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Exercise Ten: Home Life

The Art of Writing Fiction Michael Wheatley

‘For the next few minutes you should close your eyes and think of those people to whom you are closest and whom you see most frequently: parents, partner, siblings, children, etc. Some very recent event of exchange should come to you, happy or sad, humdrum or unusual. Set this down, being as detached as possible. Observe yourself as objectively as you view the other person’.

With Exercise Ten of Andrew Cowan’s ‘The Art of Writing Fiction’, the observational exercises come to a close. Having starting gaining material through general observations, scrapbooking (we know how well that went), weather reports, street observing, and work, the last of Cowan’s suggestions is to observe home.

In terms of those people whom I am closest and whom I see most frequently, it would have to be my parents. My brother has since moved out for work, leaving my mother and dad to be observed.

Unfortunately, this exercise came during an uncomfortable time for us all: a time of bereavement. I have eschewed these observations for now as being too personal. The following few entries are what remained from my observations.


Exercise Nine: Home Life

Tuesday, 19th June 2018

‘Holly’s been’, I called to my mother.
‘Holly’s dead’, she called back. ‘No, that can’t be right’.

Saturday, 23rd June 2018

I have spilled milk upon this notebook and it is now permanently stained. I went to the kitchen and gathered cloth. ‘A bit of a struggle, is it?’ my mother asked. I returned to my ghost story.

Tuesday, 26th June 2018

I scream upon discovery of a spider on my window.
‘What?’, my mother asks. ‘It’s outside, I think it’s outside’.
‘Judging from the angle of its legs-‘, I start.
‘I need a broom. I’m going to get a broom’.



Though it fell at an uncomfortable time, the value of this exercise is still clear. My mother and father are so well known to me that so too are their quirks – my mother’s sarcasm, for instance, which has long been passed down to me.

As such, in observing them I have a clear sense of their characters. The omitted entries in the observational journal go even further in conveying this. I’m not sure where this material will all apply in the long run, but even as a diary of this time it’s valuable.


Next: First Thoughts

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