Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A shameful admission and a writing exercise for you (and me)

I'm ashamed to admit that I've never read anything by Stephen King. No The Stand, no Carrie, no Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (even though I'm over the moon in love with its film adaptation), and only snippets of On Writing. Other than never having read Steinbeck's East of Eden, this is decidedly my greatest literary flaw.

However, I won't be able to pummel myself for this fault any longer: this week, my classmates and I are reading The Gunslinger for our wonderful American Gothic capstone class. It is the final reading of the semester, and I am absolutely ecstatic. How have I managed to avoid reading it for so long? I am writing a weird western. The Dark Tower series is the quintessential weird western. I inexplicably have two copies of The Gunslinger hanging out on my bulging bookshelf. And it's Stephen King. I don't know what I've been doing for twenty-three years, but my dallying has come to a (momentary) end. At last, I will be able to check "Read The Gunslinger" off my imaginary list. I will be posting an informal review some time next week.

A couple hours ago I read through the introduction written by Stephen King himself. He states that he started writing The Gunslinger when he was twenty-two years old, and he still considers The Dark Tower series to be his magnum opus. Because I'll never be as prolific as Mr. King (or as good), I don't think striving for the completion of the first installment of my magnum opus, Boot Hill, by the age of twenty-four is totally out of the question. Do you?

Oh, King and I. How I will enjoy his company this week.

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On a totally different note, I feel the need to include a writing exercise that my mostly terrible intermediate fiction professor gave to us last week. Initially, I read through the prompt and scoffed; it looked like I was being asked to write a bunch of unrelated, overly flowery and overly specific sentences one after the other. However, as I started writing, I found the exact opposite happening: the sentences linked together quite beautifully and were more or less concise.

The purpose of the exercise is to establish a scene in 20 sentences. It might not be an entire scene--maybe just a skeleton of one. When I did the exercise in class, I wrote the skeleton for a scene in Boot Hill that I'd been dying to write for months. Now I have a perfect starting point for adding necessary content and some lines that I'm very happy with.

The book recommended that you write the sentences with two characters and a designated point of view in mind. Other than that, the world is yours.
  1. A sentence with a wall or boundary in it
  2. A sentence with weather (temperature, wind, air) in it
  3. A sentence with a sound in it
  4. A sentence with a gesture in it
  5. A line of dialogue of six words or less
  6. A sentence with light in it
  7. A line of dialogue of ten words or more
  8. A sentence with a ceiling or floor in it
  9. A sentence with a texture (the feel of something) in it
  10. A sentence with an object smaller than a hand in it
  11. A sentence with an allusion to literature or art in it
  12. A sentence fragment
  13. A sentence with a piece of furniture in it
  14. A line of dialogue that is a question
  15. Another line of dialogue that is a question
  16. A sentence with a hand or fingers in it
  17. A sentence with a dash in it
  18. A sentence with an allusion to a current event in it
  19. A sentence with a metaphor in it
  20. A line of dialogue that is whispered

Challenge: Try out the exercise. Post it here, post it to your blog, I don't care. I'd love to see what you've written, though. Do a little writing with me if you can!

You have my sword. (And my bow! And my ax! Fellowship of the ring, etc., etc.)

I will be posting mine either tomorrow or over the weekend when I come up for air again! I've spent too much time writing this posting to find the exercise that is crushed somewhere in my beat up messenger bag and type it out. 20 sentences is far too much for my little, overworked brain at the moment. 

6 lived to tell about it:

puerandpaper said... Reply

Challenge accepted !_!
https://puerandpaper.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/a-writing-exercise-challenge-accepted/

Laura said... Reply

Michellleee! I did the challenge thing, but I suck. I didn't really get #11, and I assumed #18 meant a current event in the story. Please have mercy on me. This is some random story I've had in my head for a while.

Mari stared at the edge of the forest, an uneasy feeling spreading through her stomach. She shivered and pulled her hood up, only now noticing how quickly the cold had settled in since night fell. Something made her ears prick; the soft sound of footsteps approaching from behind. She whipped around, weapon drawn already, only to find a blonde man holding up his hands defensively.

"It's just me," he said. The glow from the full moon picked out his features, tensed into a worried expression.

"Forgive me, I'm... I'm nervous," Mari said, lowering the dagger and letting her shoulders droop.

Her gaze fell to the ground as she began scuffing at the damp soil with her boot. Dead leaves made a mosaic of browns, reds and yellows, though they were dulled in the absence of the sun. A world drained of colour. She thought of her grandfather sitting in his old chair, the man who had taught her how to recognise every plant in the woods, and felt her stomach tighten.

"Are you frightened?" she finally asked.

After a pause, her friend replied, "What would make you feel better, if I said yes or no?"

Mari stared at her hand still wrapped around the dagger. The black, glassy blade caught the moonlight - it had never once been used in real combat. That would change very soon. The weight of responsibility pressed down from all sides, compressing her ribs.

"I don't know..." she whispered.

King of the Eyesores said... Reply

@Laura Laura! This is fantastic. I really love the tension you have created here, and I like Mari as a character. The image of the "mosaic of browns, reds and yellows" is so stunning and vivid in my mind. I can say with absolute certainty that this little snippet is better than most of the creative writing I've seen all semester in my intermediate fiction workshop. That's to say it's actually good, haha. Why aren't you writing this story--TELL ME WHAT IT'S ABOUT.

King of the Eyesores said... Reply

@puerandpaper YAY thank you so much for participating. I'll post mine real soon, here.

I'm so sorry I have to ask this but I can't figure out who you are for the life of me? Your handle doesn't ring a bell and I couldn't figure it out on your blog!

puerandpaper said... Reply

Juat figure out which friend of yours is obsessed with tea. Tea and goblins and long white haired men :3

Sara Bell- The Traveling PhoBlogWriPher said... Reply

I'm such a huge SK fan! So happy you're getting started! =]

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