Writing exercise #3

Wasn’t so much in the mood to write about life, so I opted to struggle through a writing exercise. Can’t say I unearthed any golden turns of phrase this time; it felt more like doing squats. Which is better than nothing.

Dialogue is my strength; description, not so much. So in this one, I avoided dialogue till the end, trying to do a character/setting study without it. Again, reading this is about as enjoyable as watching me do calesthenics. I only post it for the sake of posting something, for the acknowledgment that I did attempt to work on what I like to consider my craft.

(And, if anyone ever wants to try his or her hand, please feel free to post your own exercise results in the comments.)

(Weird to write directly to the few people that read this blog. Much like when I’m on the radio, I pretend no one is listening.)

From What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. Writing exercise: Title it “Sunday.” Write 550 words.

Sunday

She did not go to church. In Desert Junction, this marked Sarah as an outsider. Sometimes she considered going, just for the company and all the attendant potlucks, spaghetti feeds, pancake breakfasts and bingo nights. But faking obedience to doctrine seemed like a poor way to win friends, she always decided. Sarah continued to eat alone.

January passed this way, days spent crafting displays in the children’s section of the library – the job that had brought Sarah out to the desert, library jobs being hard to come by – and nights spent curled under blankets reading and wondering how to entice more families into the children’s section. Sarah, too mild to hate, nonetheless cultivated a strong dislike of the high desert based on this winter. Imagining the seventy degree winter days of Palm Springs’, she’d learned what a difference a few thousand feet of elevation could make. Desert Junction’s daily highs hovered in the twenties. She’d moved from Santa Cruz, where the temperature didn’t drop too far or rise too high. She missed the salty air, the wetness of the beachside city. In Desert Junction, the dryness sucked the life out of her. The amount of money Sarah had spent so far on moisturizer exceeded every bill but the rent.

The days slid into March. Easter display – bunnies? Jesus? both? –  on her mind, Sarah stepped outside, locked her door and realized her face wasn’t freezing. In fact, the rest of her, covered with gloves, hat, scarf, boots and coat, felt warmer than usual. Her breath failed to fog the air. The day looked cold as ever, sun already high above the infinite stretch of tumbleweeds. Sarah lived where the valley began to rise, with a view that threatened to turn into a sea of homes, but for now offered as much land as houses. All winter she’d gazed across the beige swath of desert, noting its juxtaposition against the bleached out sky and missing the bougainvillea and birds of paradise of her former home.

But the world had changed overnight. Along with the suddenly balmy air, the low foothills had unfurled into color. Brown exploded into orange where poppies stretched for miles. Yellow and purple intertwined in other places, turning the desert from clay into watercolor. Even the sky seemed different, bluer, as if a layer of frost had thawed. Sarah shed her hat and gloves.

At lunch, instead of dashing to her car, driving to the café and generally spending as little time as possible outdoors, she took her first walk around Desert Junction. The sky wasn’t the only thing that had thawed: instead of a muttered “afternoon” through chattering teeth, Sarah received four hellos – with smiles – and one five-minute conversation from a mother who recognized Sarah from story time.

After work, Sarah stopped at Payless to buy a pair of sandals. She started to miss the boutique at home, the one with the high end clogs and boots that would curve around her calf just so, but she stopped herself. Instead, she picked out two suitable pairs and grinned at the clerk as she paid. “It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?” she asked.

“It’s great,”  he agreed.

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3 thoughts on “Writing exercise #3”

  1. Very Good work, for an exercise. Sometimes the inspiration to write comes from places we least expect. The story I am writing on my blog right now (part 4 is up now) is my first ever spontaneous work of fiction. I have no outline, and I have no clue where it is going, or how many parts it will take.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

    -boy

  2. This reminds me of the morning pages in the book, The Artists Way – A Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan. The morning pages is an exercise in writing: write without judging yourself in a notebook for 20 minutes in the morning, freely. Your notes can be used for a story later.

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