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Exercises in Perspective

The purpose of this post is to challenge the writer to write differently than they usually do.

Write a scene of 750-1250 words.


1) Use magical realism and write in a point of view of a sex other than your own. Have the protagonist threatened with bodily harm and escape it by magical means, though have the protag believe they got out of the trouble by their own means. Score the scene with unexplained magical elements that are out of the hands of any of the characters in it.


2) Write from the perspective of another class and nationality in conversation with a figure representing yourself. Make it highly political, but that it doesn’t take itself seriously: farce.


3) Write about the objects around you. Be as thorough, scientific, banal with your language as you expect an exercise like this to encourage. Go for as long as you can in detail, let the words flow—getting into the personality, if you will, of the things around you. Don’t bring any people into it, keep it boring as hell to get detailed with this talk—about the wall, once regal, now chipped, sun faded, and damp—with velvet, faded wallpaper depicting pastoral scenes water stained from a roof leak, unidentified discolorations at waist level, chiffon curtains, the false brass rod and shower curtain rings they’re hanging from—to the door, the old paint job, long peeling, with gaping reveals of the beautiful maple underneath, hand carved crest engravings on the panels—to the glass jeweled door knobs which squeak when you turn them, gets stuck, pull off the connector bar, and need to be screwed back in. Read the first few pages of the novel Out by Christine Brook-Rose, or have a look at this blog post about one of her other novels. Or read some imagist poetry, or Alain Robbe-Grillet.


4) Imitate the style of a distinct author you abhor. Get right in there, go deep through the muck writing the words of the author you admire and disdain, and enjoy letting others know how much you hate them.


5) Write in distinct contrast to your own voice. Consider your writing; the things you say, how you say them, the style you tell stories in. Name it in a few adjectives. Is it loose, conversational, funny, critical of the very thing [ie the upper class] it seeks to emulate? Now tell a story with the same characters you’ve written about before getting into the dread of Zola’s Paris, the soot and the grime, repressive wages, the tragedy of a band of hard working, impoverished folk stuck in a coal mine during a thunderstorm, with water building up against a door blocking their only way out of it. Get deep into the psychology of these people who once laughed and shopped at Macy’s & Saks Fifth Avenue, now caught in a moment of the highest tension of their lives, packed tight in that cramped, dark space of fetid air, howling newborns, and dirty syringes, as water seeps through the cracks of the door—over the ash, and dirt, and coal of the cramped cavity they’re crouched within, squabbling over a hopeless plan of escape, during their remaining moments before the flood.


6) Write a single story from multiple points of view. Point of reference: Rashomon & In a Grove by Ryunosuke Akutagawa.


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