Friday, April 22, 2011

Inspiration & The Creative Process Part II

In the Comments section of the first blog post on this subject, Malachy mentions using "sense memory exercises" to help get his creative process going.

This is pretty much what I wanted to talk about next. That is, using writing exercises to help the creative process along.

For me, I tend to need writing exercises after the writing process has begun. I use writing exercises to get to know the characters I've just engendered. And there are two writing exercises in particular that I rely on to "get to know" my characters better.

The first is a dream monologue. I always begin with the line, "Last night I had the strangest dream..." and let the monologue go from there. My own dreams are quite vivid and strange, so I let the characters describe whatever random weirdness comes to my mind at the moment.

And since I personally believe that its in our dreams that we work out our subconscious preoccupations, I look at the finished monologue for clues into the subconscious mind of my character. What are their fears? They preoccupations? Their desires?

The dream monologue isn't something that necessarily makes its way into my play, but it helps me get a better sense of who the character is.

Playwright Christine Evans describes the world of the play like an iceberg. What we see on stage is just the tip that's peaking out above the waterline. But there's an entire world of the play that lies beneath, that supports the play we see on stage. This is the backstory, the personal histories of characters, the events that precede the play. Therefore, I consider writing that comes out of writing exercises to be just as important as the what makes it into the play.

My second go-to writing exercise is an interview. I started using this writing exercise a few years back when I was trying to determine if a fourth character in the play I was working on was in fact superfluous. So I decided to give her a job interview of sorts to figure out if i needed her in the play.

Turns out that the interview exercise reveal more than I expected and I realized I did in fact need her in the play.

Now I use the exercise to help me develop characters when I feel like they need more depth. And when I'm lucky the exercise produces writing gems that make it into the play itself.

So what exercises do you use to help your creative process?


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  2. Occasionally, I'll read the RED HOUR GLASS, THE SECRET HISTORY OF PREDATORS. It's about backyard beasts like spiders, wasps, snakes and so forth and the relationships between predator and prey. These are symbiotic relationships with high stakes and can provide useful structures for relationships between characters..... scary relationships, to be sure, but very dramatic.

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