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
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
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
weeks; instead, this may have been our busiest week ever.)
We've seen beauty in all its forms:
weather, people, scenery,
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
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
We had classic beauty - scenes beautiful
in themselves, like
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
ways, a number of submissions relied on contrast - the storm before the
calm; the difference between the jaded eyes of a resident and the
eyes of a tourist.
If we remember nothing else from this
exercise, that last point
the key one. Too often, we do miss beauty, because we've grown too used
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Rhéal Nadeau and
the administrators of the Internet Writing Workshop.
Modified by Gayle Surrette.