Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Writing Exercise: From Sentence to Story

Mimetic Capitol has been quiet. I have been writing and grading. I have also been recuperating from my best-seller blitz and have been reading things for reasons other than keeping up with the Joneses.

To create is to do. In that spirit, I am going to do a writing exercise that shows how a little story can arise from a little sentence. I learned about this exercise from one of my colleagues at work (Dave Brundage at Athabasca University).

Write a simple sentence in which someone does a simple action. Then, for each part of the sentence, write a corresponding paragraph. Expand and explore upon that part; don't divorce it from the sentence's context, but rather build up the sentence by focusing on one element at a time.

Depending on the sentence, the result will be a three or four paragraph mini-story. The last part of the mini story can be round-up or conclusion of some sort The exercise part comes from forcing oneself to see in one action and one actor the potential for a world.

I looked out the window, and from that look, here is my sentence:

The man walked up the path to his house.

My elements are (1) "the man," (2) "walked" and (3) "up the front walk to his house."

(1)  The man had been gone all day, and the ride home had not been pleasant. The doctor's office had been busy, loud, and dry, and he had to wait for one hour past his appointment time before the small, thin nurse invited him down the too-bright corridor to a bland grey examination room. He waited in that room for half an hour. When the specialist finally entered the room, she had little to say. His bone density tests showed continuing weakness, so he had to continue on as before. He left the office with his prescription and without ceremony. His car was too hot when he got in, and he had no air-conditioning. He was not familiar with that part of town, either, and its traffic patterns were foreign to him. He hit rush hour. By the time the man pulled his car up to his familiar spot in front of his house, the blandness had emptied him of all content.

(2) With his bones supposedly not dense enough, the walk from the sidewalk to the house was a testing ground. Could he get to the front door without leaning to one side. Would he avoid tripping on the crack that winter had created when it push the earth up until it bulged and split the cement into a crevasse. Could he shuffle his legs in the required rhythm to move himself foot by foot up the four steps to the front door. Would his bones shudder and stop, leave one leg raised above a stair-tread and hover there without the man being able to move it. Would he be able to open the door without losing his balance. Would she be there to open the door for him.

(3) The answer lay in the attempt, and the man attempted. Up the walk, forward, he commanded his body, and his body obeyed. It pushed him up the the smooth ramp of the cement, past the crack, to the front steps, the four treads up, the landing at the front door. He put his keys in the lock without teetering. He turned the key in the lock, and his body did not turn with it. His legs stood firm as he twisted the doorknob. He pushed open the door.

The house was quiet. No one was there. The dim hallway pointed him towards the unlit kitchen. He looked down at the dark smooth tiles. The man did not walk. He felt his bones splinter.

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