Thursday, 21 October 2010

Why Exercise?

At a workshop the other day one of the participants didn't want join in, on the grounds that they "couldn't relate" to the exercise. I'd not come across that before - people who find an exercise hard, people who don't want to read out, yes, but not people who wouldn't even try an exercise because they couldn't relate to it.

The exercise in question was about developing plot lines. I gave three lines of plot, and the workshoppers had to join them up with plot events. A bit like being given C G J, and having to fill in a-b-C-d-e-f-G-h-i-J-k-l.

The point of the exercise was not in the wonders or originality of the plot, but whether you could get from a to l, taking in CG and J in a coherent manner. I've set the exercise lots of times, and in my experience everybody can. Hopefully they gain confidence that they can plot, and can do it for their own novel.

Because that's all plotting is really. Moving the story forwards one step at a time in a coherent manner, a to b to c. Learning that is the purpose of the exercise. It's not about how well written or what genre the exercise is, the exercise has one function: a tool to practice what's being taught. No one is born knowing how to write, it comes with practice. Exercises are part of that practice, just as much as writing is.

And surely that's something that anyone who wants to write can relate to.

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