Week 42, November 2017. Theme: HOLIDAY ANEW. Create a scene in which your character experiences a holiday and/or custom that is new to them. This could be a holiday and/or custom outside of their own culture or the culture where they were born, or it could be within their culture and something they’ve never before experienced. Perhaps you could introduce a new element or theme, some new awareness about the tradition or history of the custom could be another angle to use in your story. If the experience is somewhere other than their home country and culture, allow your character to notice similarities and differences about the traditions.
Additional advice for creative nonfiction and poetry: Write about a time when you learned about the origins of a holiday, tradition, and/or custom and then how that changed either your experience of that holiday and/or your perception of it.
Week 39, October 2017. Theme: DREAM SEQUENCE. We've entered the dream time. Add a dream sequence to your story. This dream sequence could be one dream that your character recounts, or you may want to add a more substantial dream scene that brings an element of surrealism to your story. An example of a story that is based almost entirely on the consequences of sleeping/escaping is "Rip Van Winkle" by Washington Irving. In her recent nonfiction book, What Made Maddy Run, Kate Fagan writes a dream sequence for one whole chapter of the book. She uses some elements of creative nonfiction in this chapter.
Additional advice for creative nonfiction and poetry: Could you write a nonfiction dream sequence that isn't simply a retelling of a dream? Consider using dreams and dream states in a creative way. Try combining different genres.
Week 46, December 2017. Theme: VOICE. We’re paying attention to sound and voice this week. Describe your character’s voice in every way. You should consider if your character has a loud or soft voice, any squeaks or little nervous ticks when he speaks, stuttering or sing-song habits in certain situations, and accents or second languages. Does your character have a plain speaking voice but a beautiful singing voice? Think about the different ways to describe and write about voice in order to make your character’s more distinctive. Consider other sounds that your character could make with her voice even when she isn't speaking (for example, when eating, sleeping, driving, exercising, meditating, etc.)
Additional advice for creative nonfiction and poetry: Write about the contrasts of sound and voice. For example, you could focus on the loss or limitation of your voice. Was it temporary or a more permanent situation? How did the loss or limitation of your voice effect how you experienced sound? You could also write about voice amplification. Have you experienced the unnecessary amplification of your voice or someone else's and noticed how that over-expression of sound caused others to feel?
Week 40, October 2017. Theme: WAR. Add an element or awareness of war to your story. Even if war is not part of your overall story at all, you can still create a scene in which your character must think about and consider war as an activity that exists and happens. You could accomplish this by something your character witnesses on television, in the news, by reading a book, or through another character. Often, war can be introduced as a secondary storyline by showing how a relative or a friend of the main character experiences war. The flashback is another technique used to bring in scenes of war to the story and perhaps add an element of surprise at the same time, especially if your readers are unaware of your character's war experience(s) until the flashback scene.
Additional advice for creative nonfiction and poetry: Intertwine your own life with a war experience of someone you know or an ancestor with war experience about which you have heard from other family members. You could blend some historical nonfiction with your creative writing by somehow connecting your lives.
**The WWII-issued Bible in this picture saved the life of a WWII American soldier, Sgt. Glenn Martin, by taking a bullet. The mark of the bullet is visible on the cover of the Bible which was in Martin's front pocket. True story. After his service in WWII, Martin married, and he and his wife Donna had two daughters, three grandsons, and two great-granddaughters.
Week 41, November 2017. Theme: BARBER/BEAUTY SHOP REVELATION. The beauty shop, barber shop, hairdresser, manicurist, etc. have always been popular settings in stories. Often, this setting advances the story and shows a range of characters that represent a time and place. Add a scene to your story in one of these locations. Not only does it allow the reader to see some way that your characters groom and detail their appearance, but the setting allows you to create a revelatory story. For example, a minor character could tell a confessional-style story during the time at the salon. You could also create a scene of transformation, not only physically but an overall thematic shift could be possible, too. These places give readers a look into cultural practices and trends as well. Consider describing people based on their hairstyles and/or salon preferences. Examples: Eudora Welty's short story "Petrified Man" and Robert Harling's stage play and later movie, "Steel Magnolias."
Additional advice for creative nonfiction and poetry: Think back to your experiences at a barber shop or beauty salon and show how you have changed, not simply your appearance and sense of style, but how you have internally shifted as well. Consider writing about a moment of confession at a salon, whether you were the person who revealed a secret or you overheard someone else telling personal information to their hairdresser and other patrons, etc. You might also think about writing about massage therapy, healing touch, or some other self-care routine similar to a salon experience.
