Journal-to-Story Exercise

Exercise for Week Two: Developing the ‘Writer’s Eye’ for the world – Sketchbooks

 You’re probably already beginning to see the world with a writer’s eye.  You see situations, even brief moments in a day when you recognize in reality what would stimulate or translate into an optimum fictional scene.  What you see doesn’t have to be the premise or set-up for an entire story, but it might be. Or, it can simply provide a short but telling scene in a longer piece.

 In this exercise (which can become if it isn’t already, a journal writing technique for you) we’re asking you to do the following:

1.      During the next several days, jot down a few notes that will help you recall at least three scenes that you witness or encounter.  Just sketch them out briefly (example: two elderly women, possibly sisters or even twins, driving a vintage mustang convertible, yellow, top down, early afternoon, Culver Blvd, dressed as if for an afternoon tea),.  Don’t stop at three.  Sketch as many as you see.  You’ll probably discover that the more you do this, the more scenes you see with your writer’s eye.  Sketch them all, and bring in a few of them to share with the class.

2.      Now, take one of the sketches you have done, and begin to expand it into an actual scene. Step into one of the characters in the sketch, and narrate the scene in the person of that character. Remember that this is an exercise, so the scene doesn’t have to be polished and finished, and you don’t have to be certain of the final shape of the story that is beginning to emerge.  Also note that the scene that you derive from the sketch does not even need to contain the sketch.  For example the sisters in the Mustang can in fact be on their way to the reading of their dear departed cousin’s will, where they will both be smitten by a devious and very untrustworthy clerk in their lawyer’s office.  The Mustang might not even appear, other than tangentially, in the scene.  Or, the sketch might take you back to the day the sisters bought the Mustang.  Another thing that might emerge from your sketch is a more detailed outline or treatment for a longer piece.  You might decide to premise an entire story on the fact that owning the Mustang throughout their life actually bound the sisters together and symbolizes their spinsterhood.  Whatever it is that the sketches begin to whisper to the fiction-writer in you, write one or two of them out.  Bring in your best 500 to 750 words.