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Welcome to my self-indulgent location for the stories (good and bad) that I can't prevent myself from writing. All comments and criticisms welcome. I post on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Real World Writing

No, this has nothing to do with MTV.

Yesterday my writing class took a field trip.  Our instructor told us nothing before our arrival in class as to what we were doing or where we were going or how it related to writing.  So we arrived, expectant, and waited for her announcement.

The assignment (and there was no choice regarding acceptance): (i) go to the Student Union and interview someone you've never met about a time when they got kicked out of somewhere, (ii) write up the details of said story, and (iii) fictionalize it into a story of 300-400 words.  And we only got one shot once the person agreed.  She forbade us from interviewing multiple people.

At the words "you've never met", my adrenaline kicked into overdrive.  I'm not an interviewer.  If I were, I'd be in journalism classes, not fiction.  I'm a lock-myself-up-and-write type, and... other people? What's that?  As we left the classroom, another woman from class and I started discussing, first, how this was crazy and we were already embarrassed :) and then strategies on how to find people who weren't trying to study and would therefore be more willing to talk to us.

I guess it worked—once I swallowed my pride and my fear.  The first person I asked not only was willing to talk to me (sitting in the food court with his half-eaten Pizza Hut bread stick), but he had a great story.  Due to confidentiality restrictions required by the assignment, I can't share it, but I will tell you that I laughed the entire time he relayed his story, and that it involved a Walmart and a ripstik.

Feel free to use your imaginations.

This exercise really emphasized the importance of using the real world (as opposed to the Real World) in writing.  Once I got over my initial apprehension, I realized what a fabulous assignment this is.  I'm still nervous about the writing part—even though the instructor assured us that we in no way had to stay true to the original story—but it's taken me beyond my comfort zone and asked me to do more.  That I sincerely appreciate.


What leaps do you take for your writing?  Have you ever been nervous about taking extra steps to make your work more authentic?  How do you push yourself to include the real world (or the Real World if you love MTV)?

23 comments:

Summer Ross said...

Stepping outside comfort zones always helps with writing. I think the most recent outside of my CZ I have managed to get was doing blogfests, it may not seem like much- but I was terrified to them. :)

RosieC said...

Summer, no value judgments here. Doing blogfests can be scary because you're advertising your writing for hundreds of people you've never met. I think that's great :)

Rayna M. Iyer said...

Yes, those stretch situations really bring out the best in you, don't they?

Which reminds me- I have been in my comfort zone for too long.

RosieC said...

Rayna, it's so easy to get caught in your comfort zone. I hardly ever leave. The interview yesterday was really great to remind me to push myself out more :)

Michelle said...

I need a *keep out* sign for my forehead. So many times I have thought about something and then you blog about it. Creepy cool.

I am a locked in the room writer too, even if I'm outside, I shut everything out and write. My comfort zone is researching stuff on the internet. It's quick and easy and I have learn tons about a lot of really cool stuff. But, I have this second ms floating around in my head and the mc is a skateboarder. I have tons of boarding mags and there's tons of stuff on the net. But I was driving by a skate park yesterday and I wanted to get out and observe these guys and maybe even TALK to them. O.O I didn't, but I think I will. And then you posted this, so now I have to. :)

I'm with Summer... those blogfests are scary!

Hart Johnson said...

Rosie, I have a journalism degree, but I focused on media and advertising for EXACTLY that reason--it is TERRIFYING to talk to people you don't know! (also have trouble 'knowing what to ask'--I don't think on the spot that well). So congrats for getting over it and taking away something positive from the experience!

RosieC said...

Michelle, you should! It's terrifying, but I think you could learn so much from the experience. Good luck and let me know how it goes! (And I'll try getting out of your head, I promise! :)

Hart, thanks! I'm not great talking on the spot, either. I can't even imagine a journalism degree because at some point you would have to do the interview thing, wouldn't you? AcK!

Clarissa Draper said...

As part of research on one of my novels I had to ask real people their stories for the project. That was difficult because I'm like you - very private.

CD

DEZMOND said...

ah, don't you just hate when somebody takes you out of your comfort zone, but it is the only way to reach progress.

Claudia said...

Hi Rosie,
I think this is a geat exercise! I love your professor's idea. I guess I like it because I'm an extrovert. I bet you did a great job at fictionalizing the person you interviewed. ;)

Cold As Heaven said...

I'm not very fond of MTV. The only thing worth watching is Headbanger's Ball >:)

Cold As Heaven

Vatche said...

