Sunday, May 4, 2008

Writing Exercise - Adding Layers

On my other blog, The Hunterdon County Children's Writer's Group, I try to give writing exercises once or twice a month. So, I thought this week, I would post it on this blog as well.

This month's writing exercise is all about layers and meaning. Here are a few sentences that you will have to add the layers to, and give the sentences their meaning and dimension. You may use gestures (let's keep this rated PG-13 or lower please), one or more of the five senses, props, etc.

My favorite example of this I know I have used before, but I think it is a point well taken...The simple scene is... a man and a woman... a girl and a boy... a frog and a turtle... You decide.

"I love you," he said.
"How nice," she replied.

Can you say, BORING! It is not the words alone that paint a scene, it is all of the above mentioned that give a scene it's meaning and tone - the layers.

So what if the lines were set up and delivered like this...

The gymnasium was disguised, but not well. The streamers and balloons, disco ball hanging from the ceiling, the D-class garage band on the stage, it was all supposed to make us feel we were anywhere but in the HS gym. But we were not fooled. Well, maybe I was... just a little.

Maybe it was the low lighting, or maybe Peters really did spike the punch, but when Cindy pressed her way through the crowd and made her way next to me, my heart leaped to my throat.

Act cool, I told myself, but I just couldn't. She was there for punch. Not me. Her dress, the lighting, the way her silky, blonde hair cascaded downward as she reached for a plastic, pink cup... I don't know what came over me.

Actually I didn't mean to say it out loud. I only meant to think it, quietly, in my head. But there they were - my words fell heavy, like a ton of bricks, and remained thick in the air, "I love you," I squeaked.

She froze. Stood straight. Turned and looked me in my eyes. I froze. Panic surged from my toes to the tips of the hairs on my head. Her cell phone rang. She reached in her purse and checked to see who was calling.

"How nice," she said flatly as she flipped open her Envy. "Oh-my-gawd, Jen, you'll never believe what just happened..."

OK so now's your turn.

The phrase is...
"I love you," he said.
"How nice," she said.

How can you set this scene by adding layers? Don't worry about the word count. It can be tailored to fit a PB, MG or YA novel, poem, whatever... or don't even be concerned with your target audience. How can you put the meaning behind those simple words? It could be requited, unrequited, or not even heard... you decide.

Post your short story in the comments section. Oh and the due date... let's say by May 20th.

Happy Writing,


ChrisEldin said...

I LOVE what you did with that simple dialogue prompt! I hope you use it in one of your books.

I'll try to do this also. Sounds fun!!

Sheri said...

Oh thanks Chris! I actually saw it in the Writer magazine. Not my example. But the writer, can't remember who wrote the article, used I love you, that's nice as an example and then used tags and props to show the meaning. It was very eye opening. His example was... I love you, he said. How nice, she blew smoke in his face.

Even though I cannot recall the writer, his example has stayed with me and probably will forever. Blowing smoke in someone's face says more then words. And that was his point. It reminded me of Mrs. Robinson in THE GRADUATE with Dustin Hoffman.

Hey, you must be burned out after your amazing blogging week. If you can participate in this, that would be great, but I understand if you need a break from the computer!

ChrisEldin said...

I'm sorry I couldn't do this one!

But how about a quickie? Is that okay?


"I love you," he murmured, turning each page of his manuscript with a gentle caress.

"How nice," the manuscript replied, rather sardonically. "Then how about you take me out once in while? Massage my verbs and put the cliches to bed? A new font every once in a while wouldn't hurt either...."


“Personal limitation exists only in our ideas of who we are. Give up all notions of who you are and your limitations will vanish.”

- Anonymous