Writing Activities from "the making of a story"

Exercise 1: "I don't know why I remember..." 

Goal:  To pinpoint some previously unexplored material that remains "hot" for you in some important emotional way. 

What to do: 1. "Scan" back over your life and think of things that have stuck in your mind, but for no obvious reason. (No births or deaths or other "important" moments please. Go for the small ones." 

2. Render them precisely on the page using concrete details, beginning each one with the phrase, "I don't know why I remember." 

3. Don't try to explain why they stuck with you, or interpret the meaning of them. Just put your reader there. 

Exercise 2: I Am a Camera 

Goal: To notice what you notice- and to render it without trying to explain or interpret it. 

What to do: 1. In the manner of Christopher Isherwood's famous passage (see below), turn on your "camera" (the part of your brain that notices things). 

2. Take a walk or go someplace where you can have a rich sensory experience- preferably someplace with other people. 

3. Record everything precisely on the page, using as many senses as possible. 

4. Don't try to interpret it or tell us what it means; everything will get "developed" and "fixed" later. For now, just record. 

Exercise 3: Change Point of View and Dance: Experiments in Narration

Goal: To show you how changing the point of view dramatically affects how the material reads. (It's not just a case of doing a universal search and replace of "I" for "he" or "she." Different things enter or come out of the material depending on the point of view that you use. 

What to do: 1. Pick an incident that happened to you in the past month or so- something that has stuck in your mind, although for what reason you're not quite sure. 

2. Tell about the event in three different ways: first person point of view, second person point of view, and third person omniscient point of view.