Category Archives: Writing Workshop

Writers Studio – Revision 2 – Extraterrestrial

Revision of the exercise based on Country Husband by John Cheever

This one is a bit overdue, as I’ve already written this weeks ago for the last Writers Studio class back in May. Like the revision of the “Chicken Rice” piece, this is a piece I would like to work out into a longer story. I know in broad lines already what the story will be about. However, I am still jumping back and forth about who the main character will be in terms of personality and background. Anyway, I hope you’ll enjoy it!

Frank never believed in extra-terrestrial life, but there it was during that chilly late October night as he was taking his dog Spotty for his nightly walk along that dark forest path, when he suddenly found himself enveloped in bright white light. It only lasted for a few seconds before the world went dark. When the lights came back on again a few minutes later, he found himself staring straight into a pair of huge eyes, which reminded him very much of a creepy bug. The alien – or at least Frank assumed that’s what he, she or it was – nodded approvingly before walking away from him, leaving the room through a sliding door, which emitted a pleasant humming sound as it slid open and shut.

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Writers Studio – Revision

Revision of the exercise based on John Jin by Rose Tremain

Even though I missed two previous sessions, I decided to do a revision of the Tremaine piece instead of bringing one of the exercises I skipped, because it is definitely a piece I want to develop into a real short story.  I’m not too unhappy with how the piece is developing; I think this version is already stronger than the previous one, and I’m starting to get a real sense of direction on where I am heading with the story. I do believe the final draft will deviate from the original exercise, but that’s ok. The exercise has given me the structure to develop the initial ideas, but now I just have to work out the story according to my own vision.

Although there are some autobiographical elements in the story (as people close to me will undoubtedly notice), I would like to emphasize that more than 95% of the story is fiction, and thus have little bearing with the situations and characters in real life!


I often held my auntie’s hand whenever we walked together to the hawker center, a few blocks away from where we lived in Singapore. Once we arrived however, I would always yank my hand free and run off. My auntie always struggled to keep up, shouting at me not to run, while I was zigzagging between the many tables and stools and evading the hordes of hungry people, while I explored the stalls that went round and round the entire hawker center. There were hundreds of them, thousands, millions, as far as the eye could see, and every single one of them held the delightful promise of a delicious treat. I want the Mee Goreng! Or maybe the Hokkien Mee? Or do I want Otah? No, no, wait! I see Roti Paratha! I want Roti Paratha!

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Writers Studio – Week 3 Exercise

Exercise based on Deuce:12:23am by Barbara Anderson

Create a narrator who is completely different from myself and who is giving a monologue, and just let him talk on and on and on in an exaggerated way. Underlying the monologue there is a core issue, but touch only lightly during the story.

HELLOOOOO WORLD!!!

Welcome to Sunnydale high school on this beautiful day! The sun is shining brightly outside, the birds are chirping merrily and life is good, so good in fact that I want to share it with you, dear audience. That’s why we’re here today, that’s why I’ve brought my video camera, because I want to show you my wonderful school and all the wonderful people who are in this beautiful place.

Let me introduce you all to my pal Brian first. Brian is such a nice guy, always offering to meet up with me after school to teach me some lessons. I learned sooo much from Brian during these after school sessions, about how the real world works, about how being weak is considered a sin and about how being strong means you can do whatever the hell you want. Hey Brian! Look here! Wave at the camera Brian! The audience just loves it when we interact with them, don’t you know that? But… why are you shaking, Brian? Don’t tell me you’re afraid of the camera, surely not you, not a big tough guy like you, who is so strong and so full of self-confidence. Yeah, you’re a tough guy all right, so why are you shaking? Wait a minute! Stupid me! Of course you’re not afraid of the camera. Continue reading

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Writers Studio – Week 2 Recap

Exercise based on John Jin by Rose Tremain

Have an older narrator look back to a special place in his childhood. Have something happen to that place as a foreboding for the real story. Though the real story is not revealed yet, there should be hints of it throughout the story.

