A friend of mine impressed me mightily while writing a short story some years back. The main character gets arrested, and my buddy wanted to depict the booking process, as well as the impressions and feeling of being put in a holding cell, as accurately as possible.
So he slugged a cop.
Har! No he didn't. He called the local jail and arranged to have them take him through the entire experience. He was also reporting and editing for a college newspaper at the time, so his credentials were good and, perhaps in order to encourage more traffic from students (?), the jail officials were happy to comply.
Your mission is to get off the internet and do a little leg work for a story you are working on, or have already written, or in order to "idea storm" for a future piece. Perhaps your tale is set in a futuristic complex of some sort. Airports, big malls, and electric power plants (especially when viewed at night- pretty sure the Borg cubes were designed based on a power plant or refinery) all make good architectural studies.
Many people know that the Imperial Walkers from Star Wars were based on some derrick-thingies around the San Francisco Bay. I hadn't heard that, but after seeing them and having a weird almost-memory, someone mentioned this bit of trivia and the lightbulb went off.
We might not have "reporter" credentials like my friend, but all it takes is a phone call to see if a facility is available for a tour. Hell, get the guided trip through a brewery if that's what it takes to get you moving.
There are endless things to investigate. Smell the steam coming off a locomotive or hear the screech of metal crushed into cubes at a junkyard. Go to the zoo early in the morning and feel your whole body vibrate as the lions sound off, or laugh at the whooping of the howler monkeys. And try, just try, to resist whooping back.
Museums have a stunning array of things to offer. Check and see if your area boasts one or more of the following: Natural history, Maritime, Science and Industry, Traditional Art, Modern Art... it's all grist for the experience mill.
The local college campus can be good, too. Those wacky educators are up to all sorts of things, and they may be happy to talk to you about them, or show you "stuff". For some real fiction, ask a student what it's all about, or actually listen to one of the "soapbox dudes" ranting and raving (why are they never "soapbox dames"?).
Then there is this whole "outside" thing. Writing about oceans, mountains, lakes, hills, streams, dunes, trees and such? Take a refresher course in nature and head for the wilderness. Walk on the beach or dunk your toe in a wave. Hit the local arboretum or botanical garden. Live near a desert? Head on out into the dry places where the plants can kick your butt.
It doesn't have to be all sunshine and lollipops either, if the above gives you diabetes. Visit a graveyard, a mortuary, go to New Orleans and look at the disaster wreckage, or take the guided crypt tour if they are back in business. Go to a slaughterhouse, peer into a sewer or check out stages one and two of a water purification plant (you may never turn on a tap again).
If you have more suggestions than the ones above, please post them. After that...
Go. Get the hell out of here. Take a notepad, or laptop, or just a good memory. And imagination, along with a snack and a bottle of water if you're going to be out long. Report back with a finding if you can, if it won't give away some key element of what you are working on now.
Experience the world, then help us live it too in your stories.
Someone just pointed out that it looks as if the exercises are "due" at the end of each week. They most definitely are not. Take all the time you want, even after the workshop ends, and feel free to do them in any order.
As mentioned, the main focus of the workshop will be writing, discussing and critiquing. Some people will barely have time for that each week. Others may be champing at the bit for more stuff to do, especially if they presented their main story early on. Still others may already be doing exercise-type activities automatically, or have moved past that point in their writing.
I highly encourage trying the exercises. Like the One Page Wonders, they could be a good experience. But if an exercise doesn't suit your needs right now, or even gets in the way of what you are working on, don't worry about it. Do what feels right.
This is really interesting, Ted. Seriously. It sort of reminds me of something Chuck Palahniuk said, of using fiction as a reason to live; he basically said that writers are in a unique position to live a bit for their art... not in some airy-fairy way, but in a more practical sense, like using the guise of "research" to propel one's self off one's backside to get out into the world and find a smidge of excitement.
I have no idea where I'm going to go, but damnit, I'm gonna go somewhere.
Actually, I will admit to having had, for years, the idea of writing a "How-To" guide about shovelling snow. Seriously. Have you ever heard that eskimos have 100 different words for ice? Well, I have, and after years of eschewing mechanical aids in favor of the old fashioned manual method of snow removal, I can state with certainty that the same abundance of character, if not English words, applies to snow as well.
I somehow see myself as a kind of expert on snow shovelling and, actually, a book isn't my favored medium at all. I picture myself with one of the those quant PBS shows, "This Old Snow-Covered Driveway," with me in a ridiculous plaid thermal shirt, a colorful, floppy toque, and my scraggly beard softly laden with a Santa-esque penumbra of freshly fallen flakes.
