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Exercise: This is Classified (Version 3)

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.internetwritingworkshop.org/).

Prepared by: Florence Cardinal
Posted on: May 18, 2003
Reposted on: September 5, 2004
Reposted on: September 11, 2005
Reposted, revised, on November 12, 2006
Reposted, revised, on April 22, 2007
Reposted on: June 29, 2008
Revised and Reposted on: September 12, 2010


Exercise: Write a scene of no more than 400 words in which you employ sound to help show us your characters or to help set the scene.


Writers tell their stories largely by using the sense of sight--we learn what characters and scenes look like. Sounds, smells, tastes often get short shrift.

But read this line by Joyce Carol Oates (from We Were the Mulvaneys):

"Marianne's pretty face lit up in its customary dazzling smile. 'Hi, Della Rae!'--the very voice, a lilting soprano, of Caucasian privilege."

Doesn't that description of a sound tell us something? Can you hear it? In your submission, use whatever words you need to let us hear the sounds that help show your characters or help us to see your setting. Of course, you'll use other senses as well, but make sure that sound plays a significant part.

Birds sing in the back yard or the forest, dogs sometimes howl in the dark,exploding bombs create a din, cars honk on the street outside my building.

Someone on a plane sits next to you and snores or sucks his teeth, a baby screams, teens walk around in their own world of sound with earbuds shutting out the world. Sound surrounds us, often helps to orient us, showing us where we are and what's going on. Your characters are in the same boat--let them hear as well as see.


Exercise: Write a scene of no more than 400 words in which you employ sound to help show us your characters or to help set the scene.


When critiquing, tell us whether the author's use of the sense of sound works or doesn't to show us something about character, setting, or emotion that we otherwise might not notice. How does sound color or deepen the story? Could the writer have used even more sound?

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Modified by Gayle Surrette.