A Writing Exercise Stolen from Dorothy Allison

Here is a very simple writing exercise that I got from Dorothy Allison last summer when I was in a weeklong workshop with Dorothy Allison.  One of the things I loved about taking a class with Dorothy was that she taught the course based on what she saw in our writing.  For our class, she focused a lot on structure and, what she noticed as the week progressed was that a lot of us were avoiding specific action. One day, before we began our workshop, she gave us (more or less) the following line:

The sound of the glass breaking was the sound of the end of the world.

I don’t think I have the sentence exactly right, but that doesn’t matter.  It isn’t supposed to be a great sentence; it is designed purely to spark action.  (You can always delete the sentence later).

Additionally, take a scene where you know that something is supposed to happen, but aren’t sure of what.  Or, take a scene where you NEED something to happen because it is stagnant.  Write this sentence, and then keep going.  While you’re at it, try setting a timer for 30 minutes and don’t stop until the timer tells you to.

And just for fun, here is a lot of breaking glass.  Just in case you forget what it sounds like…

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