Last week I got the chance to attend a free writing workshop offered by the New York Writers Coalition. I was surprised by how few people attended, there were four people including myself. But the small group made it very pleasant and easy for everybody to participate. The workshop leader gave us a series of prompts, we wrote for about fifteen minutes and then shared what we wrote.
While all the prompts were interesting, there was one in particular I thought was a great writing exercise. It was based on a book excerpt describing the setting using landmarks and other clues that let the reader know the location without ever naming it. We all tried our hand at it and below is what I came up with.
A strip lined with hotels in repair from the last hurricane. Beach view rooms on one side, the Lagoon on the other. To the south tourist spend days admiring ancient ruins. As night descends, crowds fill the streets looking to party. Heading to Senior Froggies to sip margaritas or shots of Tequila.
I was aiming to describe a specific location but the group was able to figure out the general area. If you have any guesses let me know in the comments.
As somebody who always wanted a career in writing and publishing, I thought many times of trying out the Gotham Writers Workshop classes. However, after looking at some of the prices and not knowing what to expect I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it. Recently, after following their Facebook page I saw an offer for the At-A-Glance free class. Of course, I’m up for almost anything as long as it is free and it was completely worth it.
They had instructors in three different genres discuss major elements and then we worked on a short exercise. We went over fiction writing, focusing on character development. The class answered questions about the character’s occupation, dream job, relationship status, age, and even what she looked like. The exercise got us writing about a conflict like what the worst thing she ever did. We also went over non-fiction and how you could still use your imagination with character descriptions, structure, and even speculating about particular elements of the story. Our exercise prompted us to speculate on a true story.
I think the most fun and enlightening was the lesson in screen writing. The instructor spoke about the tone of a movie. The tone can be another way to describe the perspective of the story. Through changing the perspective the tone will change. This then leads to distinguishing the genre. The exercise we had was to take a log line (short description of plot) of a movie and write it from a different perspective changing the genre. This is a good exercise to help define the genre and lead your writing if you are struggling. Because I enjoyed this so much I’ll share with you what I wrote. I picked the movie, American Psycho.
“A young successful Wall Street Broker struggles to fit in with his overly-materialistic social circle. Infidelity, drug-use and petty jealousy leads to a mental breakdown.”
I wasn’t sure what to expect but I’m was really glad that they were able to work in exercises to get us writing. They also had food and drinks for after that class and we got the chance to socialize with the other attendees and the instructors. I’m very glad I got to find out about their classes. In fact I found out that in addition to their courses that last several weeks they also have single day workshops called write-ins. The write-ins seem like a great way to get writing more often and a great way to meet other writers.