7:26 a.m. — Atlanta
listening to Little Darling by The Diamonds
Hi, everyone. We have another prose/fiction/narrative exercise [i.e. not poetry]. This is an interesting one that could result in some hair pulling, but can also result in a cool piece of writing. If you are having problems with NaNoWriMo, this will add about 1500 words. More importantly, it will allow you to play with perspective. Non-NaNo people, I suggest trying out the exercise, then looking to see where you see a poem. That leaves things broad for you which, I know, drives some of you nuts. Remember: there is no wrong way. The objective is to write. Ready to play?
This exercise suggests another way to look at something, a person, a setting, an event. In this exercise, your narrator(s) (imagine a camera eye) must start high in the air and descend, getting closer and closer all the time to the same spot on the earth — and finally, passing through that spot and going under the ground (yes, a camera eye that has a heck of a swivel).
RULES ( how about that!):
Don’t change your target in mid-exercise.
Don’t move side-to-side; that is, focus on the same event on the ground but observe it from different altitudes.
You may, however, change narrator and/or point-of-view (first-person, second-person, third-person) from step to step. An anonymous third-person will often make sense.
It’s all right to read ahead (but it’s interesting to take each step as it comes). Try to write at least 250 words for each step.
REMEMBER: At different heights, degree of detail is different… the kinds of things one can see are different… the sounds one can hear are different… the angle of vision is different… things don’t always seem to be what they are …
If you are able, try this physically. Choose something that you are able to view from at least four levels and do so. For each, note the differences, the things you notice at one level, that you don’t see at another. No, no, don’t bang your head on the wall. This was an exercise my mentor and I gave high schoolers. Don’t over-think the steps. Relax. Write.
These steps may result in a continuous narrative… or a collection of different possibilities. No transitions needed, at this point.
You might wish to target a character, a moment or event from an existing story. Or you can just wait for each step and see what happens, as you write. Whichever, decide what your focus is.
1. Pretend you are like a bird or at the height of an airplane in flight, at least 600 feet or 200 meters in the air. Focus on your target (which is on the ground). Write everything you can see or hear. Try for at least 250 words.
2. Pretend you are high in a tree or on a church steeple or on the roof of a nine-story apartment building or at a similar height. Remember: You may shift narrator and/or point of view from the previous step. You might even change the time of the narrative from that of the earlier step. Focus on your target. Write everything you can see or hear.
3. Pretend you are looking out a first story-window or sitting in the cab of a big truck or standing on a table or riding a horse. In some way, you are a little higher than most people’s heads. Remember: You may wish to shift narrator and/or point of view. You may wish to shift the time of the narration. Focus on your target. Write everything you can see or hear.
4. Pretend you are at eye-level with a grownup. (Okay, you are a grownup; I didn’t want to change my pattern.) Or perhaps you are an invisible narrator. Remember: You can shift narrator and/or point of view. You can shift time. Focus on your target. Write everything you can see or hear.
5. Pretend you are at the height of a child sitting on a rock or of a Labrador Retriever’s eyes. Perhaps you are a child, or a Labrador Retriever (see what I mean about choosing to be a different narrator?]. Focus on your target. Write everything you can see or hear.
6. Pretend you are underground, perhaps in a tunnel, a subway, a grave, a ditch. Remember: You may wish to shift narrator and/or point of view. You may shift time. Focus on your target. Write everything you can see or hear.
There is the possibility of adding smell to the equation, as that would change with proximity.
Non-NaNo poets, I think you can do the exercise and then look at what you have written as material within which to find a poem. You can also play with writing a narrative poem. Include all the steps. It can be about changes in perspective, about seeing things differently, maybe unexpectedly, with a shift in perspective. This can be figurative, or literal.
If you are struggling, but game, for heaven’s sake write me (email@example.com) and say: This is what I have but I’m not sure about… or, I understand all, except this bit.
Above all, enjoy the experiment. It’s a valuable exercise for both prose and poetry. I shall see you Friday for the roundup; and next Tuesday for the next exciting installment of narrative exercises.
I’m off to organise my Christmas shopping! Happy writing, all.