a writing excercise

Posted: Nov 13, 2003 10:01:38 pm      



11-13-03
Edgecomb, Maine

Sometimes when I am stuck for something to write about, I will start doing this deconstruction on people I'd like to use in songs, or sometimes they are fictional, or famous people I don't know. I let my imagination fill in the details...

It is a way to see someone under a microscope and helps pull details out of their lives to use in songs, or stories... It is like background research on a character... and it shows your audience who they are thru details rather then just telling them directly...

instead of saying someone "is depressed", you show them thru details... the shades are pulled, they are wearing dark clothing, etc... but because they details are specific, you create a sharp picture...

Details are important to driving character traits and plot points and this excercise helps pull them some of them out. If you have someone you would like to write about, try this one using them as the source. Hopefully some interesting things will emerge that you can use within the song or story...

The steps--

1) Name your character-- Do you use the real name, just their first name, or something suggestive that perhaps adds some
anonymity, or color to the story... Your choice, but be careful, you don't want someone to get mad at you...

Jimmy Aberdeen

is the character I will use to demonstrate how I do this... He is a character from the song "Eighteen" on the Speed of Trees. Though this is based roughly on events from my childhood, I used the name because it suggested James Dean-- a tragic figure and known risk taker. I wanted to connect that with the character in the song, and it provided anonymity to the real character.

2) Describe five items in the persons bedroom


1) empty beer can in the closet
2) graduation cap and gown thrown on the floor
3) blue spray paint cans
4) tv set in the corner with Beavus and Butthead tapes on top
5) dirty football uniform

what do these items tell you about the character?
How old is the character? what does he like to do? How does he live?


3) The Character looks into a mirror, what does he see? name five things...

a) Blood shot eyes
b) ruddy skin
c) a shit eating grin
d) beer belly, he's gently rubbin it...
e) bed head

what do these things shoe us about Jimmy? how does he take care of his appearance. Is he proud of himself? Shy? Disappointed? Where is his ego?

4) Assign the character two colors... colors literally paint a scene or a person... you might only use a color in passing, but it helps create mood and understanding.

a) bright blue
b) dark red

what do these suggest?



5) assign the character a non human twin... this creates a metaphor, for the person-- solid as an oak tree-- wise as an owl... that type of thing-- don't be afraid of feeling like you are reaching when writing this one down, you can disguise and smarten it up when you frame it in a sentence or song lyric... so it looks less like Disney when it's edited...

a) Jimmy Aberdean is... a thunder cloud

what does this say about the character?
Unpredictabe? Loud? powerful?

6) Give your character a voice-- what does he sound like-- what might he say?

"Will you please pick me up a six at the packie?"

what does this reveal about your character?

My Jimmy Aberdean only showed up in the second verse of "EIGHTEEN" but played a crucial role in the song...
only some of the excercise came into play, but I feel like I know him well enough to write about him now...

The voice of Jimmy Aberdean
still washes over me
he had a laugh
like a thunder cloud
He's holding blue spray paint
Jimmy was no saint
but he could always draw a crowd

That night
We climbed the watertower in Walker's field
That night
above the lights of town
our fates were sealed
That night
Jimmy fell down through the darkness
an ambulance brought silence to the scene
and carried off the life
and broken dreams
of Jimmy Aberdean

I hope you do this excercise-- it has been very fun at workshops to teach to other songwriters...

see you soon, y'all--
Ellis

  • Edited by Admin on: Nov 15, 2003 9:02:28 am


KarenZ

Posts: 644
Registered:
  2003-10-13


Posted: Nov 14, 2003 8:35:08 am    

Ellis,

Were you interested in having folks share their replies/results here?

Karen


"Back in school I found the only written truths in bathroom stalls and telephone booths" -- Ellis Paul
ellispaul

Posts: 38
Registered:
  2003-11-10


Posted: Nov 14, 2003 3:48:17 pm    

Yup Karen--
if you all want to try it, I would use someone famous, but don't tell us who it is, see if we can guess based on details, then let us know at the bottom...

Here's one...

5 things in the room...
1) A stack of white t-shirts
2) box of ammunition
3) empty box for a rifle
4) The biography of Karl Marx on his night stand
5) A copy of the Dallas Morning Star

5 things he sees in the mirror
1) a gunslinger
2) white t-shirt brown slacks
3) short hair, neatly combed to the side
4) a short man, pale complexion
5) stance is casual but defiant

Color
dark brown
red


Non human analogy

a vipor
hawk eyed

Something he might say....

"I am nothing but a Patsy..."


scroll down for answer...





I could have dated the Dallas Morning Star to November 1963
for an extra clue...






the answer is....



