Professor Litt wanted us to do an exercise about what a story is and needs. He said that a story is all about something being in the wrong place. The workshop started with some creative writing exercises which I am going to note down. He told us to use the past tense and to write in the 3rd person.
- Describe a thing that you’ve always desired. It must be something that you can pick up and carry. Describe it objectively, don’t provide any details that can’t come out from its physical appearance.
She had always wanted a videocamera, a very simple one, which she could carry with her. It would be black, not very big, with a brown case and some badges on it. It wasn’t completely new, maybe a bit scratched on the sides as someone had used it before.
2. Describe a location in this world to which you can never go back.
The North Lawn at Sarah Lawrence College had a big, green meadow and the main building stood proudly against the blue sky. Students were lying on the grass, smoking pot and eating treats. The trees were blooming, and the explosion of pink flowers could mean only one thing: spring had finally come back to New York again.
3. Describe someone who is in disguise but you can tell it only by their appearance.
She wore black jeans, a bit tight on her thighs. They were a bit stretched out on her back. She was walking quickly, staring at the ground, with an hand on her flat-brimmed hat to keep it steady. The wind was howling and her hair were whipping her face, often getting stuck on her lipstick. Her eyes were concealed behing a pair of 70s’ vintage sunglasses. She was wearing flat shoes, but they didn’t prevent her from stumbling a bit in her hurry to get to her destination.
This exercise helped us to focus on describing people, objects and locations in stories. If you write in 1st person, then you’ll probably describe everything through the eyes of the narrator. You can use a specific point of view even if you write in 3rd person, of course, but it is also important to try to write in an objective way. Describing things, places and people is essential to the good writer. How description should fit into the narration is something I am going to write about in one of the next “About Prose Fiction” posts.