Meetup 154: Shock me, Feel me, Touch me

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Last Saturday, Santosh hosted a session at Write Club. I was out of town, so I can’t give you a first-person account of what happened, but going by the exercises, it must have been fun. What am I saying? Write Club sessions are always fun. Even those that are not.

So as usual, the session was divided into two exercises.

Exercise One

Every once in a while, we play this game at Write Club where we ask members to jot down 15 to 20 random words quickly, without thinking much, over a period of a minute or two. We then exchange our lists and see if we can write something based on someone else’s list. Here we try and do two things:

  1. We refrain from using simple words like ‘cat’ and ‘dog’. There are always spoilsports who write down words such as ‘a’ and ‘the’ – and when you call them out on it, they look askance and say, ‘What? They are words too.’ So we try and encourage people to pick some ‘meaty’ words. Sometimes we reduce the playing field to just verbs, because even the weakest of verbs is good enough to work with.
  2. We also refrain from making psychoanalytical judgements on ‘what the words mean’. We just look at the list for what it is: a list of words with which something could be created. Nothing more, nothing less.

This is apparently what Santosh and team did on Saturday as well. If you’d like to repeat this exercise, it works equally well when you write things based on your own word lists too. Do try it.

Exercise Two

In this exercise, we used the shock, feel and touch factors in the title of the post. The prompt was that the scene should begin with a person walking along on a dark night. The only rule is as follows: for every line of the story you write, you should write two lines to describe the feelings and sensations of the character.

This is a variant of a technique used by writing coaches wherein writers are told to alternate between action, speech, thought and sensory description. This helps the beginning author to remember that he has these four different ‘types’ of writing at his disposal, and that mixing them up gives depth and richness to the story.

For example:

Mary opened the door and turned on the light, to see a man draped in a dripping black overcoat slouched by the window (Action). ‘Ah,’ she said, clamping down the shriek that threatened to shoot out of her (Speech + action). The man’s eyebrows looked like they had been painted on, and water flowed freely off his coat, as if it had been doused in oil (Description). When their eyes met, Mary thought that she should turn off the light, slam the door behind her, and run. But where would she go? (Thought)

And so on. Please note that this is an artificial rule designed to give authors practice in writing in different forms. When you’re writing a story, you would not stick to a rigid rule such as this. You will just write in the best way for the story.

Image Courtesy: Surviving Church

Comments

  1. Here is my piece, it is called “The Door”

    “A man walked into the dark night, a night filled with terrors, and things that go bump in dark corners.”,
    “You have told me this one before, many times actually.” Simba shouted at me. I could feel his anger at being conned again with the same old story. I tried holding onto his hands, they felt cold and rigid as he snatched them away.
    “Mom, new story!”
    “Oh, but honey you haven’t even listened to the whole thing. This one is different.”
    “No it is not”, he wailed “I know he will walk into the dark night and a wolf will follow him, he will get scared and run, and the wolf will run after him, until he realizes it was not a wolf, but his neighbor’s Chihuahua. And only because he let his imagination run away, he thought it was a wolf. Then you will ask me what is the moral of the story, and I will have to repeat, don’t let your imagination run wild.”
    Simba’s exasperation at being treated much younger than his completely justified 6 years showed. My defeat at not being able to fool my child anymore, also showed. He continued with as much anger as he could muster. “Mom I’m bored of the same old story, today; tell me a new one.”
    “Alright Simba what should this story be about.”
    He touched his index finger to his lips, closed his eyes and went in deep thought, “Door, tell me a story about a door.”
    “A Door!”
    “Yes”
    “Oh alright, but remember the rules, do not interrupt until I am done with the story.”

    “Aye Aye Captain Mom”, I looked at Simba’s expectant face, feeling challenged and thrown a little out of my comfort zone. As he crept closer to me, wrapped his little arms and legs around my frame, I realized I couldn’t disappoint him, it was time for a real story. And so it began…

    “This is a story told to me by a little girl named Mishka about The Door…

    The Door made its presence known on a perfect day. It was mother’s 40th birthday and she expected a grand celebration. Nothing could take focus away from mother, except for the Door maybe. Perhaps, it was that sadistic streak which made the Door appear on that eventful summer morning.

