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IWW Practice-W Exercise Archives
Exercise: Picture It!

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: Florence Cardinal
Posted on: Sun, 20 May 2001
Reposted on: Sat, 23 May 2004

Most of what we write comes from actual things we see. However, we cannot be everywhere and see everything. Sometimes we have to rely on what others have seen, for instance, paintings or photographs. We have to let our imaginations carry us into the scene we are looking at.

For this exercise, first tell us, in just a few words, what you have chosen to write about. It doesn't have to be a Gainesborough or a Van Gogh. Even a calendar picture will do.

Now, put yourself into that scene and, in 300 words or less, write a scene that takes place in that picture. Even if it's a scenic view only, have at least two characters interacting in some way in your story.

Florence Cardinal's wrap-up
Posted on: Sun, 27 May 2001

I was truly amazed and delighted at the variety and creativity and flights of imagination this exercise evoked. Pictures varied from personal photos to calendar photos to artwork by the Old Master. Even personal artwork.

Topics ran the gamut from romance to supernatural to fantasy/SF. The idea I was trying to get across was that ideas are everywhere. All it takes is a bit of stimulation (like a picture) and a good dose of imagination. I believe the success of this exercise proved the point.

Well done, everyone. I'm looking forward to the next exercise.


Patricia Johnson's wrap-up
Posted on: June 4, 2004

This is the wrap-up for the Picture It exercise from the week of May 23rd.

The submissions this time favored pictures that included human struggles with nature and within family settings. Some of the pictures used to start stories included family members in front of a house, a picture of two meteors in the night sky, a prayer rock in a Siberian national park, a mountain painting (with music also!), and a Lucian Freud painting.

Imaginations were used to create unique stories from the chosen image. Atmospheres and time periods emerged that allowed readers to see a story come to life. Readers saw pictures clearly through use of the senses, especially through visual details. Careful word choices and sentence structures allowed just a few lines to develop a story. Some stories showed potential to be developed into longer pieces.

Several critiques mentioned the need to pay attention to verb tenses, to avoid switching between past and present unless there was a reason. Readers often wanted to know more about a story and suggested developing them. Short, direct dialogue worked well in conjunction with detail in this exercise. Revealing the conflict near the end added suspense.

The next time we do the exercise it would work to be succinct, to get the most detail out of every word, and to carefully craft the sentences. Build characters into the story with good description and use of the senses. Have a picture that is easy for the reader to visualize. In addition, allowing our imaginations free reign may add to the story line.

Thanks to everyone for participating, it was another great week.

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