed by a man who came back sometime later to do it again
while dozens of neighbors were entirely aware--people just "don't want to get
involved." So it must take a particular type of person in a particular situation to
reach for the phone and call. And it's this you are to write about.

For instance, one call might be: "RP says there is a foreign-looking man  walking
down his street shooting off a handgun in the air.  Negative contact with RP." You
might describe the caller as someone who has agonized over reporting the actions in
that they might be suspicious only in his own eyes. He has seen furtive young men
coming in and out of the man's house, where the curtains always drawn, at all hours,
and has seen large  packages delivered there. He has told himself over and over that
it is all pretty innocent, really, and he is probably paranoid and prejudiced. But with
the shooting, though the man doesn't seem to be trying to hurt anyone, he finally
thinks he should contact the authorities. (Don't use this example in your sub; use one
of the calls above.)

In writing your submission, you would concentrate on caller's character, and show
how he perceives his neighbor, how he questions his own judgment and chastises
himself for being prejudiced, but still thinks he should tell someone in authority
somewhere. You would show us his behavior and thoughts before he reaches for the
phone. At the end, he would dial the number.

Exercise: In 400 words or less, write a story showing the events or circumstances
that lead a character to make one of the 911 calls listed above. Your story should end
when the protagonist picks up the phone and dials.

In your critique, tell the writer  whether he or she focused properly on the caller's
character and emotions and if these were well enough described to make the reason
the person made the call credible. And, as always, critique the writing.

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