Monday, May 28, 2007

Assignments Week One (plus tips and clarifications)

Time to jump on in! Woo-hoo!

So, now you have committed to your IDEA and your writing RITUAL. We're off to a great start.

No matter how many days a week you've committed to, this format will work because the assignments come WEEKLY. So, if you've committed to writing every day, you'll work on the assignments every day. If you've committed to 3 times per week, you'll work on them that much, make sense? See how accommodating I can be?

Also, if you lose track of the assignments, or begin late and want to catch up, at the bottom of each blog entry you'll see a category "label" for each post. I'm filing these under "Start to Finish." If you click on that label, it will bring up anything labeled "Start to Finish." Also, I'm posting all the assignments on the right hand side of the blog under "STF Assignments."

Now let's get started...

This week I've created several assignments to warm up your writing mind.

1) This is a story about...

Each time you sit down to write this week, I want you to warm up with this exercise. For at least FIVE minutes you will do a spontaneous riff on this line in what I call "wind up" technique. For those of you familiar with the tag team of Jack and Bob, some of this will sound familiar. They were a great inspiration to me at the University of Washington.

TIME YOURSELF and DO NOT STOP WRITING until your time is up.

Start with short, repetitive sentences, simply off the top of your head, until something clicks. You'll know what I mean. At that point, you switch to long sentence release. In LSR you write without punctuation, connecting everything together with conjunctions (almost like how a kid tells a story).

e.g. This is a story about love. This is a story about brotherly love. This is a story about a Monkey named Howler. This is a story about a guilty monkey. This is a story about the harshness of the jungle. This is a story about a Monkey who needs to go to the underworld in search of his brother because he feels responsible for his brother's death because he was not listening when his tribe called him on their moving day and his brother stayed behind to make sure...... (and so on)

2) Protagonist Research

Decide who your protagonist is and make a list of as many things as you can about him/her. Anytime you come up with something you don't know, put a blank space so you can find out and/or come back to it later
He is a young howler monkey
He lives in South America
His name is Howler
He is stubborn
He is playful and a trickster
He hates being told what to do
He has an older brother
His tribe is moving due to deforestation
His predators include _________

Each time you sit down to write this week, pick at least one item from this list and expand on it for 10-15 minutes. You can work slower than the last exercise, but I recommend you keep a steady pace.

If you must do research, now is a great time. After you've done the research, do your spontaneous riff. For instance, I did research and found out that main predator of the Howler Monkey is the Harpy Eagle. Great! Now to riff on that:

Howler is deathly afraid of Harpy Eagles and for good reason. They are the largest eagles and the most powerful birds of prey in the world. When he or anyone else in their tribe hears their clicking sounds, they hide quick as lightning. One day... (and so on)

3) What if...

Lastly, this week, each time you sit down to write, do at least one "What if" riff. You can start out each time by doing a timed list if you'd like.

What if the tribe's forest was being destroyed and they had to move?
What if Howler's brother was taken by Harpy Eagles?
What if Howler got left behind?
What if Howler had to travel to the underworld to find his brother?
What if Howler's parents were dead?
(and so on)

Once you've decided upon your What If question for the day, complete a spontaneous riff on that. If you feel like really challenging yourself, make it a CHAINING riff. This is when the first word of each sentence is the same as the last word in the previous sentence.

What if Howler's brother was taken by Harpy Eagles? Eagles as endangered as the monkeys. Monkeys who have to move due to the destruction of their forest. Forest through which Howler yells and yells to no avail. (and so on...)

4) Bonus Writing

If you have any extra time left, try any of these start lines (and do any riff you want - short sentence, chaining, long sentence release - just keep your pen moving):

-The wound that shaped my protagonist's life happened when...
-My protagonist's deepest secret is...
-My protagonist's greatest fear is...
-When my protagonist is alone he/she...
-My protagonist's greatest wish is that...

This should be a warm-up week. Don't worry about writing any scenes. Next week I will teach you my guaranteed scene writing formula (inspired by the infamous Jack and Bob and tweaked with my own special sauce).

Please write your questions, comments, concerns directly into comment section of the blog and not privately to me via e-mail so that everyone may benefit from the conversation.

Good luck and have fun!

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