I came across a very interesting writing exercise I would like to share with you. You can try this exercise for yourself or in a group of two or more people, and be amazed at the findings, and how our brain and conception of ideas works. The workshop exercise is the following:
Write a short story.
Very short. One hundred words.
You have ten minutes.
My short story:
Climbing the tree at the cemetery was my way to get away from the world – to disappear for an hour or two and look for solace in a world of my own.
This morning after breakfast, Mrs Coni came down the stairs with her usual boastful, negative loud voice demanding, always demanding. Her habit of trying to be in control of everyone and everything, was to say the least, suffocating. She stood right in front of me, sucking the air as if she was breathing in my very spirit – her evil eyes like fire balls penetrating deep into my small, oval face.
Ok, that’s my short story. The idea is that you read it aloud to yourself or to the group and then:
GENDERCISE: it by changing the gender of one of the characters in the story, without changing anything else (you can try it with mine, I changed it to a Mr Wilkes the second time round) and read the story aloud again alongside the original. What happens? How much of the story can stay the same? How much of it changes or shifts and why? This is an excellent way to bring preconceptions to the surface or to spot them in prose.
What I found interesting about changing the genders is how my own perception and feelings about the character changed within minutes. When it was “Mrs Coni” I found her evil, detestable and purposely malicious. I wanted her to be punished and put away. However, and very surprisingly to me, when I changed it to “Mr Wilkes” I had a different approach altogether, although I could perceive and recognize the evil in him, I felt sorry for him at the same time. I wished to help him, to find out what made him that way, to see if there was a good side to him. I read the short story to a friend and he had almost the same feeling. You can also change the Tense and see how that also changes your perception.
You can now change the tense of the story. Future/Present/Past or a mix of tenses if in a group, and see what happens to the story then.
Changing the tense was really interesting. When it was in the past tense I found that my logic was more involved, I asked myself questions such as: what happened before? why is he/she so evil? who is the oval face a girl/boy/woman/man?, and when it was in the present my emotions were totally involved in a state of suspense and fear. Time slowed down and I just wanted to know what came next.
This exercise was taken from The Creative Writing Coursebook by Julia Bell & Paul Magrs.
I hope this was useful, and happy writing.