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Exercise: Remembering Beauty

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, 29 Jul 2001
Reposted on: Sat, 2 Aug 2003
Reposted on: Sun, 13 Nov 2005

One of the most insidious traps in writing is falling into abstract concepts. Too often, for example, when a character is afraid, we just say "John was afraid". Or we try to dress that up, "John felt fear seeping through his veins", which isn't a big improvement. Neither of those sentences will make the reader share the fear.

How can we share the reality of that experience, in that particular piece of writing? We have to draw, first of all, on our own experiences. We have all experienced fear, or beauty, or hope. Can we remember that experience, and use it to fuel the scene?

This exercise is about remembering. If we can't remember being hungry, or scared, or optimistic, how can we hope to describe those experiences in our writing? So let's forget about characters, plot, fancy phrases, for a moment. Let's remember, and describe that memory. No embellishments, no interpretation, just what *we* felt at the moment.

So, the exercise. From your own life, in 300 words or less, describe an experience that embodies the concept of: beauty. Be truthful. Don't make things up, or dress them up to be prettier. Our memories are one of our most valuable resources, if we treat them with respect. (That includes the negative aspects of the experience.) The exercise is to get back to the reality we were living at the time - if we can't draw from that, how can we make others believe us when we try to write something like it?

(Note: I plan to run this exercise again later on to explore other concepts or types of experiences.)

Rhéal Nadeau's wrap-up
Posted on: Sun, 5 Aug 2001

What a week this has been. (I'd expected this to be one of our quieter weeks; instead, this may have been our busiest week ever.)

We've seen beauty in all its forms: weather, people, scenery, special events. We have gone from the grandiose to the small, and found beauty in expected places, but also in unusual places or situation.

More importantly, we have practiced remembering, and expressing that memory. By drawing on our own memories, we are better able to describe related concepts in our writing - if we remember what it's like to experience beauty, then we can have our characters feel something similar. I hope also that we have all seen how we can improve our writing through the use of specific details, including sensory descriptions.

I will certainly run this exercise again (perhaps even on a monthly basis) for different concepts and types of experience.


Rhéal Nadeau's wrap-up
Posted on: August 12, 2003

Well, it's been a very diverse week. (It always is when we do a remembering exercise.)

We had classic beauty - scenes beautiful in themselves, like paintings in a gallery. And we had moments that were beautiful because of what they meant - a victory achieved, perhaps, or a scene made more special for being shared with a loved one.

As often happens when we try to express something abstract in a concrete ways, a number of submissions relied on contrast - the storm before the calm; the difference between the jaded eyes of a resident and the amazed eyes of a tourist.

If we remember nothing else from this exercise, that last point might be the key one. Too often, we do miss beauty, because we've grown too used to it.


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