Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Baggot & Asher Writerly Boot Camp. Day 11.

[If you find yourself here, baffled, lost, disoriented,
here's the link to the post that might clarify
what you've just stumbled upon --
complete with pic of Louis Gossett Jr.
and Richard Gere.]

A small note: If you want to share your bits, head on over to the link that I post on Facebook every morning around 9 or 10am. You can decide how much or how little you want to share. You don't have to share ANYthing at all. Not one word. (People have been asking and I had mentioned opening up my comments section but have decided Facebook works just fine.)
I'm there at this link.

Exercises 1-4 will be used in exercise 6.

1. Memory Exercise. This is designed to guide you (goad you) into mucking around where the important, psychologically resonant stuff is stored.

Today, jot a memory of when you realized your religion. Often we grow up thinking that because our family is all of the same religion and the people we worship with are all of the same religion, that everyone pretty much is. Not the case for everyone, but many. When did you realize that your religion wasn't shared by the world.

And this second one is two-part. When did you realize your socio-economic status or class -- or, more plainly, when did you realize that there were people with much more money than you and when did you realize there were people with less.

2. Eavesdropping Exercise.Change alert -- I said I'd keep this one the same but I'm changing it up:

Eavesdrop on the world around you. Pay attention to the noises you consider the background noises and pull them to the front. Pick 3.

3. Reading as a writer. I'll be mixing this up from day to day, with some repeats.

The books you love are blueprints. Each of them is actually an individual tutorial with its author -- dead or alive.

Open one up. It probably begins with a sentence. Just one. That's the start. What does it do? Set up plot? Character? Does it -- as John Irving has recommended -- tell the entire plot in that first sentence? Does it -- as was noted yesterday by way of Martinez -- give us that experience of sudden reality? If it's a line in a poem -- does it represent the impression of the whole book in some way?

Pick up three more books. Look only at first sentences. Choose one to imitate. And here I'm going to be hugely bossy. This was actually an assignment given to my mother by an elementary school teacher -- a nun in the 1950s. I want you to first copy it punctiliously. If the first word is an article, choose a different article. If the second word is an adjective, use another adjective, very unlike the one on the page. If the next word is a noun, use a very different noun. In other words, MAD LIB this sentence.

After that, relax. Pick up more books and read opening sentences. Sit there. Let all of the sentences rummage and churn. Now write one of your own.

4. Image Exercise. This one is also the same every day -- more or less -- and hopefully habit-forming. Jot 3 images. Look at something closely. Notice something. Pay attention.

Today, pick something that can easily catch fire, something that can you once lost that was precious to you, and something you found that wasn't yours but you kept.

5. The Quote. Everyday I will provide a quote and either a little rant on it or an exercise paired with it.

"THE SENTENCE IS THE BOTTLENECK OF THE NOVEL." -- Dave G.W. Scott, in a moment of consolation. Dave is my husband and he said this to me when I was deeply frustrated by what I now see as trying to pull a very tangled knot of narrative through that bottleneck. This is the reason why I can only go so long in my plotting of a novel before I start to need to commit to the opening pages. Otherwise the tangled knot that I hold in my head grows too large. I also have to figure out whether or not I'm going to fall in love with the novel's soul. It's soul accumulates in its sentences -- not in its plot -- and so I have to see if it breathes...

6. Quilting Exercise. This will always be the same but the parts will change daily.

Pick and choose from the things you've jotted so far -- those disparate elements -- and use them to create something. But don't force it too hard. Have some faith in the resonance of these things in and of themselves. These elements have all been dredged to the surface. They're bobbing in your brain. Start writing something even if you don't know what it is. Let these things bounce in and out. Work. Row.