Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Person, Place, and Action

In Brian Thorstenson's class "Writing and Performing Monologues" Brian presented us with a fascinating writing exercise that pleased me so much that I turned around and gave it to my bookmaking class as an experiment the following day.

The premise is that a character with some kind of emotional issue is to describe or think aloud about a place. Students are to choose one of the following examples. The first one I lifted as told to me, the others I modified so they wouldn't all be about death.

  1. A lake / a young man / he has committed murder (do not write about death or the circumstances of the murder)
  2. A city / an older woman / she has just divorced a nasty husband (do not write about divorce or the husband)
  3. A tree or forest / a middle-aged man / he is a gambler who has just lost all his money (do not write about gambling or money)
I think this exercise works well when tailored to a particular class. The landscape can be the same (although Brian used "building" and "landscape" where I've used "city" and "forest"), but the people listed should be different ages, be a different demographic than the people in the class. Alternative kinds of loss are useful as well.

What happens, I think, is that the images are specific enough to grab onto, but broad enough to encompass one's own emotions and/or experiences. It is interesting to place oneself inside the body of another, then draw on a universal emotion like anger, guilt, or regret to flesh him/her out. The last step, which leads to the writing, is projecting the situation onto an inanimate object, giving it the characteristics of the emotional situation. One way to look at it is that the place ends up becoming a character as well.

I told the class that they didn't have to read anything, that I wouldn't collect the work, that it was just an exercise and strategy, but several wanted to read their work aloud anyway.

The art students bowled me over with their imaginative pieces.

Thanks, Brian!

1 comment:

Gabriela said...

this is such an endearing way to think, i like the way my mind traveled through the experience and made sense of it all through my own connections.