Lee Harvey Oswald...

thats it!
ellis

KarenZ

Posts: 644
Registered:
  2003-10-13


Posted: Nov 14, 2003 5:30:42 pm    

Okey Dokey. I get it. :-) I'm gonna have to think about this....and right now I'm writing from the business center of the beautiful Doubletree Hotel in downtown Dayton, Ohio.....me and Smokey decided to do another quick road trip....heading up the street to hear Bill Deasy, my 2nd favorite singer-songwriter....this is Smokey's first live BD show and I don't know who's more excited....

Karen


"Back in school I found the only written truths in bathroom stalls and telephone booths" -- Ellis Paul
Smokey

Posts: 24
Registered:
  2003-10-20


Posted: Nov 14, 2003 5:42:39 pm    

>this is Smokey's first live BD show and I don't know who's more excited....<

Ummmm....*I* know who's more excited. ;-) Now if I could just drag Karen away from this damned hotel computer!! :-)



SMOKEY
KarenZ

Posts: 644
Registered:
  2003-10-13


Posted: Nov 15, 2003 9:28:04 am    

Where is everybody? [Smokey's still sleepeing so I have to do *something* to amuse myself!] I guess I gotta be the guinea pig and go first.....c'mon folks!

Here goes:

Five things in the room:

  1. porcelain wash basin
  2. bottle of Irish whiskey
  3. copy fo the Atlanta Southern Confederacy dated Feb.1865
  4. closet full of ball gowns
  5. lace-up corset lying on the bed


Five things he/she sees in the mirror:

  1. defiant green eyes
  2. long thick red hair
  3. green velvet dress
  4. black bow in her hair
  5. smooth white complexion


Two colors:

  1. green
  2. black


Non human twin:
a whirlwind

A voice:

"I'll think about that tomorrow..."

OK...that's it. Scroll down to see who she is....
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
Scarlett O'Hara


"Back in school I found the only written truths in bathroom stalls and telephone booths" -- Ellis Paul
Danna

Posts: 14
Registered:
  2003-11-10


Posted: Nov 16, 2003 7:27:18 pm    

Oh fiddle dee dee, Karen and Ellis, I didn't have to scroll down to know either of those!! Great exercise. I'm gonna have to think about this one for awhile. Plus I've got other homework (job related) I need to do right now. Thinking in Norman....


:D
Becky

Posts: 67
Registered:
  2003-10-20


Posted: Nov 16, 2003 8:31:20 pm    

Okay, Danna....see if you can get this one. (oh, you probably will!)

5 things in the room...

  1. car keys
  2. closet of 3/4 length sleeve tailored dresses
  3. membership card to country club
  4. plane tickets, rail tickets, circus tickets
  5. strapped stilleto heels


5 things seen in the mirror....

  1. rosy cheeks blushing from praise received from her accomplishments.
  2. beret on her wavy shoulder length blonde hair
  3. blue determined eyes
  4. blue frock suitable for afternoon tea
  5. young rich girl


colors;
blue
yellow

Non-human analogy
tiger

what she would say:
If I don't panic, I know I'll get out of this alive....


Answer:
Nancy Drew



"Life is always and never the same." Ellis Paul
KarenZ

Posts: 644
Registered:
  2003-10-13


Posted: Nov 16, 2003 9:56:29 pm    

Becky,

Damn, you're good!

Karen

   quote:
   Answer:
   Nancy Drew




"Back in school I found the only written truths in bathroom stalls and telephone booths" -- Ellis Paul
Danna

Posts: 14
Registered:
  2003-11-10


Posted: Nov 17, 2003 5:13:33 pm    

Becky, You are good. I didn't have a clue. I didn't really read Nancy Drew?? Isn't that awful? It's either work on this writing assignment or one for school. Oh well, still thinking. OK, say we get a really good lyric, where and how does the musical inspiration come in?


:D
Patti

Posts: 124
Registered:
  2003-10-20


Posted: Nov 18, 2003 11:39:28 pm    

Great job on the writing assignments, I still have to gather a little more info for my character.
Scarlett Ohara and Nancy Drew , two of my favorite characters... I have two daughters and they both know Nancy Drew quite well. She is still popular today, via computer games, updated story lines and paperback books. I think she is still a good influence. And come to think of it I think it is about time for me to watch Gone With the Wind with my 12 year old. I was probably about that age when I saw it for the first time. I remember being so disappointed when I found out Clark Cable had died YEARS before I even saw the movie!!!


Patti
wendy

Posts: 94
Registered:
  2003-10-21


Posted: Nov 19, 2003 7:38:23 am    

Maybe even before the movie, I suggest you have her read Gone with the Wind, followed by Uncle Tom's Cabin, and Jubilee. Those different views are a grand exposure to the various politics and thinking of the Civil War era.