Click here to read the exercise

Well, I’m back at the Writers Studio classes again, and I have to admit I’m feeling new inspiration to write now I’m back. It seems that no matter how stressed I am at work, the stress I feel when writing always manages to push that to the background. Which incidentally reminds me of this great strip of Calvin and Hobbes:

Last minute panic. Yup, that’s certainly what I feel whenever Monday is approaching fast, and last Monday was no exception. There is a significant difference to the previous exercises however, which is that this time I already knew right from the start what I wanted to write about. But at a certain point I just got completely stuck trying to bring my story forward, and I was just struggling just to come up with a coherent piece. Thanks to the helpful comments by the others during the class however I now have a better idea how to proceed. Some of it seems so obvious in retrospect that I feel like slapping my head. I’m almost certain this is the piece I will choose to revisit during the revision session.

On to the exercise itself: after I printed out my piece I had the feeling that the real story I was trying to tell is hidden too much, a suspicion which is confirmed by the others. I think I did that semi-consciously because the real story is so blindingly obvious to me, but I need to remind myself that the reader does not possess the same information and background story I have in my head. So for the revision I need to find a way to sprinkle in some elements which would give the reader some clues without immediately giving the entire story away. Other than that the piece seems to be quite ok, even though I was so sure it was a horrible piece. Goes to show I really need to trust myself a little bit more and to stop listening to that voice within me…

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Writers Studio – Week 2 Exercise

Exercise based on John Jin by Rose Tremain

Have an older narrator look back to a special place in his childhood. Have something happen to that place as a foreboding for the real story. Though the real story is not revealed yet, there should be hints of it throughout the story.

I often held my auntie’s hand whenever we walked to the hawker center, a few blocks from where we used to live in Singapore. Once we arrived however, I would yank my hand free and run off while my auntie would struggle to keep up, zigzagging between the countless tables and stools and evading the hordes of hungry people, while I explored the little stalls that went around the entire hawker center. There were hundreds of them, thousands or maybe even millions, with every single one of them holding the delightful promise of a delicious treat. Shall I go for the Mee Goreng today? Or maybe the Hokkien Mee? Or do I want Otah? No, no, wait! I see Roti Paratha! I want Roti Paratha!

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Writing Workshop – Week 8

Exercise – Richard Bausch – Aren’t You Happy for Me?

Daniel Teo

Write a scene of a telephone call between two people who are each going through their own drama. The narrator is slightly closer to the character with the ‘real’ drama. The other person also has something dramatic, but it is told in a funnier, more exaggerated way. The narrator is keeping things moving, keeping things light-hearted.

Click here to read the story

This exercise focuses on an area which we haven’t touched upon a lot yet: dialogue! In a way, dialogue is both easier and harder to write than for example description or action. It’s easier it keeps the scene moving along at a brisker pace without ‘telling’ too much. But I’ve noticed that it’s very easy sometimes to get caught up in the dialogue, precisely because it moves at such a brisk pace, while losing focus on the main story. This exercise is particularly useful, because the narrator has to step out of the dialogue to reflect and show a little bit of what is going on, which adds to the story.

Now on to the critique of the story. Continue reading

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Writing Workshop – Week 8 Exercise

This week’s exercise based on Aren’t You Happy for Me? by Richard Bausch

Write a scene of a telephone call between two people who are each going through their own drama. The narrator is slightly closer to the character with the ‘real’ drama. The other person also has something dramatic, but it is told in a funnier, more exaggerated way. The narrator is keeping things moving, keeping things light-hearted.

“You have to roll it on your tongue properly, dear.” Helen told her daughter over the phone. “It’s not Wicado, it’s RRRicarrrdo!  Now you try it.”

“Forget it mom,” Eva said in an exasperated tone. “I don’t care. Now, are you going to tell me why you called me up in the first place, and what this Ricardo has to do with it?”

“I thought it was obvious. Ricardo is my new lover.”

“Your what?” Eva blurted out, before her mind could wrap around this foreign concept.

“My new lover.”

“Yes, I heard you. I understood you perfectly the first time.”

“Then why did you say what?”

“I – well, never mind about that. So…who is this Ricardo?”

“My new lover.”

“Yes… yes, I got that. I – I mean who is he? Where did you meet this guy?”

“Oh, he’s my salsa teacher. I started taking lessons two weeks ago.”

Eva was stunned for a moment. “You’re in love with your salsa teacher?” she finally said.  She sounded calmer than she thought she would. Continue reading

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