Freewriting, Friday March 8, 2013
by Nynke Passi
Here a list of the freewriting exercises we did on the morning of Friday March 8 for anyone who may have missed classes on that day:
1) Walk around and feel your own walk. First walk as you do now, then remember how you used to walk. What is the difference? Do you have your head up high, do you hunch your shoulders or not, do you walk fast or slowly, do you look down or up? What do you notice? Is there a heaviness, a lightness? Then sit down to describe your own walk in a freewrite, first your walk now, then your walk in an earlier time of your life. Use a metaphors if you can.
2) After that, continue walking and feel into the walk of someone you know well. How does this person walk? Some people have very characteristic ways of moving. Try to feel into it as if you were doing a theater exercise. Then describe this walk of a person you know well in a freewrite. Use a metaphor if you can.
3) Write down a few lines of setting description for a place you know well. Go for the essence–you don’t have to say much if you are succinct.
4) Write a brief character description of someone you know in less than one paragraph (just a few sentences). Go for the essence–what is truly important. Reveal a lot with very little. Some examples below these questions.*
5) Begin to write a climactic scene you remember from your life. You can skip over setting if you want, and also character description. Go for the emotional truth of the scene. Choose something that happened to you, something involving interaction and dialogue between you and one or two other people. Remember, a scene is one continuous action at one time in one place (in one setting).
6) Now take the scene you wrote and change the point of view in telling the same story from another perspective. What happens? You can shift in the middle of writing, or you can shift afterward and tell a portion of your story in another point of view.
7) NEW EXERCISE: Map out a transformative experience in your life as in Freytag’s pyramid. Don’t write out the story, but just map out what was the start, the build-up, the climax and the unraveling of one particular quest in your life.
*BRIEF CHARACTER PORTRAIT EXAMPLES FROM FICTION (the first one also involves a character’s way of embodying space/a walk):
Guy de Maupassant:
She limped, but not like lame people usually do, but like a ship pitching. When she planted her great , bony, vibrant body on her sound leg, she seemed to be preparing to mount some enormous wave, and then suddenly she dipped as if to disappear into an abyss, and buried herself in the ground.
My mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America. You could open a restaurant. You could work for the government and get good retirement. You could buy a house with almost no money down. You could become rich or instantly famous. She had come here in 1949 after losing everything: her mother and father, her family home, her first husband and two daughters, twin baby girls. But she never looked back with regret. There were so many ways for things to get better.
Her fingers and nails smelled of food, whereas her body smelled of drifting things; the most pleasant was a lingering smell of perfumes from the cotton wad she sometimes tucked under her brassiere. She insisted that literature was a precursor to sin and damnation.
I was thirteen and six feet tall, and I weighted a hundred and twenty-five pounds. Though I fretted about my looks (my ears stuck out and my hair was like wire), I also knew I was attractive, girls had smiled at me, but none whom I might love and certainly none of the seven or eight goddesses in the junior high school I attended.
She was barely five feet tall. She was not at all regal. But her lipstick was never on her teeth, and her dresses were usually new, and her eyes were kind.
Starting in about second grade, I always had the highest grades–higher than anybody who had ever attended the school I went to–and I terrified my classmates. What terrified them was that so far as they could see, it never took any effort. I was never teased, I was never tormented; I was merely isolated.
My mother’s eyes were incomprehensible; they were dark stages where dimply seen mob scenes were staged and all one ever sensed was tumult and drama, and no matter how long one waited, the lights never went up and the scene never was explained.
Joyce Carol Oates:
She was fifteen and she had a quick, nervous habit of craning her neck to glance into mirrors or checking other people’s faces to make sure her own was all right.
“Every man must have one secret, even if only one, from his wife,” he said.
Nothing is perfect. This was one of her favorite sayings. Another was: That is life! And still another, the most important, was: Well, other people have their opinions, too. She would make these statements in a tone of gentle insistence, as if no one held them but her.
Mrs. Hopewell had no bad qualities of her own, but she was able to use other people’s in such a constructive way that she never felt the lack.
Besides the neutral expression that she wore when she was alone, Mrs. Freeman had two others, forward and reverse, that she used for all her human dealings. Her forward expression was steady and driving like the advance of a heavy truck. Her eyes never swerved to left or fight but turned as the story turned as if they followed a yellow line down the center of it. She seldom used the other expression because it was not often necessary to retract a statement, but when she did, her face came to a complete stop.
He was tall and slender, and his thin shoulders stopped. I noticed how white and well-shaped his hands were. They looked calm, somehow, and skilled. His eyes were melancholy and were set back deep under his brow. His face was ruggedly formed, but it looked like ashes–like something from which all the warmth and light had died out.
One big thing I remember about Jane is she couldn’t ever get warm in her house. She would crank up the burners on the stove and stare down at them, like a gypsy trying to divine something in the way the hot nobs glowed. In those days she would like around all day and never even get dressed properly. She caught her nightgown on fire a couple of times. Yelling at her didn’t help.
Despite her icky clothes, she looked like a movie star from the silent screen: deep, dark black hair, thin red lips, and the pale, powdery skin color, like she was waiting for some invisible director to yell “Action!” and give her the go-ahead to say her lines like that was the only thing God created her for.