As a teenager, I remember being very much impressed by the different takes on that time (e.g. the "Truth" was not necessarily as easy as what you read in your history books!).


•wendy
Patti

Posts: 124
Registered:
  2003-10-20


Posted: Nov 19, 2003 11:54:05 am    



Okay here it goes, maybe I should have chosen a more sinister character!!


5 things in the bedroom....

A book of Who's Who in America' Symphony Orchestras

A collection of Hoagy Carmichael 78's

An article in Parents magazine opened to "Raising Young Children in the new century"

A ferry schedule

Scattered sheet music and musical instruments


5 things in the mirror...

A "very" receding hair line

Deep set blue eyes

A smiling face

Mock turtle necks and blazers where there
used to be t-shirts and baggy pants.


2 Colors

Deep greens

Blue

Metaphor

Built like a "string bean"

Phrase

"Don't worry the new ones are the just like the old "


James Taylor


Patti
Smokey

Posts: 24
Registered:
  2003-10-20


Posted: Nov 21, 2003 8:48:48 am    

Patti, good job! I have to admit that absolutely nothing in the bedroom said "James Taylor" to me, but the mirror just shouted it. :-) And then the "deep greens" and "blues" clinched it. Good job!

And I think he looks great with or without hair. ;-)



SMOKEY
Patti

Posts: 124
Registered:
  2003-10-20


Posted: Nov 22, 2003 12:15:24 pm    

Yeah, After I posted that I thought is it suppose to be a real person or a fictional character... Since JT "used" to be my favorite singer I guess I know a few not so common things about him.. Such as.. His wife has something to do with the Boston Symphany Orchrestra, I think in administration, but I assume she probably has musical ability so the scattered music and instruments...About a year or two ago they had twin boys...Harry and Logan, hence the Parent magazine..I happen to know he likes Hoagy Carmichael as a singer... He has a home on Marthas Vineyard so he needs the ferry schedule!! I have alot of old articles about him and in one of them he refers to himself as a string bean.
And you're right he does look good with or with out hair!!!

Hey did I ever mention, (probably a few times.. lol) I met him at LIVESTOCK the reunion concert with him and Carly... Next to anything I've done with my family that had to be the best night of my life

  • Edited by Patti on: Nov 22, 2003 12:17:51 pm



Patti
KarenZ

Posts: 644
Registered:
  2003-10-13


Posted: Nov 22, 2003 1:01:53 pm    

Patti,

You met JT????!!! Holy moly!!

Karen

   quote: Hey did I ever mention, (probably a few times.. lol) I met him at LIVESTOCK the reunion concert with him and Carly... Next to anything I've done with my family that had to be the best night of my life

  • Edited by KarenZ on: Nov 22, 2003 1:05:44 pm



"Back in school I found the only written truths in bathroom stalls and telephone booths" -- Ellis Paul
Patti

Posts: 124
Registered:
  2003-10-20


Posted: Dec 01, 2003 9:44:57 pm    

Hey Karen yes I did met him and it really was a great special moment. The whole nite was incredible.. I'll share the details with you some time!!

UNTIL then I was thinking about the writing exercise that Ellis mentioned. How he came up with the name Jimmy Aberdeen to envoke a feeling of James Dean...Well I have been listening to my Translucent Soul Cd alot again and think the same thing in the song Did I Ever Know You, when he says "I lost you outside on Montague Street"... Like in Romeo   Juliet. I've always thought that's what he meant, but really "never" thought about it!! Isn't he just so clever!!!


Patti
KarenZ

Posts: 644
Registered:
  2003-10-13


Posted: Dec 04, 2003 8:10:37 am    

Patti,

I never thought of the Romeo and Juliet connection! Interesting! I have to think about this....

Karen


"Back in school I found the only written truths in bathroom stalls and telephone booths" -- Ellis Paul
TallManinOregon

Posts: 16
Registered:
  2003-11-22


Posted: Dec 04, 2003 1:52:48 pm    

5 things in the room...

  1. Lava lamp
  2. Bookshelf overflowing
  3. Pictures adorn the wall of worldly escapades
  4. Thunder machine
  5. blotter paper


5 things seen in the mirror....

  1. a devious grin
  2. a large man with a gleam in his eyes
  3. face paint
  4. A Red white and blue top hat
  5. white hair



Colors
Day-glo swirls

Non-human analogy
Cuckoo

What he would say:
You can't really be strong until you see a funny side to things

Ken Kesey


TMiO
http://www.writeherenow.com
Patti

Posts: 124
Registered:
  2003-10-20


Posted: Dec 04, 2003 7:32:24 pm    

Hi TMIO

Great descriptions, but I have no idea who Ken Kesey is??!!

