For those of you who are new, welcome! If you’ve been with me a while, you know that I have health problems. Wow, did they tank my ability to keep up this blog since late fall. But I’m back, thanks to physical therapy. Join me in a writing assignment for this week. Let’s see if I can make a few connections that might help you as they have me.
Sandwiches. Today I’ve been thinking about sandwiches and that always leads me to think about my dad, who worked as loom fixer in a textile mill. Dad always wanted sandwiches for his lunch, and I often made them for him. All of us kids knew we were not allowed to touch certain items that were reserved for Dad’s lunch: we were not to take the last four slices of bread, ever, or his jar of dried beef, or the lunch meat—usually baloney or olive loaf—that Mom bought for him. If we had recently cooked a ham, for Easter, maybe, then a certain portion of the ham was set aside for him. Untouchable, all of it.
This has me thinking of the items or actions that we reserve in fiction for certain characters, and also of the “ecology” of our stories that revolve around those actions or items. For video game players, this might be a bit like available tools in a game. For fantasy writers, action might revolve around a sacred or desired item, whether a magic cup or a throne. For crime or mystery, many scenes revolved around a dead body or a place of last sightings. Do you see where I’m going?
What if we tried to write a story around, for example, a sandwich. The story’s ecology, depending on the end goal in sight, might revolve around a family making lunches as they get ready and discuss their day’s problems or events. Or it might revolve around the lonely lunch room in a hospital where a nurse munches and considers her patients’ needs.
The object works a bit like a talisman around which we cast spells.
Pick an object that speaks somehow to one or more of your characters, maybe one that will display your character’s longing or desire. Write a scene around that object without making IT the point. What is your story’s ecology in reference to that object? As always, think setting, character, and begin at a point of action.
Feel free to post a snippet of your work below, or just describe how this exercise worked for you.