I got this prompt from Amy Gottlieb, who’s currently doing a (free!) four-class series on the story behind the story. She says our readers aren’t necessarily reading to find out what happens.
They’re also (primarily?) looking for the interesting, unique way that YOUR (character’s) mind works. The way you think. How your mind travels and surprises; its layers, textures, and obsessions. . . . and for how you get all of that onto the page. How you not only tell the story but weave in humor, heartbreak, meaning, universality, wisdom . . .
So. From the perspective of one of your characters, begin with “I remember . . .”
Most of your sentences should start with I remember. Not every sentence, but keep coming back to it. Write for twenty minutes or so, then go back and find the most “energetic writing” or the writing that’s most suggestive, begging to be mined further, and write into that energetic, suggestive space for another twenty minutes.
This is intended as a stream-of-consciousness exercise to, as Amy says, help you get out from under the story you think you’re going to tell and into the layers your story contains. It helps you find the imagery, the metaphors, the symbols, the subtext. You could write about the character’s backstory, but you can also have the character “remember . . .” her frontstory.
Many things can come out of this exercise, like the deepening of scenes or the discovery of scenes that should be added to you story. But one thing to look for is recurring motifs that appear in different shades and variations throughout the piece of writing and throughout your project story. Expand on these motifs. Tease out their meanings and forge connections–and render it on the page. It makes for some compelling reading.
A book that can help you expand on your motifs:
Well, that’s it for me!
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