Well the Dynamic Duo is coming your way, how many shows are you going to make it to on the west coast?? When is baby TMIO due??


Patti
Smokey

Posts: 24
Registered:
  2003-10-20


Posted: Dec 05, 2003 8:57:49 am    

Tall Man....I thought it was Charles Manson! :-)



SMOKEY
TallManinOregon

Posts: 16
Registered:
  2003-11-22


Posted: Dec 07, 2003 1:57:29 am    

Smokey... I am sure Ken's spirit is laughing right there with us on that one!

Patti... ummm, errr...

Can someone else help me out here! I have no idea where to begin... okay here's an idea, but if you don't know ANY of the back story this may not be helpful... but read on...
www.writeherenow.com/WHN_otherwriting_too.htm

... as for the Wonder Twins west coast appearances, I will only be doing the one show in Eugene, but I have ensouoraged friends all up and down the I-5 corridor to check it out! A Tall Man's gotta do his part...

Mama is into the 33rd week, so the babe could really come any old day s/he decides to! I will be sure to keep you all posted!

  • Edited by TallManinOregon on: Dec 07, 2003 2:00:28 am



TMiO
http://www.writeherenow.com
KarenZ

Posts: 644
Registered:
  2003-10-13


Posted: Dec 07, 2003 9:56:56 am    

TallMan,

Isn't Ken Kesey the guy who wrote 'one flew over the cuckoo's nest"?

karen


"Back in school I found the only written truths in bathroom stalls and telephone booths" -- Ellis Paul
Danna

Posts: 14
Registered:
  2003-11-10


Posted: Dec 07, 2003 5:27:38 pm    

Yes, Karen. A great writer and major 60's acid head.


:D
Patti

Posts: 124
Registered:
  2003-10-20


Posted: Dec 07, 2003 9:10:52 pm    

Well I tried to get to the link, but the "graphic something or other" wouldn't download. I did see his poster on the site, I like the quote with it about mystery..
You know I just could never get into OFOTCN... there is just something about Jack N. that I don't care for.

Hmm.. 33 weeks... will seem like an eternity!! Oh and I swear by this..the baby will recognize the music you are playing before it was born, after it was born.. I remember listening to Carly Simon's Film Noir...over and over again when I was about 7 months pregnant.. When my baby was about 9 months old I put it back in the cd to listen to again. Lindsay was laying down on her stomach and when the music started she leaned up on her elows and looked right at the stereo... Since I always play music that didn't surprise her, she def. recognized the songs!!!!


Patti
kadyogrady

Posts: 2
Registered:
  2003-11-04


Posted: Dec 10, 2003 8:47:52 pm    

I love writing exercises! MORE MORE!!

five things in her bedroom:

  1. an empty flask
  2. a hat, a coat and platform shoes
  3. pencils and a notepad
  4. an empty martini glass
  5. copy of a New Yorker magazine


what she sees in a mirror:

  1. disheveled dark hair
  2. a tiny body

in

  1. a dress with shoulder pads
  2. riviting eyes full of intelligence and pain
  3. a red lips framing a sarcastic, quick mouth


colors:

flat black
vermillion


Non-human entity

a fox


Something she might say:

"I'd rather be a liver than have one."


Dorothy Parker

(The quote is one of the few clever one-liners that's NOT hers!)



Kady O'Grady
kadyogrady

Posts: 2
Registered:
  2003-11-04


Posted: Dec 10, 2003 8:52:39 pm    

Ken Keasy = Electric Acid Koolaid Test

try it *wink*


Kady O'Grady
KarenZ

Posts: 644
Registered:
  2003-10-13


Posted: Dec 10, 2003 10:15:41 pm    

Patti,

'cuckoo's nest' is one of my all-time favorite movies and I love Jack Nicholson! I wonder what that says about me?

Karen


"Back in school I found the only written truths in bathroom stalls and telephone booths" -- Ellis Paul
Menkaure

Posts: 7
Registered:
  2003-12-06


Posted: Dec 12, 2003 6:10:39 am    

Writing Excercise

Room:

  1. Slightly dulled worn pencil
  2. Copy of Emerson's "Self Reliance"
  3. Pinewood rickety rocking chair
  4. Fogged tri-pane window
  5. Curtains that never close


Mirror:

  1. Mangled grey beard
  2. Tired but humbled feet
  3. Deep set blue eyes
  4. Drooping brow
  5. Skillfull toolsmen


Colors:

  1. Orange
  2. Forest Green


Non-human:

Loon

Voice:

"Above all that is desired, give me truth..."

•Henry David Thoreau

I felt alive with Chris McCandless, I was wide awake in a dream.

updated: 11 years ago