Writing Exercises for refreshing Observation, Imagery and Conflict

by Lin Geary

I haven’t written a poem in over a year, and I have to start this week to write a couple of new monologues for my one-woman show, Addie. I have a deadline, but the writing muscle has puddled, puckered and pudged over the past year. So, when Marcie emailed me that it was my turn to sit in the blog seat, I panicked and rooted around in back files and on-line sites for something I had written two or more years ago. Then it hit me. Marcie’s request had to be the turn-around point for any future writing of mine. And it had to be fresh from the keyboard, now. So, here are three exercises I am planning to use in my “monologue pre-writing” for Addie. If you wish, you can use them too for sharpening your observation and imagery and intensifying your conflict, no matter what your format.

  1. Have you spent any time recently listening to the way people greet each other by name? Or even the way you yourself greet others? Listen closely to the way the person’s name is spoken (or even omitted.) Sometimes you can tell that something is being withheld in the way a name comes off the tongue. Sometimes you can tell that there is a back-story. It’s in the tone of voice, the lilt or lack of lilt, the rise and fade, the semi-snicker, the effusion, or in the joy. It’s a very tiny moment of contact, but it can also tell you if the
    greeting is false or true. It may even tell you that a person comes from a specific culture where politeness and strictness trump open-hearted intimacy. Or it may tell you whether the situation is private or public, morning or afternoon, hurried or lingering. It may tell you if the relationship is taken for granted, or coming to an end, or on the other hand, full of the magic of budding romance. What’s in a greeting? Maybe everything.
  2. When Easter rolls around, my thoughts turn to colour and artifice…namely, Easter eggs. And I have often wondered what it was that made me glad Easter eggs were done up so beautifully in pastels, while I was doubly glad that the old flip-top boxes of Hexagon Crayons™ were noted for their deep, rich, jewel tones. After much
    thought, it seems to me that I craved not just the colour but the colour combined with a specific shape. The soft oval of the egg seemed perfect when dipped in a soft mauve dye. The perfectly-chiseled, dark, hexagon crayons came to perfectly chiseled points. I remember the moment I could colour between the lines, no longer enslaved to the broken, fat stubbs of rounded crayons, the ones that picked up colour from other crayons in the old cake tin. Intense jewel-tone crayons were just right for a cutting-edge job in grade two. And I fell in love with magenta and tangerine and teal, six sided and almost dangerous in their perfection. Even now, I have an association with silver that is strongest when I recall the flashing blades on white figure skates. What other shapes have that kind of magical association with colour in your memory? Can you enhance
    your imagery with those specific memories of where colour and shape, or colour and taste (Lifesavers™? Licorice?) have collided and fused.
  3. Lastly, my naturopath and I were having a conversation about conflict resolution. He made an observation that I am about to test out in my next Addie monologue. He said that any two parties can successfully resolve any conflict on their own if they make an honest effort. But when conflict cannot be resolved, always look for “the third party.” He suggested there will always be someone else who keeps the conflict percolating for their own purposes (known or unknown to themselves). Whether it’s the conflict in the Middle East that can’t be resolved, or it’s the in-laws’ constant “interference” in your otherwise perfect marriage, there will be a third party keeping it going. Sometimes you can’t figure out easily “who’s on third.” So in order to give more power to the conflict in short stories, plays, or novels, keep this trick in mind….when “yes-no” “yes-no” conversations are running out of steam, introduce that one other character who will benefit most by upping the ante. Make them appear helpful. Give them the opportunity to carry gossip or baggage. Make them down-right nice. But give them their proper space…and wonderfully sturdy conflict should be the result.

Lin Geary, a long-time member of CWC, will be working frantically for the next little while to get Addie back in shape. She currently is the AGM secretary for Haiku Canada, and she hopes to do more about her sad lack of poetry writing as the days grow warmer and Pinehurst beckons. You can find some of her writing on-line with Ditch Poetry, Haibun Today, and VCBF haiku. She will be accepting a Sakura award for her VCBF winning haiku this coming May.

One response to “Writing Exercises for refreshing Observation, Imagery and Conflict

  1. Well done Lin, I too was motivated by Marcie’s deadline and am very glad for it.I want to write about your shape and colour association as it rang a bell for me. Cant wait to see Addie. Sandy James

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