Write a scene of 1,000-1,250 words (4-5 double-spaced pages) that depicts a familiar scene or moment in a new and interesting way.
Important Moment Exercise
Identify an event in your life (or make one up) that conforms to the conventional notion of life’s important moments: births, deaths, weddings, car crashes, breakups, illness, coming out, jumping off the high dive, etc. Briefly tell a story related to that event but that expands the meaning of the event in a personal, complex way—the story behind the story, between the lines. Writers have to develop the instinct to find something new and vital in the familiar. In a story about a grandparent’s death, grief can’t be the main point. Too obvious. Make it new. Make it interesting. Make it more than what it’s expected to be.
A couple of quick anecdotes as examples. (Your exercises should be 4-5 double-spaced pages, and they should be dramatized.)
- Example 1: Car Crash
I had just gotten my driver’s license. My mother had just bought our first “good” car, a 1966 Ford Mustang. (In 1981 this wasn’t a classic, just an old car.) She parked it on the street. In the middle of the night, a sound like a bomb exploded in the yard. A drunk driver had plowed into the Mustang, destroying it. A power pole lay on top of the driver’s car. A policeman reached to open the door to help him but a powerful shock knocked him back onto our dewy lawn. I stood in that wet grass in my slippers looking at my mother, who was looking at me. I knew in that moment what she hadn’t yet told me: the car wasn’t insured. She had never done anything to protect what little good we had in our lives, which was always short-lived. The drunk was inevitable.
- Example 2: Grandparent Death
My grandmother called me from California to tell me she was going to die. She said she was tired and wanted to go be with Ned (my grandpa). Her voice was level, her mind made up. She died the next day. Ten years earlier, she had begged me to quit college and get a job. Between working and being sick, it was taking me a long time to get through school. She held up to me the example of my cousin, Shane, who got a job in a fast food restaurant at the age of fourteen and ten years later he was the manager. My grandparents grew up during The Depression. Security was everything to them. People in my family tend to have one, maybe two employers their whole lives. In the year before she called me to say her goodbye, I had published a book and become a professor. “I was wrong,” she told me over the phone, “and you were right.” It gave her pleasure to say it, as it had given me pleasure a year earlier to dedicate my book to her.