Practice-W Exercise Archives
These exercises were written
and administrators to provide structured practice opportunities for its
You are welcome to use them for practice as well. Please mention that
them at the Internet Writers Workshop
Prepared by: Rhéal Nadeau
Posted on: Mon, 19 Feb 2001
Reposted on: Sun, 7 Apr 2002
Reposted on: Sat, 1 Mar 2003
Reposted on: Sun, 13 Feb 2005
This assignment deals with "involving the senses", but in a
Describing the absence of something can be as hard as describing
something that is there.
In this exercise, describe total silence, without using the word
"silence" or "quiet" or other synonyms. You are free to use any setting
you wish, and to make the silence as ominous or as welcome as you
choose. Limit your exercise to 300 words.
Extra-curricular activity: during quiet moments, listen carefully.
What do you hear? (Total silence is rare.) Can you identify all the
Rhéal Nadeau's wrap-up
Posted on: Sun, 25 Feb 2001
Well, the week for the silence exercise has ended, and I must say
impressed with the results.
Thirteen people have tackled this exercise with very varied
We've had people becoming deaf, silence through weather phenomena, and
silence as a metaphor for life - for its problems or for its breaks
routine or chaos. (And an amazing number of critiques for those
It is obvious that this was not an easy exercise; I know I found it
challenge to answer myself. So congratulations to everyone who did
submit a text!
I'll add a general comment, which applies to these exercises in
as much as to this specific topic.
Last week, reading the submissions on the characterization exercise,
was struck over and over again by how a character can't exist in a
vacuum, but needs a setting - a context.
This week's submissions reinforced that thought. What is silence?
There can be no silence without a listener; and the silence will mean
different things based on who's listening, and what that person's
situation is. The silence in a quiet snowfall will mean something
different from the silence before a major storm; deafness will affect
someone newly deaf differently than someone born deaf. Experience - and
story - comes from the interaction of character, situation, and
Finally, speaking as a participant and not as a teacher or admin, I
would encourage all of you to use these exercises as a way to let
to explore, to try something different from our normal writing. My
biggest problem as a writer has been too much restraint, too much
guessing; it's been a lot of fun to me to start with a thought, a
specific challenge, then let the words flow and see what happens. I
really believe that this list is a good place to let our hair down, and
push our own limits. Who knows - we may like where that takes us!
Rhéal Nadeau's wrap-up
Posted on: April 15, 2002
This has (as always) been an interesting week, with a broad variety
approaches to the topic of silence. Some of the submissions introduced
silence with a bang, others with a whisper. Certainly, we've seen a lot
situations where a character might encounter silence (though in some of
submissions, we did not get total silence, as I had intended, but
the absence of some specific sound, desired or feared. This is not
necessarily a bad thing, the exercises are meant to exercise creativity
the different interpretations of the concept of silence did not
Some submissions very successfully showed what it was like not to
permanently or for a moment. Others weren't as successful; in some, in
particular, the scene described all the sounds the character was NOT
hearing, creating a point-of-view problem and weakening the text (in my
I hope all the participants have found the exercise useful.
Rhéal Nadeau's wrap-up
Posted on: March 8, 2003
I don't know exactly why, but I always enjoy running this exercise
seeing the submissions. It's certainly a challenging exercise - and our
members rise to the challenge with imagination and creativity. Some, of
course, are more successful than others - but if any of us were perfect
writers, we certainly wouldn't need this list.
Two things were highlighted in particular this week. First off,
are indeed very few scenes that are totally quiet (and in such a
situation, our brains would make up sounds for us to hear!)
Nevertheless, many people managed to find situations where silence
reigned, if only for a moment. Others managed scenes with quiet (or
sometimes no more than relative quiet); some of these nevertheless
successfully described peace.
Second, quite a few submissions used contrast as a tool to describe
silence. Since it's hard to describe the absence of something, adding a
contrast between the quiet scene and the noise and bustle that
it was often very effective.
As always, my congratulations to everyone who participated! Now, on
the next week...
Web site created by
Rhéal Nadeau and
the administrators of the Internet Writing Workshop.
Modified by Gayle Surrette.