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  1. Editors
  2. Sherlock Holmes Sherlock Holmes
  3. Prompts
  4. Wednesday, March 14, 2018
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Plot every action in an existing work (yours)

—for three to ten pages. Choose a selection that has sufficient action (which includes everything from she “fired the bazooka” to he “looked up.” Turn it into a list of actions, highly clarified. Provide interim or explanatory actions as needed (whatever is missing or explains it better), and change the order or add new actions as needed. Use brief, clarified prose, as if it were stage directions of the most technical kind. Be explicit and overly obvious. And thoughts, feelings, and sensing (seeing, hearing, tasting) are actions/events, as they occur at given moments.

Notes & Hints:

Do not make this a list version of your usual writing style. Avoid adding more (and obscuring) details just to make it “good writing.”
Most of miss physical oddities in our work sometimes. We imagined it, set it in motion, so we “see” it accurately—but the reader gets lost sometimes. So the first thing this exercise can do is reveal unclear or even physically impossible things. In this regard is is similar to blocking a scene in the theatre (how can she pick up the spoon when she is facing the wall? what happened to his shoes? etc etc).
But if you do this for everything, all activities large and small, it will accomplish two other things. First, it reveals how physical sequence accuracy is not enough; you must have psychological or organic accuracy as well. Sometimes what one sees or does (or thinks) can be said to happen just before or after a physical action or event, but almost always one is more “true.” Or there is a subtle but significant difference between them.

Example: “She stood—spilling her papers—and leaned over to brush away the tear that waited on his cheek. He did not flinch, but when she tried to cup his cheek, he turned away. He noticed her blush, and raised his hand to take hers, but she withdrew, and abruptly started packing up her books and belongings.”
(Changing the last sentence to “She blushed. He noticed, and raised his hand...” is vivid, more accurate, and satisfies the instruction to plot all action.)
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