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Poem Tryouts: Eat This

7:47 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to Sink the Bismarck sung by Johnny Horton

Hello, all. I almost forgot, I am so busily running errands through my head. My brother and his wife arrive this evening. However, you before sheets and towels.

Every year, during NaNoWriMo, I talk about the importance of eating for character development. Then I try to do a variation on what is basically: ‘Describe a scene where…’. So, let me talk a minute on the subject. It is not easy to show a character’s personality without a string of adjectives. The easiest way is through actions and interactions. One of the best of these is a scene where the character is eating, either alone, or with someone, or at a party. Think about it a moment. Think of different meals and what someone might learn about you were they to watch your approach to eating. Think of other people you know and how they eat and what you learn. Heck, go sit at a coffeehouse and watch people. What judgments do you make based on how they eat and drink?

As Skip and I were just in New Orleans, and I was thinking about this prompt, I noticed the differences in the way we approach food and drink. If you were with us when we hit Felix’s Oyster House, and you ordered a half-dozen of these briny delicacies, what would we have seen? Do you jab a fork into the oyster, dunk it in sauce and move it to your mouth before it falls? Or do you pour sauce on the oyster, lift the shell to your mouth and slurp? When drinking a Bloody Mary at Maspero’s, where they believe in a varied assortment of condiments, do you ignore the toothpicked vegetables until your drink is done or do you eat them first, one by one, before your first sip? When eating beignets at Cafe du Monde, do you try to remove as much powdered sugar as possible, before taking a bite of the hot and crispy pastry, or do you bring the heaping whole to your mouth, powdered sugar be damned (along with your face and clothes}.

You get my point. NaNoWriMo-ers, you know what to do. Poets, pick a scene you remember, or envision, of a single person eating. Don’t tell us what the scene depicts about the speaker, or character, but allow us to know through your description. The scene can be a part of a larger story or the sole focus. First, or third person. You can even wait until Thanksgiving, if you are celebrating, and see if there is a likely candidate for your poem.

I’m giving us Thursday off and I will see you next Tuesday for an image prompt (which this would have been in the normal course of things).

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours whether you celebrate or not. Happy writing, all.

 
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Posted by on 24/11/2015 in exercises, poetry, writing

 

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Poetry Tryouts: Eat

8:12 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to Jefferson Airplane singing White Rabbit

Hello, all. I hope your autumns [or springs] are developing nicely. For those who live in the mid-northern states, I hope you and yours were not around the late season tornadoes.  Weather, as an element, is used in fiction as a structural device, both for continuity and, often, to reflect or parallel what is happening to the protagonist. The way someone eats tells us more about a person than almost any other action.Hence, you will find both as part of the patterning in the following exercise.

Poets: Write a poem where your speaker is eating and describing the weather. Allow us to see that the way she eats and the weather somehow parallel something on her mind. You may also choose to do this with a third person point of view, in which case the speaker describes a character eating and mentions the weather outside. The speaker may, or may not, know what is on the character’s mind, but should give us a sense of something.

NaNoWriMo-ers: This exercise shows how much of a story you can tell by stringing out a sequence of events in a repeating pattern. There are two parts to this pattern. One part is the meal; in each step, you will describe people eating a meal. The other part is the weather outside and the person’s physical, or mental, health. Perhaps these two are related –inner and outer weather– perhaps.

You are writing parts of a story, so don’t fall into the trap of listing details, or of telling us by telling us. Tell us by showing through actions and sensory details.

The best way for this exercise to work is to use the novel you are working on now and write these steps for it. Quantity is the goal for each step. Just keep writing. You can always cut and edit later on.

Be sure to answer all the little questions in each of the following five steps–although not necessarily in the order they are asked… feel free to add any aspects.

Select one of your favourite characters, or create a new one — even, choose someone you have been wanting to turn into a character, but the exercise works better with a character you know well, or a character you’re not sure about but want to develop.

Choose a starting year. Note that the dates in the five steps, run from September of one year through July of the next. Keep that in mind.

1. It’s Wednesday morning, 12 September, ____ (of whatever year fits your character). Your character is having breakfast alone. Where is s/he? What is s/he eating? What is the weather like outside? How is your character’s health? Expand on this breakfast.

2. It’s Friday noon, 19 December of the same year, and your character is having lunch with someone. Where are they? What are they eating? What is the weather like outside? And how is your character’s health? Expand on this lunch.

3. It’s Saturday night, 28 March of the following year, and your character is having dinner, alone. Where is s/he? What is s/he eating? What is the weather like outside? And, of course, how is your character’s health? Expand on this dinner.

4. It’s Monday, 11 July, later in the same year, and your character is having breakfast. This time s/he is with two people. What are they eating, doing, talking about? What is the weather like? And how is your character’s health? Expand on this breakfast.

5. It’s Tuesday morning, 12 July — just the next day — and your character is having breakfast alone. Where is s/he? What is s/he eating? What is the weather like outside? How is your character’s health? Expand on this breakfast.

Continuity is vital both for holding a story together and to make a reader feel they are reading a narrative written by someone who will not drop a string.

I shall see you Thursday for Part 2, Narrative Structure; Friday for the prompts roundup; and next Tuesday for an image prompt.

Happy writing, all.

 
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Posted by on 19/11/2013 in exercises, poetry, writing

 

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