Writing “Brush Strokes”

Writing fiction is a stretch for me.  I have experience with technical and instructional writing, poetry, and memoir, but seldom do I venture into the realm of fiction. So, when I signed up for an online writing class, I decided this would be my opportunity to take a risk. (The story referenced here was yesterday’s post:  “Brush Strokes”.)

The prompt for this assignment was to write a story, poem, or essay relating to that which is dormant, such as a plant buried beneath the snow, waiting for the return of spring.  I immediately thought of all the years I didn’t paint, thinking that art and creativity were not my strong suit, and so came up with the character of Kate:  focused on family and career, with little time for self.

The watercolour class is modelled after one I did participate in many years ago (and greatly enjoyed).  I tried to put myself in Kate’s shoes, knowing that she is more practical minded and less inclined to the mystical view of life.  In order to capture her response, I did the actual painting exercise myself, as Kate, and jotted down her response to each stage.

In the first version of the story, I squared off Kate and the teacher, creating a tension between the two characters and representing the teacher as someone Kate could not relate to.  In review of the piece, I felt that the emphasis was on the wrong elements of the story.   Something was missing.

In the next version, I decided to develop Laurel’s role. Laurel, being a close friend, served the purpose of helping to establish Kate’s character.  She also allowed for the possibility of Kate’s emergence by the very fact that her perspective is different and respectful of Kate’s.  As a mediator between Kate and the teacher, Laurel’s character helped tone down the tension, but the piece still seemed wrong somehow.

So, for the final writing, I cut back the role of the teacher, eliminated her description and name, and gave her a more functional part in the piece.  With Laurel as a supporting character, Kate’s transformation took hold within the allotted two-page maximum.

Writing “Brush Strokes” felt like awakening something dormant in myself.  Taking the risk to write outside my comfort zone was freeing.  I discovered that borrowing from truth to create fiction is a valid form of creativity.   Rewriting the piece by changing up the supporting characters also helped me understand the dynamics that people play in a story.

So, I challenge you, if you’ve made it this far, to write a story about something that lies dormant.  Write it once, change up the characters and try it again, until you’ve developed a product that you’re satisfied with.  Drop me a link here; I’d love to read your work.  I’d also love to hear about your process.

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