I would mug for the camera, demonstrate proper techniques, show how you would shovel some types of snow and push others, how sometimes you have to chop and then scrape, and how to approach the slushy stuff at the street end of the apron. Wax long about how to dress - not too heavy, proper footwork - protect those backs and knees, the types of shovels you need - lightweight and not too large, plastic or metal (plastic unless you hate your driveway), long handled or short, how to keep your balance on ice, use of sand versus salt on ice, on and on - the list of topics would be nearly endless, easily enough to fill 13 weeks - and every show would end with a heart warming anecdote, a gentle joke, and knowing wink from yours truly.
Not fiction perhaps, although writing about having done it, when I actually haven't, would certainly qualify. Anyway. It certainly is a strange and wonderful world we live it, even if it is often we ourselves that are the strangest part of it. As for seeing the world, part of me bridles and says, "been there, done that," and yet there is always someplace new, isn't there?
I think I will try this at some point, but not this week. Ted, I think the exercises are a great idea, but should remain optional. During a workshop we'll be busy some weeks and not others. The exercises provides us with fertile fields for free week frolicking. Ffff....
Originally Posted by Snowglare
Translation: Do these, or I will hate you forever.
Yeah, I know what's what. Have to get up pretty early in the morning to pull one over on ol' Snowglare. Always thinking. *taps his cranium*
Or it might've been "Please pass the gravy"... I always get those two mixed up.
Has anyone else been wondering who would crack first under the pressure of the workshop deadlines? (I think we have our winner.) Ted: yet another reason why the exercises might best remain optional. :uhhuh:
Has anyone else been wondering who would crack first under the pressure of the workshop deadlines? (I think we have our winner.)
No WAY am I going to take responsibility for Snowglare's shattered sanity.
As for your snow-shovelling show, that's not all that different from the kind of shovelling involved in fiction writing.
Did you know this activity is a major cause of heart-attacks? No, not writing exercises, still talking shovelling snow. Maybe your show could discuss warmups and fitness drills to help keep people alive. Plus, like This Old House, you could maybe feature a different driveway each week, with its associated problems and intricacies. And let's not forget the tools of the trade: "This is the Slush-Flinger 4000 galvanized steel snow destroyer with internal microwave defrost element and radar depth-sensor..."
As for making the exercises optional...
Originally Posted by Disco-neck Ted
Take all the time you want, even after the workshop ends, and feel free to do them in any order.
The difference between not being "required" to do them and having an infinite amount of time to do them in is one for the philosophers. Thanks for tipping my hand on that one...
Sorry for not making clear at the outset that they aren't due on a weekly basis, though. Obviously, getting the story in is the main thing. Methinks that once a participant has that done, and gets the hang of reading and critiquing, they might be happy to have "stuff" to work on.
Originally Posted by Clarke667
I have no idea where I'm going to go, but damnit, I'm gonna go somewhere.
Hombre! This is what I want to hear. If only one person benefits from a given exercise (besides me, since I'm getting some good mileage out of putting them together) then it's a major success in my book.
I remember seeing a Katar on display in the weapons collection at the Tower of London. Most people stuck to their shuffling pace and baa-ed their way past. But with D2 all hot in my little mind, it was fascinating to stand a while and consider the properties of that piece of steel, to think what it would be like to try to use it in battle. As the shoveller mentioned, sometimes taking a field trip, even just to the end of your own driveway, can inspire a story.
Taking my own advice... just got off the phone with a helpful person named Erica, and the tour coordinator will be calling me back tomorrow to set up a tour within the next couple of weeks. Can't say what it is, don't want to give any part of my story away, but damn, this is cool! Going to check out a random detail thingy. Not in time for the first draft, but I can always go back and make corrections to the descriptions later, or fake it with greater accuracy.
Just completed my field trip. Went to the telescope mirror lab at the University of Arizona, since that facility is featured in my latest short story.
Extremely cool! Not quite the way I pictured it, and the depiction in fiction was a combination of seeing it on TV and having explored the tunnels under the stadium (rather than taking the tour entrance). Seeing it in real life has given a much better feel for the place.
Plus, seeing the info on the Large Binocular Telescope and the Giant Magellan Telescope MMA was very exciting. They are talking about looking at the edge of the universe. Unbelievable.
Can't urge you all strongly enough to go out and find some aspect of your stories to explore, if you haven't already. Have fun!