Week 45, November 2017. Theme: ARCHITECTURE. Focus on the architecture within your setting. You may choose to write in detail about one particular building or structure. You could also describe a city or section of a place. Another angle would be to create feelings that your character might have about a certain building or place and/or the architecture of the town where your character lives or is visiting.
Additional advice for creative nonfiction and poetry: Have you been attached to certain architectural structures in your life? Consider any historical buildings or places that hold meaning for you. Have you experienced the destruction of places that were valuable to you or others? Why was the architecture significant? You could also consider how architectural presence creates the mood of a street or section of a town. Have you witnessed a shift in mood when the architecture of a place changes or is altered? Also, as another angle, consider any stories associated with architectural structures, whether those are superstitions, historically documented tales, or other legends and lore associated with architectural structures.
Week 38, October 2017. Tool: FAIRYTALE ADAPTATION. Find a fairytale or myth and adapt it to contemporary times in a short story or within a section of your story/chapter in your book. There are many examples in films, but consider short stories that achieve this from authors like Anne Rice and Raymond Carver.
Additional advice for creative nonfiction and poetry: Explore a fairytale or myth that you once believed/viewed in a different way than you do now. Create an essay, creative nonfiction story, or poem about how your views concerning this fairytale or myth changed over time.
Week 44, November 2017. Theme: YOU SAY IT'S YOUR (CHARACTER'S) BIRTHDAY? Write a birthday scene for your character. When is her/his birthday? What have her birthday celebrations been like in the past? Does his birthday occur on any holidays, major or informal, and/or coincide with anyone else's birthday? Maybe a major life event takes place on her birthday.
Additional advice for creative nonfiction and poetry: Let's write a poem or short nonfiction piece from an alternative perspective while still focusing on the self or nonfiction. Write about your birthday from the perspective of someone else. Consider your birthday vibe from the perspective of your parent, sibling, relative, partner, child, and/or friend. How do you treat others on your special day? Do you have a sense of entitlement concerning your birthday? Perhaps you shut others out on your birthday, forfeiting your chances to celebrate or to spend time with other people in your life, or maybe your birthday lasts for a whole week and is full of merriment and joy for being alive. Try taking a look back from an alternative angle.
Week 47, December 2017. Theme: FURNITURE. Is it possible to refine your descriptions of the interior details in your settings? Do you tend to skip over descriptions of furniture and use a singular noun (for example, chair, bed, table, etc.) in every situation? Could you, sometimes, be more specific in your descriptions of furniture and furnishings without going overboard with those details? The furniture in a story can be used to date the setting or even the time period of the story. Use furniture as a way to trigger a scene of reverie. Your character might be interested in the furniture for sentimental reasons, or he may simply notice some household item while visiting someone. Use furniture in a subtle way, or in a more pronounced moment to show anger and rage. For example, perhaps your character takes her anger out on a malfunctioning piece of furniture.
Additional advice for creative nonfiction and poetry: Use a piece of furniture or a furnishing to shape an entire poem. Consider ways to emphasize the traits of that furniture. For example: Shel Silverstein's "Furniture Bash" and William Carlos Williams' "The Red Wheelbarrow". For nonfiction, experiment with imagination. Was there a piece of furniture or a furnishing that held a magical quality for you as a child? While it is fiction, consider C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" from The Chronicles of Narnia as an example.
Week 43, November 2017. Tool: REVISION of a flashback scene with emphasis on REVERIE/NOSTALGIA/REGRET. Writers, reach in your toolbox and get out your eraser. This week, we're working on revision. Peruse your story and find a scene in which you use a flashback within another larger story. You'll work on revising the flashback scene with a greater depth in mind. You could do this by adding a moment of extended dialogue or a thought pattern, an awareness, of reverie and/or regret. This moment could be nostalgic or remorseful, or both. Give your character some awareness about the passage of time. You could elevate the flashback scene so that it no longer remains on the sidelines as a side story, but becomes a deeper reflection of time. Consider making your main emphasis about the concept and process of aging in a thoughtful and profound scene for your character.
Additional advice for creative nonfiction and poetry: Peruse your writings and find a poem, essay, or creative nonfiction story with some thematic focus on time and/or aging. Consider revising it with more awareness on highlighting the passage of time. Polish a poem that emphasizes time-awareness so that it reaches out toward the reader as well, going beyond the personal experience of aging and timing, and invoking and enveloping the reader into that experience of time moving forward and/or backward. Play around with ways to do that by both directly involving and speaking to the reader, even using the reader in experimental ways, and indirectly triggering the readers' consciousness of time in some way. Revise, experiment, and have fun!
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