A Pretest for students beginning the Exploratory Writing Workshop.
This is a Pretest I'm administering to get a sense for the level of understanding you bring to the workshop. Anybody can read a good novel and enjoy it but an author has to be able to look deeper and understand why.
This vignette was used in developing the Workshop. It is actually a roll-up of the first three I wrote designed to show, Vignette 1, The Story World set in relative "placid waters." Vignette 2, Wants, Needs and Desires plus a transition into a "fast moving current." In Vignette 3, this current sweeps your Central Character (CC) over the "Waterfall" into a Life Changing Event (LCE).
As a student you will write these three vignettes separately in Lessons 2,3 and 4 and not all at once, as shown here. Still, I want you to study the three in concert to understand that they are not intended to stand alone but rather transition from one to the next as an integrated set.
The reason I'm providing this Example is to demonstrate a Character Driven story line. This is the model we use in the workshop. It is a Character Driven rather than a Plot Driven model. In studying the three together you'll not see much plot and that is exactly what the Workshop intends.
You'll not be expected to "Audition" your Central Character, as I've done here. Simply pick someone who intrigues you to be a likely candidate. I'll be talking more about "Enigmatic Characters" as the workshop progresses. Choosing such a character as opposed to a "Stereotypical Character" will pay big dividends.
Hint: Everybody is enigmatic to one extent or the other. It is a visible attribute that makes a character human... It might be physical or it might be a quirk in their character makeup. If you tug on that thread more weirdness will begin to emerge. Capitalize on this uniqueness, expand it and follow the vein deep into the psyche of your CC.
As you become more familiar with how to use a Three Set Model in developing principle characters you might want to be more ambitious. By this I mean try using them as an audition tool in future novels. For this workshop we'll be slowing down the pace.
This brings us to the Pretest. I need to know what you bring to the Workshop in terms of understanding as it pertains to writing a longer work. If I wait until you complete the first four lessons the class will be halfway over, hence I need to get a better sense for where you are in your professional development.
So please read the Vignette and answer the questions below. Post your completed test in the classroom forum with your name and Pretest. The vignette is broken down into numbered parts to aid in specifically referencing evidence of what the question is asking. State the number and quote enough of the text to show what you're referring to.
1. Who are the two principle characters being auditioned for CC?
2. Characterize them as either enigmatic or stereotypical.
3. Pick out which character you think will become the CC.
4. Where do you see them "paddling" around in the story world?
5. What is Volusia's Want Need and Desire?
6. What is Rindar's Want Need and Desire?
7. Where do you see the vignette transitioning from "placid waters" to a "fast moving current?"
8. Reference where do you see the Life Changing Event (LCE).
9. Reference an example of Backstory.
10. Reference an example of Character Development.
11. Reference an example of Scene Setting.
12. Reference an example of Exposition that moves the story.
13 Reference an example of Dialog that moves the story.
14. Reference an example of Interior Dialog?
15. Reference an example of Foreshadowing?
16. Reference an example of Symbolism?
17. Reference an example of Subtext?
18. Reference an example of "Head Hopping?"
19. Reference where the vignette might exceed the 13+classification.
20. Reference an example of unnecessary use of Labels.
21. Reference an example of Improper Grammar.
Shown below is the FACT used to insure the vignette had a good blend of writing components.
1. Backstory: 6%
2. Character Development: 12%
3. Scene Setting: 12%
4. Exposition that moves the story: 31%
5. Dialogue that moves the story: 35%
6. Foreshadowing: 2%
7. Symbolism: 2%
Enjoy the vignette and have fun picking it apart.
1. It was hot, very hot. It was the middle of the summer and Rindar sat beneath a rock overhang looking into the valley below. He was in his early twenties and kept his beard cropped although he often wondered why. For a year he'd lived the life of a hermit, an outcast from his people. The solitude had taken its toll and often he would creep to the edge of the tribal encampment and watch the activities and listen to the voices he so longed to see and hear. He missed the hunts, the comaradarie and the delightful nights in the arms of a young women. He cursed silently wishing for evening when the temperature would drop and he could venture out to hunt. So, he sat looking about, swishing away sand flies, and trying not to dwell on his miserable state of affairs.
2. He watched as a buzzard circled overhead. They were a constant reminder that death was but a careless footstep down the path. Ever since being exiled, the bird never seemed far off-- ever circling, riding the currents and biding their time. Waiting for me to die Rindar thought. Well, they'll just have to be patient.
3. He was jerked from his reveries by a sudden movement. A figure passed between the rocks followed by two shadows. They emerged from behind a bolder and came into clear view. He noted a woman and her cubs. Fool, he thought shaking his head. Has she no sense for the surroundings? Is she unaware of the dangers that abide this valley?
4. He sniffed and the far off scent of wolves wafted through his nostrils. His senses were keenly attuned to the surrounding environment that spread out into a panaorama of stark desolate beauty.. He towered at over six forearms and enjoyed the prime of his life. Rindar got to his feet and began to scramble down the loose shale. Descending, he wondered where the female came from. It was not common to see one so far from camp and with her litter no less. Upon reaching the game path his stride lengthened and he continued in haste down the slope.
