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Exercise: The Other Side Of the Story

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: Florence Cardinal
Posted on: Sat, 30 Aug 2003
Reposted on: Sun, 18 Jul 2004

This is a characterization exercise. Take a story with a strong lead character - something other people are going to know. Now tell that story from the viewpoint of some other character in the story.

The goal of this exercise is to help you with character development. Remember, all the people in your story should have a reason for the things they do, not just the main character or characters. Seeing the way all these people view things can help create a richer, more realistic, story. The best stories have the characters, good and bad, acting for clear reasons of their own, based on their own views of what should happen - and the interaction and conflicts between these provides narrative tension.


How would Rhett Butler or Melanie Wilkes see Scarlet O'Hara in Gone with the Wind? How about Mammy? What did she really think? Want to really stretch your imagination? Get into the mind of an animal. Maybe tell the story of "The Old Man and the Sea" from the viewpoint of the fish.

Stephen King does a great job of this in his book Cujo when he takes us into the mind of the dog and we watch his thoughts as he goes mad. Children's books, like Black Beauty or Bambi also do this. What is going through the mind of Old Yeller as he is stricken with rabies?

Some writers have already rewritten a known work from another point of view. Tom Stoppard, in "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" showed us Hamlet through the eyes of two minor characters. Recently Alice Randall, in "The Wind Done Gone" retold Gone With The Wind from a black perspective.

This week, tell us the name of the story you have chosen and who your viewpoint character is. Then, in 500 words or less, let us hear the other side of the story

Florence Cardinal

Florence Cardinal's wrap-up
Posted on: September 9, 2003

This turned out to be a great exercise, as it was the last time we ran it. The majority of the stories were well written and fulfilled the assignment well. Some of you forgot to tell us what story you were using, but I was able to figure them all out - and this shows just how well done they were.

We had fairy tales, stories from the classics, and, what surprised me were the number of stories that came from Biblical sources.

The purpose of this exercise was to show that, although your main protagonist is the most important person in the story when it comes to goal/motivation/conflict, every character has a personal viewpoint, their own agenda, even lesser characters. Keeping this in mind adds a lot to short stories and even more to novels.

I enjoyed reading both the stories and critiques. Well done.

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Modified by Gayle Surrette.