#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #21)

When I teach “Get to the Heart of Your Story” workshops I always love using the “snapshot” exercise. This exercise is useful whether a writer has written a full draft or is just beginning to understand her story.

I ask writers to imagine their protagonist at the beginning of the story, just as it opens. And I tell them to take a virtual photo (no selfies!) of her/him–and then to carefully observe and study the details: expression, posture, clothing, surroundings. I ask writers to absorb what they are seeing and sensing in a right-brain way. This is not the time to pull back and analyze from a distance. This is the time to pull in and experience and use all the senses.

Next I ask writers to imagine a virtual photo of their protagonist at the end of the story. Again, pay close attention to the details.

And then I ask them to notice very carefully all the changes. Some may be dramatic but many will be subtle.

Is she/he smiling in one and not in the other? Are her eyes more open in the second photo or is she looking away from the camera? If so, what is she seeing?  What is she hearing? What has changed in the way she holds her body or in the way she moves? Is she holding something new in her hand? Has she cut her hair? Taken off makeup she wore before? There are endless clues in these two virtual snapshots.

Finally, I ask writers to imagine–on an emotional, visceral, sensory level–what happened in between the two images?  How did the changes occur? Because there will be change on the deepest, most profound level.

This is a time when new ideas, new scenes may come to the writer–this is a time for new insights.

Remember, a story has an arc and that arc is shaped by the “want” and “need” of the hero.

Wishing you flow~

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