Fiction Writing Prompt: Take a Walk

In lieu of this week’s Sandbox Notes, here is a writing prompt that my thesis advisor, Rita Banerjee, gave to me, and I’d love to pass it forward.

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If you are feeling stuck in your fiction, take a walk and embody your main character(s).

Time: At least 20 minutes.

Where: You can walk anywhere you like! It can be around your neighborhood, a downtown area, a nearby park. Make sure to walk the same route for every character. The environment is your control variable in this experiment.

What: As you walk, take notice of how you transform into your character. Note how you (as your character) walk. Which gestures give you comfort? What do you smell, taste, touch, see, hear as you travel through the world? What stops you or keeps you walking? What pops into your brain? What are you preoccupied with or worried about? Do you talk to yourself? Do you make eye contact with the people around you, or do you stare at the ground?

Once you’ve completed your walks, write a 1-2 page scene, in which all your character does is go for a walk. Try to incorporate as many of the details from your own walk as possible.

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Pro tip: Last week, I tried this exercise with my novel’s three main characters, and at times, I felt like I was forcing behaviors or thoughts onto them. In those moments, I tried to break out of character and become myself again. It’s funny I had to remember what it was like to be a living, thinking human. I made myself aware of what thoughts naturally come up in a mind. I should write to my grandmother. I said this thing to so-and-so, and are they still thinking about it as I am? Should I have soup or more oatmeal for dinner? Once I was able to identify what I, Cammie, was thinking about, I was then able to categorize “types” of thoughts and decide which of my characters were more likely to have a similar thought.  

Take what you need from this exercise! Let me know how it goes for you, and if you choose to adapt it in any way. Walk on!

 

The Serious and the Silly of December

A glimpse into the last month of the year:

  • Making progress on my thesis/novel—though considering a bit of a plot restructuring!
  • Read Bianca Stone’s The Möbius Strip Club of Grief and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee both in one sitting. Stone’s book is doing all the subversive maneuvers I strive for in my own poetry. Even better, she will be teaching a class on “Meaning, Sense, & Narrative in Poetry” at VCFA in the spring! And don’t even get me started with Dictee. Holy wow—I didn’t know a book could look, sound, or read like that.
  • Began an epic watching of Monty Python’s Flying Circus from start to finish. I had seen random sketches here and there, but I’ve never seen the whole series straight through, and I just felt like a phony, calling myself a fan without seeing the entirety of the show! I watch about 15 minutes each day with my breakfast, so I’m not too far through yet! I’m currently in Season 2—just finished “Scott of the Antarctic,” which was pure plasmatic gold.
  • In the spirit of the holiday season, my friend Aaron Wyanski and I have co-authored a list of literary holiday carols. Enjoy the whimsy and feel free to add your own in the comments below!

Jingle Bell Jar
Baby It’s Sharon Olds Outside
Graham Greenesleeves
The Picture of Dorian Sleigh
Robert Frosty the Snowman
Lewis Carroll of the Bells
Little Saint Nicholas Nickleby
Up on the Bleak Housetop
Have Yourself a Merry Little Women Christmas
It’s the Most Wonderful Wrinkle in Time of the Year
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree in 80 Days
Alice in Winter Wonderland
Twelfth Silent Night
Deck the Wolf Halls
Ding Dong Merrily On High Fidelity
Santa Claus is Coming to Our Town
(There’s No Place Like) Maycomb for the Holidays
Go Tell It On The Mountain
The Holly Golightly and the Ivy
Joyce Carol Oates to the World
Love in the Christmastime of Cholera
Ruefle the Red Nosed Reindeer
Hark! The Herald Angels in America Sing
We Wish You a Mary Shelley Christmas
O Little Town of Macbethlehem

Isn’t it nuts that it’s already December? At least the world outside looks like an Emancipator album cover and there are pine-scented candles and the sounds of Vince Guaraldi’s jazz brush beat and lots of spiced tea!