    Father, Mishka and Bren woke up early, ran to Mrs. Tully, their neighbor, and sneaked the cake inside their house. Of course they couldn’t have hidden mother’s 40th birthday cake in the refrigerator; she would have known. They decorated the cake with candles; none of them dare put all 40 candles, so settled for 20, and wrote, “20 in every which way”. That should cheer mother up.

    They arranged the living room with balloons and stars. And when they were ready, father brought a groggy mother out into the living room.

    I say groggy because apparently mother was being naughty at 40 previous night.

    “Eh?” Simba spoke with confusion, “Naughty at 40?”

    “Tsk tsk tsk, no breaking the rule, remember!” I admonished Simba and continued, as he quickly put his little finger on his lips and enacted sealing them.

    As expected, mother was absolutely delighted, soon her delight turned into surprise, shock and mortification. And she kept staring at Mishka.

    Okay that was creepy, but then Mishka saw father and Bren also staring at her the same way, until she realized they were staring at something behind her. Her mind ran a list of things that could possibly be standing there, from man eating lions to killer clowns from outer space, from Emily Rose to the Wicked Witch of the west, from Ted Bundy to Freddy Kruger.

    “Mishka, honey why don’t you come over here?” Mother finally spoke, and implored with her stretched hands.
    To Mishka, that was a good plan, to turn around while she was right there in the safe circle of her family. She ran to mother, and looked.

    It was inconspicuous, it was inconsequential to her vivid expectations, it was a door. A door that was never there for the last 15 years that she had lived in that house and in this world. It just stood there innocent, a brown polished door that could only be opened from the other side.

    Instantly “The Door” became a smash hit in their neighborhood, perhaps more of a hit than its namesake band. People from across the neighborhood and our extended family came to visit, and ruminate over the Door.

    There were theories, some sane, some insane. Uncle Martin felt, that the Door was a gateway to hell, and the Devil chose their home for it, because Mishka’s family had not attended the Sunday mass in last 5 years. Of course, mother then ranted on about the benefits of embracing Scientology as a religion. When Tom Cruise doesn’t have a gateway to hell in his mansion, why should they?

    I heard rumblings of another interruption from my son, however, I chose to ignore it and continue, “What can I say, Simba, that argument sounded legitimate?”

    Mrs. Tully, felt that the Door led to the garden outside, Mishka’s family, along with 100 other people just couldn’t see it.
    Mishka and her friends thought that the Door was a wormhole and should it open; the entire world would get sucked into it.

    Bren, expected zombies infected with the T-Virus to walk in through the Door; and that’s why he always armed himself with his baseball bat.

    People tried breaking down the door, and the wall around it, but all in vain. Even a wrecking ball couldn’t touch the Door. Any item of destruction could not breach the invisible wall within one foot of the Door. Mishka often wondered, if the Door was alive. Maybe it escaped other alien, hostile Doors and came seeking sanctuary at her home.
    Finally, they gave up wondering about the Door, as months went by and nothing went in or came out of it. They came to a stage when the entire family could sleep peacefully without worrying about keeping a watch on the Door. They started ignoring it.

    Life went on, until one summer evening, after a year of ignoring the newest member of their household, The Door, it happened. Mishka reached home that evening, only to be welcomed by mother’s excited chattering.
    “It opened, Mishka. It opened.” What?!! Finally the Door opens.

    I sneaked a glance at my son, only to find him wide eyed, breathing hard from excitement. Damn, that was why I chose to bore him with same old story. Anything new would not make him fall asleep. Isn’t that the point of bedtime stories?

    She ran inside and mother followed. She saw father, Bren and Mishka standing there near the Door. Wait, Mishka? She was Mishka. But who was that who looked just like her. Mishka’s stomach sank and she slowly turned around to see the bodies of her real Mother, Father and Bren lying near the dining area. Mother, or that woman who looked like mother, spoke to Mishka with a wide evil grin, “You are next.”

    The Door shimmered out of existence.”

    I looked at Simba with a smile, indicating the story was over. My son was far from asleep, he kept staring at me wide eyed and spoke, “But mom isn’t your name Mishka?”

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  2. Hello Sharath…have you stopped posting meetup content and updates in your blog? I stay very far from the meetup location and cannot come. I used to refer to meetup archive and exercises. Are you going to post them? – Mamatha.

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