Sources of Fiction: Exercise 1: Write a scene of a story from your own glimpse of a group of people.

I decided to go to istockphoto and find a photograph of a group of people to complete this exercise – if you’d like to view the image, you can find it here:


Pulling her pink wrap tighter with her good hand, Effie grimaced.  The still very tender scar tissue covering her neck and chin – nearly matching the shade of the pashmina – felt raw as the scarf slide across the skin.  Despite the oppressive heat, Effie, like all of her female companions, was covered in long sleeves and a full length skirt, neck to foot.  But only Effie looked boney and gaunt through her thick wool sweater and skirt.

The fire had ravaged her body and mind.  While her body was slowly healing, her mind seemed only to grow darker and deeper in fear.  Her demeanor grew more fearsome and dismal with each passing night, as she relived the accident in her dreams.  Worse, each night her dreams grew more complicated and intense; keeping her prisoner in the burning building longer each time.  In the real fire, she’d managed, after a short time that felt unending, to remove enough rubble to pass out of the building through a shattered window.  In her dreams the pile of rubble grew, the window shrank, and some nights, it was not broken or not there at all.  Most nights, her only escape from the fire was by waking, breathless and soaked in her own sweat, stifling a scream into her pillow.

Effie was growing anxious as they walked slowly down the road.  Being with the family made her less conspicuous, but she kept her head down and silently prayed that no one would stop them nonetheless.  As some point as they had walked, the oldest boy, Amjad, had found a scuffed, ratty looking soccer ball and dribbled it as they went along.  While he was pretty skilled at handling the ball, it was a bit misshapen, so it got away from him occasionally and he’d chase after it, slowing their progress.  Effie dared not reprimand him in front of his mother, instead looking to Aviza with pleading stares – the only times she would look up from her feet.

“Effie.  We’ll be there soon.  Stop worrying.  I know Amjad is bothering you, but I must let him play.  He has so few years before he will have to be man.”  Aviza said slowly for Effie’s benefit, smiling wistfully as they watched Amjad again chase the disfigured ball across the dirt road, his red striped linen shirt flapping as he ran.  A construction worker stopped it and gave it a good boot back towards him.  Amjad caught it on his instep, popped it up to his left knee, then his right, before dropping back down to the dirt and dribbling back to the family.  The construction worker gave a whistle before turning back to his machine.

“I look like that ball.  People are going to notice me.  We must get there soon.  Being out in day light is too risky.”  Effie replied in a halting mix of Iranian and her own tongue.  “I need –” Effie was cut-off by a white man approaching the group with a camera.  He spoke to Aviza, quietly with a European accent that Effie couldn’t place, gesturing to his camera.  Aviza glanced at Effie only briefly, but long enough for Effie to register the look of concern and uncertainty on Aviza’s face.  Looking back at the man, Aviza nodded slightly, adjusted her blue head scarf and called to her children to gather near.

Aviza’s daughter, Tahereh, held the baby, posing and smiling politely for the photographer, while Aviza stopped the boys from their impromptu game of chase around the group.  Effie was too timid to protest, fearing that she would draw further unwanted attention.  At the last moment she pretended to hear a noise behind them and turned before the photographer could snap a picture of her.  The last thing she needed was for her image to be printed in a newspaper or magazines.  Not only was she embarrassed of her newly disfigured appearance, but she was deathly afraid of being recognized.

She couldn’t fully understand his poor attempt at Iranian, since she spoke so little herself, but she gather that the photographer was a journalist of some sort.  Definitely not someone she wanted to be around for too long.  She heard him grumble when he realized the boys had begun chasing each other again and that she’d turned around before he got his shot off, but fortunately the baby began to protest and squirm, so the family politely demurred from any further photographs and continued on their way.




Developing the habit

Today the post man delivered my “like new” copy of Josip Novakovich’s Fiction Writer’s Workshop (2nd Ed. © 2008) from  It’s basically an instructive text with guided exercises for fiction writing, much like that which might be discussed and assigned in a writing class or workshop, with suggestions to self-critique the results (since I will be without peers, classmates  or an instructor to help with that aspect).

I realize that I need to do two things as I chase down (at this point, it’s probably more like I am still just sniffing out) my dream to write and publish a novel: 1) practice, practice, practice, and 2) develop a habit of writing regularly.  So, I plan to make a concerted effort to sit down a couple of nights a week for at least 30 minutes at a time, and tackle the exercises, posting the results here.

Gentle, constructive criticism is welcomed, albeit a bit hesitantly.  Be kind, cruel world – I’m tentatively foraying into the world of fiction writing and haven’t built up a thick skin yet with respect to my writing.  (I still don’t even let my husband read my writing!)  Encouragement is, of course, always appreciated – supportive words regarding my effort to discipline myself to stick with the plan are particularly valued!

If this works as I hope, then this just might be the best $2.50 (plus shipping) I have ever invested!