5. “I’m hungry,” complained the boy as he walked behind holding his sister’s hand. She plodded along next to him, a vacant look in her eyes. Volusia, their mother, walked ahead, wondering how much longer they could keep it up. "Tough it out Moogy." She was in her early twenties, with striking blue eyes. Her complexion was pale, a Wardarian trait, a wiry girl but attractive, with a woman's curves.
6. Volusia was worried and fear gnawed at her stomach. They had eaten the last of the food two days earlier and only avoided thirst by guiding on the river. She despaired for her children and tried to keep up a pretense of confidence... It was a thin veneer that barely concealed her desperation. Where am I leading us? she wondered. By day they guided on the river, distancing themselves from the bank but at night dared to venture closer. As the sun set they hid along the rocky bank with their backs to the swift flowing waters. Several times, when confronted by the sounds of predators, they swam out into the flow and let it carry them along for a few minutes. She picked up her daughter and kissed her forehead. It was pasty and almost dry. The absence of sweat filled her heart with dread. She shielded her hand against her forehead, and looked around, eyes squinted. The circling vultures seemed to get lower every time she looked up.
7. “We must get to the river and cool her off--- Maybe catch a fish.” She told her son. He wasn't listening and instead his eyes were wide and fearful.
8. She spun about to see what held his attention. A man was running towards them. He was carrying a spear and stopped short, lowered it and uttered some unintelligible words. As they stood motionless, he began gesturing excitedly. Volusia looked in the direction he pointed and saw nothing unusual. The encounter was unnerving and she wondered if the stranger meant them harm. His sudden appearance was both disconserting and welcome. Then she heard the barking and the issue became crystal clear.
9. “Urwa, Urwa,” he urged pointing out into the swift flowing current. She needed no encouragement and stepped into the waist deep waters. The stranger shoved Moogy behind. Then he took a defensive stance, holding his spear at the ready.
10. The first of the pack to arrive was a young wolf and walked to the edge snapping and snarling. Soon others followed at his heels, yipping and barking excitedly. From behind came the pack male and his bitch. Several ventured out and began swimming about. Rindar nudged them with the tip of his spear and they whelped in pain hastening to find footing and scramble up onto the bank. The pack leader barked a command and began to lope off to the North. The others snapped, snarled and nipped at one another as they followed his lead.
11. The woman and her whelps are in a bad way thought Rindar. He walked up out of the water and took a knee in the sands giving thanks. She watched the ritual, quietly understanding it’s meaning, if not the words themselves. They sounded vaguely like a dialect of Kupinchin and some of the words like Urwa (water) she had heard before. She listened closely and if she didn’t understand everything she knew what a prayer was. At length he stood and spoke to Moogy.
12 “Urflow hagga an tu purpo.” Moogy's blank look showed a complete lack of understanding. The man then launched into "Sign language.” His hands and gestures were rapid and conveyed a message to follow. Moogy gave the Wardarian sign for “Yes”. The big man started and stepped back with a look of dismay. The protocol in signing is to first give a tribe signet and then the message. The stranger seemed unnerved by the tribal designation and visibly perplexed. Still he motioning for them to come and they set off up the slope.
13. From behind, in a low voice, Volusia cautioned her son. “Don’t sign him again in Wardarian.”
14. Rindar began the slow assent up from the valley floor. The woman and the small girl were practically spent and he chose the path carefully until they reached the trail. Wardarian, he reflected, Not good, not good at all… Who is this woman and why do they venture so far from home.? The trail became steeper and he looked back seeing them lagging behind. He paused reflecting further… Runaways, that’s what they are, Runaways and there’s going to be hell to pay when her people come looking. Perhaps they’ll accuse me of “Snatching.“ Not good, not good at all.
15. The boy she called "Moogy" looked to be of about ten seasons but big for his age. His mother, beneath the smudges and dirt could not hide her attractiveness. She had a visage that was compelling and curves that brought to mind the urgency of his need. She had that pale Wardarian complexion and piercing blue eyes.
16. The camp, where he served penance, was a lonely place, stuck out in the wilderness. He had at least another year of exile and hated to think that he was jeopardizing his hopes of ever being accepted back. A Wardarian woman and two children could only spell trouble. Then again there was no assurance of his pardon and if that was true, perhaps this was an alternative worth exploring. The woman was young and carried herself with a dignity uncommon to his experience. She had a power and influence exercised over the boy and he saw the lad continuously deferring to her. Can you imagine giving deference to a woman? Was that unmanly or what?
17. At the first plateau, still a mile below the rim, they jumped a rabbit. Rindar usually snared the creatures and if in dire straights, ran them down. He paused, not intending to give chase and heard the whirr of a sling. Ducking his head, reflexively, he saw the boy cast a stone and heard the “plunk” as it found its mark. The rabbit lurched, fell on its side and began to jerk spasmodically. The boy ran forward to retrieve it and his mother clapped in delight. “Urgowambi.” she cried out.
