Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Sensory Exercises -- Week 3: Sound

Sound creates mood. How many of you play music while you write? How many of you can’t stand all the unnecessary noise that we are subjected to against our will on a daily basis?

I am unusually sensitive to sound. The sounds I associate with a place or an event decide how it is imbedded in my mind. I can be in the most beautiful location in the world, but if someone’s got a leaf blower on, the memory of the place is tainted.

Sound affects emotions. Even sounds too high or too low for our conscious mind to register affect how we feel.

Now it’s time to layer that in to your writing.

Last week, you revised story A which had both the scent of hibiscus in it and the taste of single malt scotch. You also wrote Story C, which featured just the taste.

This week, you will add the sound to story A, building on that piece. And you will write Story D, with sound the focus.

This week’s sound:

The sound of a rusty bicycle wheel.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sensory Exercises -- Week 2: Taste

Because I will be out of town this Wednesday, I post this exercise early. You still have until Wednesday to finish your stories from last week and move on!

Last week, we wrote two short pieces. One concentrated entirely on the scent of hibiscus. My colleague Judy, over on the iVillage Writing Life board pointed out that the scent of hibiscus tea is quite different than the scent of the live flower. What a wonderful observation!

The second story contains the scent of hibiscus, but is the story that will be revised each week, adding on the additional sense.

This week, we deal with taste. What are the descriptive words that come to mind when you think about taste? Salty, sweet, savory, spicy, bland, milky, sharp?

How does the scent relate to the taste? Do some spells provoke the taste in your mouth?

The taste:

Single malt whiskey.

The challenge:

Write a short piece where the taste is the primary focus.

Edit last week’s Story 2 to include the taste of single malt whiskey along with the scent of hibiscus.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Sensory Exercises Week 1: Scent

This Wednesday begins a series of exercises, each week focusing on a different sense.

Today, we’re dealing with scent. The sense of smell is powerful in our lives, and also, in our work. Think of how the following affect you: freshly brewed coffee, garbage left out in the sun too long, a dog who’s just come in from the rain.

How would you communicate the emotions those scents trigger to someone who has no frame of reference for them?

When writing any sort of sensory detail, don’t be afraid to overwrite in the early drafts. Get down every specific and every evocation you can. Then, as you revise, cut, hone, get more precise, so what once may have taken a paragraph is now only a phrase. You don’t have to/need to cut out all the detail – just make sure you use the most illustrative words you can to communicate your objective.

In these five weeks, we will work on two sets of pieces simultaneously.

One will be a single story that will face revisions over a period of weeks as we add in ALL the exercises to a single story. That means, basically, you will write a short story this week, incorporating the scent I choose, and, each week, the story will be revised to include that week’s sense. By the end of this cycle, a single story will incorporate all the senses.

The second set of exercises will focus on the single sense. You will have a story each week that highlights what we’re working on. As we work through, week to week, each story will also incorporate more of the overall work, while still featuring the Sense Du Week.

For your own time constraints, I’d suggest working in short formats rather than longer ones, knowing you can carry further any of these stories beyond the exercises as far as they will go.

The Scent we work with between now and next Wednesday is:

The Scent of Hibiscus.

And. . .go!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Phrase Exercise

Today’s exercise is the equivalent of a prompt. I give you a starting point. You run with it.

Here it is:

“The light was off. Again.”

How does that inspire you? I look forward to the results!

My mystery serial Tapestry was originally inspired by a teacher giving me the phrase that continues to be the first line of the book. I started writing and never looked back.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Name Exercise

This week’s exercise asks you to include two names anywhere within the story. They can be main characters, secondary characters, or simply mentioned in passing. They don’t have to be used equally.

The names:



How did last week’s Painting Exercise go? I loved what Cézanne’s painting evoked. The story is more complicated than I originally envisioned, and I am not finished with it yet.

I’m interested in hearing what paintings participants used.

Until next week!