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I know I assigned you some homework during class on Sept. 28th, but neither I nor anyone who remained atv the end of class could remember what exactly it had been. However, after some coffee and some hard thinking, I’m pretty sure it had to do with one of the three following issues:
Choosing a POV (Point of View) Character or Narrator
Writing Characters Based on Your Friends
Finding a Starting Point for a Story
Style, Style, Style
(NEW!) The Unspoken Thing
Therefore, I’m going to give you a choice of exercises. Choose one exercise — the one you think most addresses the problems you’re facing now — and complete it for next Thursday.
Choosing a POV Character or Narrator: Try the “Who Does This Change Hurt Most?” exercise we did in class. Try think deviously, as we did in class, in setting up your characters for serious suffering and difficulty. Write up an explanation of who the main characters are, and which one you think would be the most interesting main (or POV character).
Writing Characters Based on Your Friends: Embrace the weirdness. Check out Rudy Rucker’s “Transrealist Manifesto” and write a scene from a real event that occurred in the past week. Feel free to use your friends, yourself, people you know or met, and change enough details and make it weird enough that nobody will see themselves in it.
Finding a Starting Point for a Story: Try the exercise we did in class, when I asked you to write about how I picked up my pen and put it into my pocket. Remember how the look on my face, or speculations about my octopus ring, led to interesting story ideas? Observe people around you, and choose some action by some person you don’t know. Describe the action and use the action or details to create an interesting hook for the reader, but also to force yourself to take the story in a specific direction: the octopus ring is a sign of being a member of a cult; the shirt is wrinkled because the man is a drunk; the pen is actually stolen, and the man realizes it only after he puts it in his pocket.
Style, Style, Style: For those of you struggling with whether you want to write in a more florid style or something plainer, one interesting experiment would be to try writing the same scene two different ways: very descriptively, with as beautiful language as you can; and then, once more, in a very plain style.
(NEW!) The Unspoken Thing: This is an exercise in mastering the famous “Show, Don’t Tell” rule of creative writing, as discussed in class on 30 Sept. Basically, what you must do is write a scene in which two (or more, but two is usually enough) characters are interacting. The (usually) emotional (or intellectual?) core of their interaction is never explicitly mentioned. However, the scene carries strong implications of the unspoken emotional dimension of the interaction. For example, you might choose to have a father who is lying on his deathbed, his son visiting him. The father and son may talk about something — not the father’s illness, not their past quarrels — but the interaction is weighed down by the knowledge that the father will die soon, and the regret of not having gotten along. Or, for another example, a man and a woman are driving in a car. They have just decided something major about their relationship (to get married, to break up, to have a baby) but this does not get mentioned in whatever conversation or narration the reader sees. You can only imply that something is going on.
I also asked you guys to look up FRACTALS before next class. I’m talking about something like this.
UPDATE: Some people have had trouble getting at Minjae’s story. I hope that’s sorted out now…
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"For the correct analogy for the mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting..."—Plutarch, "On Listening," Moralia
This is the website for Prof. Gord Sellar. It back up and running, though it is supplemented by the proprietary Blackboard course management system used the university where he works.