Rice Pudding and Writing Exercises

Today this heaviness settled on me. It came from almost nowhere. Seeped in under the door and followed me around until it settled on my shoulders and head and neck and decided to take a nap. It’s not that things have been so hard lately. Other than my one year old pooping three times this morning and the boys sitting on each other and every drawer of the house feeling like a tornado, other than those things, it’s business as usual.

Writing Exercise: What makes your main character feel heavy? When does this heaviness happen? What do they do when it happens? Who knows about it? Does it affect their every day life?

I have class tomorrow, which I look forward to. I like hearing their stories, discussing ideas, talking about craft. Sometimes it’s a challenge but mostly I see hope. So much stretched in front of them. Possibilities of creating something and the joy of getting to read their creations. Writing and creating are places of renewal and discovery. I’m always surprised when I read a student or friend or family’s writing. So much is revealed by what words we choose, what characters we create, what worlds we build. And I’m not talking about fantasy. I’m talking about every kind of world that comes out of our fingertips when we decide to populate a page.

Writing Exercise: If your MC were to write a story, what would the story be about? Write a fast short piece composed by your main character. What would they write? Who would be their characters? Would it be happy? Sad? Heavy? Light? Funny? Weird? Boring? Disturbing?

I do believe there are lots of ways to approach things. There are lots of ways to go about doing what we want to be doing. Or rather, figuring out what we want first and then deciding how we can accomplish that thing and then being satisfied with the results.

Writing Exercise: What does your MC want? How does he/she know she wants it? Why is it more important than anything else? Why can’t he/she get it? What are their first steps to getting what they want?

Here are some questions I ask myself:  Why do I write? What do I want from it? What does it feel like? Why does it matter? How should I proceed? When should I stop? Why is rice pudding so delicious?

Writing Exercise: Ask yourself the same questions. Sit down and write the answers as fast as you can. Don’t think too hard about it. Just let yourself go.

I’ve been thinking about endings, like I said. What is the right ending? Happy? Open? Closed? True? Not true? Real? False? What about my own story? What about the story of my children, my family, my relationships, my home, my days, my weeks, my months? What does it look like? What does it feel like?

Writing Exercise: What is the right ending for you and your book? Write down a list of all the possibilities. What would each one do to the narrative? How do each change the nature of the book? The reading experience? What feeling do you want your reader to have when they close the back cover? What does the story of this character, of your person, look like? Feel like?

I am rambling.

I think that heaviness is okay because it makes me ramble. It makes me think. It makes me wonder. It makes me imagine.

I have not gathered the endings like I promised. I will. Soon.

There is one at the end of novel that haunted me, it says, “She smiled mysteriously.”

This sentence is loaded and weird and horrible and forgiving—a strange ending to a tragic in some ways hopeless book. She smiled mysteriously.

Any guesses which book?

Now I need to make sandwiches for my boys and clean my house and do my laundry and brush my hair and think about rice pudding. If you do any of these exercises and want to share or tell about your experience, please do.


Filed under Ann Dee, Character, Depression, Exercises, Family, Life, writing process

3 responses to “Rice Pudding and Writing Exercises

  1. CLW

    The more days that go by the more I feel that weight.
    That weight is my life. I therapist once told me I have probably been depressed my whole life. I am not a functioning alcoholic. I am a functioning depressed girl. Who, like a drunk, has worse days and better days, but always sad days.

    • Cheryl

      Thank you for saying it out loud! Those of us who have to live with it rarely get to talk about it without a lecture about trying some new multi-level marketing tonic or praying it away. Many of my favorite people are (or were) touched by the hand of depression. Authors are famous for it! So there ya go – we’re right on track.

  2. Tanei

    After months of nothing in my head to put on paper, your first prompt here brought ideas! Thanks for the post and motivation!


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