Friday, June 22, 2007

Write By The Lake

Great city. Great class. Headed home this evening. Thanks to Leslie What and Walter Jon Williams for the Lester Dent Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot. (As Kenneth Robeson, Lester Dent wrote Doc Savage books, among other things.) (It was great fun to use this to generate a group plot in class. Our murder weapon was curare.)

Here are some of the exercises we did this week.

Plot exercises

  1. Someone walks into a room where someone is dead in a kitchen chair at the table--and generate what might happen next if the character is a detective, or if the character is a twenty-two year old governess who thinks of herself as plain, or if the character is a psychopathic killer, or if the character is a child. (I'm very interested in the conventions we have established and in what reader expectations are in these situations, and how we deal with reader expectations. I think that a lot of plot is a tightrope walk between the cliché and the completely unexpected.)

  1. Describe an object that is emblematic or essential in the story. A gun. A dress. An animal. You don’t need to know why it is important, just that it feels really important to you. Then write a scene with that object in it. The object doesn’t have to be used in the scene—it can be in the background. Or it can be essential to the scene. Just don’t write the climactic scene of your story or novel.

  1. A two part exercise:

    1. Write a list of five different possible, interesting characters; sullen Goth girl, 55 year old plumber with prostate problems--whatever. Then write a list of five interesting situations where someone might have to act; a bedroom on fire, someone wants a divorce. Pick one from column A and one from column B. Write the scene.
    1. Write the next scene and have a new person arrive. Start over again and write the next scene and have someone (maybe the main character) leave for a journey. Write the next scene and have a ghost appear. Write the next scene and have the worst possible outcome to the situation you’ve set up, for your character, short of the character’s death (i.e., someone else is caught in the fire, the divorcing couple don’t split up and their situation makes everyone more miserable.) Write the next scene and have a natural disaster occur (i.e. a tornado, a hurricane, and earthquake. Don’t let it resolve the character’s problems, make sure it makes things worse.) Write the next scene and reveal a secret. Try at least three of these and see how the story develops differently each time.


Blogger David Moles said...

Have you tried, say, passing the results of 2a to the person on your left before moving on to 2b?

June 22, 2007 9:39 AM  
Blogger David Moles said...

(Oops, I mean 3a and 3b.)

June 23, 2007 12:46 AM  
Blogger Rose Fox said...

Thanks for posting this; it encouraged me to write about something I've been thinking about for a while. I'd love your feedback there if you have a moment to read and comment.

June 23, 2007 1:37 AM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Wow, those are awesome exercises. I'm going to give them a shot myself. I would totally take a plotting class with you.

June 23, 2007 2:12 AM  
Blogger mary grimm said...

I'm totally going to steal these for my intro fiction class, especially the 2nd one. PLot is one of my vague areas, so I'm always looking for help.

June 23, 2007 9:26 AM  
Blogger Responsible Artist said...

Excellent. I'm readying my craft talks and notes to start next week. We will work our way into plot. Got any extra viewpoint exercises?


June 23, 2007 12:38 PM  

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