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IWW Practice-W Exercise Archives
Exercise: What moves you (Part 1 of 2)

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: November 8, 2003

This is part 1 of a two-part exercise. The second part can be found at http://www.internetwritingworkshop.org/pwarchive/pw100.shtml .

Since July 2001, we have run a number of "Remembering" exercises. The idea behind these exercises is that our own life experiences are primary resources for our writing. How else can we really know what it's like to be happy, afraid, hopeful, disappointed? No amount of research, no amount of reading, can give us that basic material. Learning to remember these experiences, and to draw from them, can therefore be of great value to us as writers (and for that matter, as people.)

In those exercises, we have looked at powerful concepts and emotions: beauty, fear, peace, fun, anger, embarrassment, anticipation, sadness, awe, faith, and life changes. We have seen the power these have had on all our lives.

(You can find the Remembering exercises at: http://www.internetwritingworkshop.org/pwarchive/topics.shtml#know)

In the next two weeks, we will take this one step further.

This week, we will do a remembering free-for-all. Pick one of the previous topics or one of your own choice, and tell us about it and what it actually felt like to you at the time. Remember: the goal is to explore our feelings. Show don't tell - what was actually happening to you? How did it feel?

Ideally, try to think of something that changed you, or that led you to make different choices or decisions (even in minor ways), at the time or later. It is optional to include this in the submission, but this is important preparation for the second part of the exercise. (Next week, the exercise will deal with how emotions and past experiences provide a key part of a character's motivation sand influence that character's resulting decisions and actions.)

The usual cautions apply:

  • be careful what you write about. Don't pick something that's too painful or embarrassing. On the other hand, don't choose an event so minor or so far away that you can't remember what it felt like at the time. This does not have to be high drama - it just had to be significant at the time.
  • use a real moment in your life, not something made up.
  • be honest - don't make things up, don't hide things. (But keep the first caution in mind as well!)
  • don't embellish.
  • take the time to remember what it *felt* like, then describe that - the point of the exercise is to remember how we were affected, the emotions we felt.
  • when critiquing, remember that we are dealing with personal moments, so make sure to focus on the writing, on how the emotions are described. Don't question or criticize the emotions themselves, or any actions that might have resulted.

Word count 300 words.

Rhéal Nadeau's wrap-up
Posted on: November 14, 2003

It's always an interesting week when we run a Remembering exercise, and all the more so this week when we had a choice of what to explore. A slightly uncomfortable time as well: it's one thing to read about certain topics in the news, it's another to have people share their personal experiences of drugs, abuse, violence, and other such aspects of life.

The exercise had not specified that people needed to say what emotion or topic they were exploring, and many people didn't say. I think this was positive actually - many of those emotion-laden experiences seldom lend themselves to a simple label, after all.

One difference from previous weeks: quite a few submissions described very emotional situations - but did not actually describe what those emotions *felt* like. Many of those submissions were very effective pieces of writing (so maybe the emotions were clearly present in the writer's mind), but this did not strictly meet the purpose of the exercise. I would suggest to those who submitted this week to take another look at their submissions, and see if they missed that part of the exercise...

Anyway, after this period of exploration, now on to part two ( http://www.internetwritingworkshop.org/pwarchive/pw100.shtml) of this exercise - where we try to use the emotions we explored this week in a piece of fiction...


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