WHAT AN AWESOME ASSIGNMENT! I hope my writing class in UCI will be just as great!

As for taking my writing from the real world, I believe most of my characters are not fictional or a part of me, but part of the people I've met. My characters have the traits, mannerisms, etc. of my family, friends, enemies, and strangers, which is great because that makes them all the more real, all the more three-dimensional.

I really haven't stepped out of my writing comfort zone yet, but I'm opted to try. This was a really cool post and write on!

Jules said...

I feel I don't fit in here. Being a hillbilly means never meeting a strange and taking to everyone :D

I fear bugs though. :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

RosieC said...

Clarissa, it definitely wasn't easy, but I'm glad I did it. I hope you are, too.

Dez, I always hate it at the time, but afterward I'm usually happy... or at least I am this time.

Claudia, thanks for the vote of confidence on the fictionalization. I think, in terms of research, you're lucky your an extrovert. I can be when I try, but it's exhausting. I'm naturally introverted.

CaH, oh, man, I loath MTV. I haven't watched it since I was young enough to use my age as an excuse, and that was many, many years ago :) My Real World knowledge ends with Puck, and I think that was the first season.

Vatche, you should give it a try without the class. Glad you think it's a good idea. It took me a while to get on board :) I think we all bring so much of ourselves and the people around us to the table when we write. My characters, though, tend to be conglomerates rather than individuals from my life, so being a little truer might be hard for me. I have something up mu sleeve, though, that's a little truer to the real world. We'll see how it goes.

Jules, there's always someone or something new that you could find. I've lived my share of small-town life, trust me! At least your extroverted enough to be able to talk to everybody :)

Amanda Sablan said...

Wow, what an interesting assignment. Sounds like great practice for the writing part of a writing career and the communication part. ;]

I't impossible to create a compelling piece of fiction without the real world. Even with fantasy, one HAS to write in real emotions and human issues. Too often, though, people look to other people's issues instead of their own.

Lily of Darkness said...

Reading this made me want to go out and join a creative writing class. I loved to interview people in High School and loved writing short stories for the school paper under my pen name. As I came from a LARGE (my graduating class was over 1200) high school there was never any fear in getting a good story from someone I didn't know in the lobby, lunchroom or at the football games. *sigh* I could SO go for that kind of writing class.

Talli Roland said...

What a great assignment!

Reading aloud - especially my own stuff - always makes my palm sweat. I hate it. My voice gets all quavery... it's just not good. But I usually get some useful feedback from my writing group when I do it, so I force myself!

M.J. Nicholls said...

Great assignment. The temptation to invent would be too great for me though. Plus there are no interesting people in Edinburgh. Case closed.

Jules said...

Something for you on my blog. :D
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Medeia Sharif said...

Awesome assignment.

I prefer making things up, but I love random conversations with people. It stretches my imagination.

Lynda Young said...

Yeah...I'm a lock-me-up-and-hide type of writer as well. I need to push myself more.

Lyn

DLCurran said...

That interview sounds like a great exercise - freeing.

I must admit, I'm totally outside my comfort zone on most of my writing these days - my blog is new and I'm developing a non-fiction anthology. I always had big dreams, but the working for them is turning out to be a little scary! :)

And congrats on your 100, I mean 103 followers!

RosieC said...

Amanda, that's definitely true. The real world is vital to compelling fiction, especially genre fiction. I'll say, though, there's such a stigma on writing from your own life instead of from the wider world that maybe people don't want to touch their own emotions in their writing. Not sure. Sounds like a good blog post, though. :)

Lily, wow. 1200 people? My entire college wasn't even that big! LOL If you're that energetic about interviewing people, though, I don't know that you need the writing class :)

Talli, I can't bring myself to read my own work aloud. I hate the way it sounds in my own voice. I need to get past that since it's a requirement in this class, but we'll see how well that works!

MJ, the original story just had to be retold. The fiction didn't have to be true to the original, though, as long as it had some minor element. The fictionalization was supposed to be purely ours, so I think you'd be safe :)

Jules, thank you! It's super sweet, and I'll get it posted sometime this week.

Medeia, I usually just make things up, so this was a challenge in its own way, but it was a good exercise in pushing the limits.

Lynda, oh, how I love the safety of my own living room! I ran right back here to write it, that's for sure :)

DL, freeing--and terrifying :) It does sound like you're doing some interesting writing, even if it's beyond your comfort zone. Good luck! And thanks for coming to check out my blog! :)

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