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Creative Writing, here I come

Hi there! As you may have noticed, I seem to be posting less and less in my blog. And it all boils down to one reason: WORK! I work full-time as a researcher, and in the last weeks I have been especially determined to get a series of experiments and articles done. That, plus two hours daily commute, meeting friends, and sporting, leaves me little time to knit, let alone post about what I knit -or clean my home… But I figured that should not bother me. I will post when I have time. No heavy heart. No stress.

Ok ok, enough with this attack of sincerity. You may continue reading now.

Last week I registered for a Creative Writing course at Coursera entitled “The Craft of Plot”. Actually, the course belongs to a 4-courses specialization (click here to check it out) for which you can pay if you desire, and obtain some sort of certificate. I found paying quite pointless, until I discovered that if you don’t pay, you can’t submit your assignments anymore, at least not for most courses that used to be for free. Coursera, shame on you! So this is why I am posting my assignment here, since I was not allowed to upload it for feedback.

The first class in the course starts outlining the difference between a story and a plot (in that a story consists of mere happenings, whereas in a plot, those happenings are causally connected) and reviews the stages that a plot ideally goes through, based on Freytag’s pyramid. Here:


The lecture moves to explaining the development of each stage of the plot taking the Harry Potter novels as an example. Now, if you haven’t read the books or watched the movies, this is a very cold-blooded spoiler that will reveal you the main plot of at least 4 novels. Yes, including the very last one! The second part of the character was on making your character a believable one that the audience will empathize with (5 steps: 1. What do they want? 2. What are their weaknesses? 3. Where are they from? -literally, and emotionally- 4. Where are they going to? 5. What can your characters do to surprise you?), and to create so-called “rising action” moments to engage the audience. So far pretty interesting stuff. I like it because they make writing sound like following a mathematical formula that cannot (should not!) go wrong. Except it does, haha. So, here it comes:

The assignment

The assignment this first week relied on constructing a believable character, and applying the principles of rising action -all of it in 250 words (or about 24 lines). The character should have three wants or desires, and three weaknesses -because we do not like perfect characters. The rising action was a given condition for the task. In every second line, we needed to make the action rise in some way. That is why the exercise is entitled “The Escalator”. We needed to implement these action rises by using a given keyboard in every “escalating” line. The 12 keywords were: Trick, memory, aboard, tiger, pretend, carrot, appliance, cage, rings, crow, filthy, explode.

I have never done any sort of fiction writing before. Still, I decided to share with you my first try at this exercise, even when it is not written in my native language (where I once could, kind of, write…). I can already tell you that I violated the word limit by some 50 words, I forgot to assign my character his three wants (which had to be objects, actually) and weaknesses, and that I did not really manage the action peaks required. I have the feeling I actually “raised the action” more in those sentences that did not contain the mandatory keywords than in those that did. Basically, I should re-do the exercise but I am too lazy! So, with all that in mind, feel free to comment!

He carefully set aside the duvet without waking her up, stripped off his cotton t-shirt, removed his rings, and tiptoed across the bedroom floor and into the bathroom. It was the last day of his life. That much he knew. At least, he would not have to pretend anymore. Not in front of her, not in front of anyone. For a faint moment, the weight oppressing his chest, keeping his heart and lungs caged, had disappeared, only to re-emerge powerfully, as the sea recedes before rising tenacious and relentless.

The man he saw on the mirror had crow’s feet, looked consumed, almost too old for his age. Flashes from the past crossed his retina as he mentally visualized the old days, when a memory stood out, clean and vivid, his eyes burning about to burst into tears. It was that day he had baked her a carrot cake for her birthday, after she had gotten so upset over the planning of the party and had walked around the house madly, threatening to destroy all electrical appliances at reach. He laughed. He loved her every mood. The speed at which his emotions spiraled, the echo of bliss mixed with despair, made him sick in his stomach, like a sailor on his first day aboard. “Grotesque” was the only adjective that came to his mind, as he remembered the little cub on TV the night before, granted a few seconds of illusory safety by a tiger before the unsurprising grand finale. He took a deep breath and turned on the tap, feeling every particle of water explode against his body. A few minutes later, he prepared to leave the house. Clean. Ready. As ready as one could be before kissing his lover goodbye. The clock signalled 6. The streets looked filthy at that hour, mocking the solemnity of that day, trying to smudge the purity of his decision. It was time to go. This time, no more tricks up his sleeve. They were waiting.


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