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IWW Practice-W Exercise Archives
Exercise: Remembering peace

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, 7 Oct 2001
Reposted on: Sun, 3 Nov 2002
Reposted on: Sun, 11 Apr 2004
Reposted on: Sun, 16 Oct 2005

This is the third exercise in the "Remembering" category.

One of the most insidious traps in writing is falling into abstractions. 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? Now, we haven't all faced a tornado, or stared at a loaded gun pointed as us - but we've all had scary experiences, and happy ones; moments of despair, moments of joy.

This exercise is about remembering. If we can't remember being scared, or hungry, 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.

In particular, at this moment in our lives, we need to remember positive emotions, and not allow the dark side of life to get us down.

So the exercise this week is to describe a peaceful moment in our lives, a moment things were quiet and in harmony It might have been a moment, an hour, a day, even longer. Perhaps, that moment was so valuable because of what came before it, so you may need to refer to less peaceful moments, using them to contrast the quiet that followed.

Be truthful. Don't make things up, or dress them up to be fancier. Our memories are one of our most valuable resources, if we treat them with respect.

Word limit: 400 words.

Addendum (October 11 2003):
When we first ran this, I was struck by how many members had trouble remembering a moment of peace. I realize that our modern lives are busier than ever, but I'm sure everyone has peaceful moments - we just don't always remember them, seeing them as interruptions to our regular lives rather than as valuable e xperiences in their own right. I therefore urge all members to make a special effort to remember one or two of those moments, however small, moments when the world stopped for a bit and gave us some time to just *be" rather than having to "do"...

Rhéal Nadeau's wrap-up
Posted on: Thu, 18 Oct 2001

As always, the submissions for this exercise were interesting. And as is often the case with the "Remembering" exercises, I was very interested in seeing the variety of situations described.

In some submissions, peace was simply the momentary absence of stress or worry. Others were moments of Peace, with a capital "P" - not just the absence of negative emotions and thoughts, but a true positive experience. The principle technique used to describe that moment of peace, in either case, was by contrasting that moment with the surrounding chaos or pressure or activity of life.

I do find it a bit sad that so many had trouble coming up with a memory of a peaceful moment - a sign, I guess, of our rush-rush society... (It made me resolve to make sure to allow time in my life for peace to catch up with me!)

(Hmm, that last comment strikes me as a little ironic, given that I'm doing this wrap-up almost a week late!)


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