Vignette: A Writing Exercise
Yesterday Paul talked about plotting vs winging it in his enlightening series of blog posts on approaching the blank page. Here is a writing exercise which I believe appeals to both categories of writers – and all the subtle variations in between. And it is a good place to start (not wanting to cut in on Paul’s territory!) for new and seasoned writers.
This writing exercise comes compliments of last Thursday’s critiquing class at the Queensland Writers Centre. Our tutor Kate Eltham borrowed it from Simon Higgins who also borrowed it (but sadly I didn’t scribble that authors name in my notes.) For the plotters you have a set guideline of how this vignette is produced and for the pantsers you don’t get time to sit and plot, only to sit and write.
While I tried hard between my mobile phone and a MP3 voice recorder to record and upload an audio file of this exercise – I have to admit to lacking the technical prowess of Paul to pull it off. So instead – I offer you a written version and hope you can control yourself from reading through all the prompts before writing.
Pens/fingers at a ready!
The premise is: to write a scene where two family members who have been estranged, come together for the first time. The scene is built on ten prompts.You should write just one sentence for each prompt. The entire exercise takes between five and ten minutes to complete depending on whether you write or type.
1. Describe the weather
2. Describe a sound
3. Describe an object
4. Update the weather
5. Describe a piece of clothing or an accessory
6. Update the sound.
7. Using the object describe in the third prompt, write something about the mood of the scene
8. Describe an action or a movement using the article of clothing or accessory
9. Describe a physical trait of one of the characters.
10. End with a single line of dialogue.
Post a link to your vignette in the comments box, along with any insights you gained or reflections on the process. You can read my original one from class or my [Fiction] Friday entry for last week A Lovers Tryst.
What I discovered through this exercise was a writer’s capacity to say a lot in ten short sentences. I also found it fascinating to look beyond the centre of action, to explore how extraneous elements of a scene also convey the narrative. Not to mention just how powerful one line of dialogue can be.
Of course the premise doesn’t have to just centre on the scenario of two estranged family members coming together. There are any endless possibilities within the human experience which could be explored in this structure.
It is the dark moon lunar phase until Thursday this week. Here are 10 tips on how to use the cleaning and decluttering energy as a writer.