I tell some students to dream big, write big, and if necessary, to tone it down later. I learned this from my days not writing plot at all.

The large or extreme gesture is always more visible and is a great way to learn to craft stories. And it may the right expression of your character’s story.

Samuel Beckett found crystal clear expressions for his ideas: a woman up to her head in dirt and detritus, not noticing her misery, a servant and master in a locked tower, neither character nor environment ever changing, two fools waiting for nothing. Was this exaggeration or clarity? Maybe they’re not that dissimilar.

EXERCISE - Exaggeration

Take the “distraction” from exercise 1 and turn it into a major calamity. “I need coffee” becomes an entire country or continent deprived of beans. “When does the new Spiderman movie come out?” Becomes “President Spider-man is locked in the Oval Office again and won’t come out.” Ridiculous yes, bigger than your original ideas, and maybe it will point you towards something toned down and perfect. Maybe you’ll find your story focusing on the Oval Office, the larger exaggerated idea falling away like scaffolding. Or maybe it’s perfect, giant-sized as it is.

ELBOW: From Writing Without Teachers
If a poem or story has no focus, try giving it an exaggerated one.


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