Fiction, Writing

Expanding your Writing

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Today we had a writing workshop and discussed our stories. It did not have anything to do with the Creative Practice class, but it made me think that I wanted to write something about the practice of expanding stories. I had presented a story entitled The Project. Tale of a Scream, in which a girl walks around a beautiful lake in Norway and thinks about her ex-lover, who died only a year before. It can seem cheesy, and I hope the story is not.

Anyway, after the feedbacks, our professor told us to do some exercises and asked us to write a scene in which our protagonists were facing their fears and one in which they were located into a social context and had to interact with other people. At the beginning, it was difficult. But then, I guess it was only a matter of thought. The fact that those exercises came after my classmates’ and professor’s feedbacks made it all quite useful because I had the possibility to try to fix those parts that my classmates told me  could have done better and, at the same time, to answer to some questions that they asked. At the end of the day, I expanded the story, changed some parts and now I am very happy of it.

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Pic by Visual Supply.com

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Writers and editors always talk about cutting writing to pieces. How many feedbacks have you had that were all about this is not necessary, why did you put it, I think this is redundant? Writing well is of course a matter of expressing your feelings and ideas with as few sentences and words as possible. Being concise is a great quality: you have to make you reader stick to your writing. This is something very important. Why should people read our work? Why should they care? They need reasons to keep on reading our stuff. And these reasons are not only related to the plot. Being brief and concise is of course something that readers appreciate.

At the same time, expanding your writing can be an exciting and very useful experience. Usually, we write what comes out, then we re-read it, revise it and cut things. We get a lot of This is not necessary. This is not good. Let’s change it. But what about expanding a story with big chunks of writing? Deciding that some aspects of our characters’ personalities can be deepened, modified, added? It is a great exercise. I wasn’t too enthusiastic at the beginning. I hated to be forced to add more to something that I thought was finished, at least from a narrative point of view. But then, these exercises made me change my mind. This is what really interests me about creative writing. Writing can always be changed and have different results. It is never definitive.

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Pic by Negative Space

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Some months ago, Prof. Lichtenstein told us to write a piece inspired by our visit to the Sidney Row Synagogue. After a week, she told us to embellish the piece according to what we learnt from our workshops about immersive writing. We should focus on the setting and the description of it. We did it in class and I did it by hand, so I never had the chance to write it down. This is what I am doing now. If you want to read the full piece, it is in the link above. The chunk that you’re going to read here goes somewhere in the middle – I still have do decide!

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First of all, everything is so bloody orange. I mean, of course not everything is orange, but it is all very bright and colourful. The candlesticks and decoration are golden, and some of the furniture is made of wood, but the main colour is that stiking, bossy orange. I remember the Christian church I used to attend when I was a child – my mother would drag me and scream that she would have taken my Ninja Turtles if I had misbehaved. That church was sober and dark. Jesus or Mother Mary would stare at you from those colourful stained-glasses and paintings – but they were hung on dark walls. And even if the walls were white, the whole atmoshpere was so hushed and obscure that you felt like the only thing you could do was to look at the floor, to regret your sins and feel like the worst piece of shit ever.

But this is different. The brighteness of the walls contrast deeply with the silence of the place. I watch two men walking quietly, as the sound of their steps is hushed by the red moquette. Althought there are some people into the synagogue, the silence is total and intense. It is really blowing my mind. How can it be even possible?

Also, I’m not familiar with this smell. It’s not the good old smell of sweat, beer and cigarettes. It’s not even close to the smell of our house. It’s more similar to my old grandma’s garage, full of old bycicles and stuff no one gave a shit about anymore. It is a dusty, penetranting odour that seems like having been here for ages. An old, antique smell. Something that came from all those walls and benches and candlesticks that generations and generations had touched before. They seem to tell me something. But I don’t know what.

I open my mouth in disbelief and turn to Anna to shoot one of my jokes – it is my way to conceal my anxiety, I guess – but she is already three of four steps before me and a guy in black is on my way. I try to rush towards her, deeply annoyed by the fact that she didn’t realise I was being left behind because of that fucking moquett that hushed our steps.

But then I see her going up the stairs to reach the other women. She’s gone.

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