18. Gathering some dried sticks she reached into a pouch and laid out her fire-starting paraphernalia. There was tinder and flints and she shielded with her body showing the mark of experience. With a long practiced motion sparks began to fly and smoke was soon rising as she blew on the tinder. Concurrently Moogy skinned the carcass and in short order it was spitted over the rising flames.
19. Rindar shook his head in disbelief. Eating a prey on the spot, over a fire no less--- in the middle of nowhere was not part of any protocol he was aware of. A prey was killed, taken to the camp, cooked and distributed in accordance with time honored traditions. Never was it eaten on the spot.
20. "Magua, suree, tu'wally," he said, in a disgusted tone. They ignored him as Moogy scurried about for more sticks for the fire. The big man arose and walked towards them intending to scatter the embers only to be stopped short. The woman curled her lip and snarled. A blade glinted in her hand. Confronted by her menacing stare, he paused. In the presence of his people he would have acted forcefully, putting an end to such inappropriate behavior. Still, he hesitated. In the months of solitude he had learned to curb his impulsiveness and give thought to his actions. They glared at one another as Mookey quietly fed a rock into his sling. The motion wasn’t lost on Rindar and he shook his fist with one hand and shielded his face with the other. Then he pointed to Volusia and said, “Urbawamby Taskatooma.” and walked a safe distance up the trail. At about a hundred paces he stopped and settled on his haunches looking in the other direction.
21. "What did he mean?" asked Moogy,
22. "He warned you not to shoot him with the sling."
23. "I got that part."
24. "Then he called me a dumb female swearword."
25. Flesh began to sizzle and popped on the spit. Volusia cut off a leg and bit into it. She chewed it until the stringy consistency softened and pushed the wad into Tupa’s mouth. The young girl's eyes opened and she began to chew. Moogy cut off the upper portion and began to gnaw ravenously. Volusia began cutting at the carcass and eating some of the less delectable parts. At length, she took the other hip quarter and walked towards Rindar. She handed him the man's piece and went back to gather her belongings.
26. "Is he mad at us?" asked Moogy.
27. "Confused is a better term."
28. "What do we do?"
29. "Try and get him more socialized." The real meaning of her words were lost on the young boy. She wondered how to reconcile her son's innocence with the demands the stranger was sure to make. We owe him Volusia thought with resignation, and that part, a woman is expected to pay.
30. "How do we go about doing that?" Moogy asked. He was tall yet his slender frame held the promise of a father's size and strength.
31. "You'll see..."
32. Rindar finished the hindquarter and was crunching the bones.
33. "He's motioning for us to follow..."
34. Volusia set Tupa on her hip and slung her knapsack.
35. "I don't like that look," said Moogy. "Does he intend to kill us?"
36. "I think not. He's sulking but means no harm."
37. Rindar set off up the trail. Minutes later they reached his digs.
38. The camp was a cave beneath an outcropping of rocks. In front was a hide-covered structure with a hole in the top. Inside were stones and more hides. Behind was a cave entrance. It was cool as she entered the fizzure in the rock. Hanging from a rack inside was a deer carcass. A stream flowed nearby. He opened the flap and motioned them inside the enclosure. He smiled with a clear sense of pride in the dwelling he had crafted. Then Rindar set about gathering wood. Volusia had the fire going when he returned with another armful of seasoned branches. He pointed to the hanging deer with satisfaction. She walked into the cave and carved off a section for the night’s meal. In addition to the carcass there were numerous potted containers. He pointed and said "Abuloga Feneister" inviting her to explore the lauder. The earthen jars were full of herbs, mushrooms and dried fruit. He picked up one, half full of water and gestured towards the stream nodding his head.
39. "Do I look stupid?" she muttered, shaking her head.
40. In short order Volusia had a meal prepared using some of the spices from her stash. It was a feast by the standards of the past week and everyone fell to eating.
41. Rindar could not believe his good fortune. "Erco Malacouie!" he said when he finished, rubbing his stomach in satisfaction. "Erco Ventracouie.," she answered, hoping he understood the response. He stood exercising his arms and looked sideways at Mooky and then back at Volusia. Then, made the sign...
42. Her heart jumped and Mookie stared in dismay...
43. "Did he just do what I think he did?"
44. "Take a walk Moogy..."
45. "Are you sure?" he asked pleadingly.
46. "See if you can't stone us another rabbit....NOW!"
47. Rindar stepped back surprised by the unexpected tone.
48. What is going on with all this? he wondered, All I did was give her the sign.
49. Moogy stood blushing, brushed aside the flap and went outside.
50. Rindar made the sign again, this time more emphatically. Surely this woman knows what the sign means?
51. Volusia gave him a dirty look, and went over to where Tupa was sleeping. She covered her daughter with a hide blanket and unrolled her own leather pad. Kneeling, she laid down and positioned herself. Rindar walked over and knelt along side. With unflinching eye contact, Volusia signed she was ready.