Even when I was a young struggling actress, I managed to acquire a lot of “stuff” – stuff that seemed to take forever to pack and unpack whenever I moved to a new address.
It’s a process that should have come easily to me considering how many times my family moved when I was growing up, and yet dispatching symbols of old memories in order to make room for new ones was always easier said than done. Likewise, the exercise of going through boxes with the intention of throwing out their long-forgotten contents more often than not resulted in my suspicion that these would somehow be exactly the same things I’d need in the near future. The writing exercises this time around are all about moving forward, moving back and moving along.
These discussion questions provide a good foundation prior to choosing which exercises to try first.
Sometimes in the haste to get everything packed for moving day, something accidentally gets left behind. Or was the omission on purpose?
Your assignment: Your pair of sibling protagonists go exploring in their new home and discover a staircase that leads to the attic. The former residents have left something unusual behind which will change your young characters’ lives forever. In a three-page scene, reveal what the discovery is and what they respectively think should be done with it. Note: The scene can be in any genre but all of the action and dialogue must take place in the attic.
After years of saving their salaries from mining, three of the Seven Dwarves decide to get their own place and hire a real estate agent to show them some available properties. On the surface this all seems like a good idea, save for the fact that each of these guys has distinct ideas about color schemes, amenities, lifestyle and, of course, price.
Your assignment: Choose any three dwarves – Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Happy, Doc, Bashful, Dopey – and write a four-page scene in which they make their preferences known to a realtor with a short attention span.
On one of the longer moves my family made when I was in first grade, the men who loaded the van at our departure address were not the same team who unloaded it at our destination. My favorite possession at the time was my life-sized doll, Kathryn, who was about the height of a three-year old child with dark, curly hair. I remember watching as one of the movers gently lowered her feet-first into a vertical packing box, then taped off the top. I wasn’t there, however, to witness the horrified expression of the different man who untaped it a few days later, reached in and nearly had a heart attack from the belief that it was a real toddler inside.
Your assignment: Write a two-page mime scene in which a new mover takes the lid off a box and reacts in disbelief to what’s inside. Do not reveal to the audience until the very end what the surprise actually is.
NO STONE UNTURNED
When a wealthy industrialist inherits his great grandfather’s castle in Ireland, he decides that it would be a novelty to have it moved, stone-by-stone, across the Atlantic and reassembled on his property in the Virginia countryside. Although the servants have been promised that they can keep their jobs if they go to the U.S. or be provided with excellent references if they want to stay behind, the only disgruntled occupants who haven’t been consulted are a trio of ghosts.
Your assignment: Write a three-page scene in which the ghosts have just heard the news that the castle will be relocated and express their opinions about the limited options available to them.
In a perfect world, the weather would be cooperative on moving day, everything would get delivered to the right address – and on time! – and there’d be at least one friendly face in what will be the new neighborhood. Rarely, though, does everything go smoothly when one is not only relocating cross-country but also feeling alone on Christmas Day.
Your assignment: Your protagonist isn’t just exhausted from trying to find out what happened to the lost movers but s/he is also hungry and discovers that the only place open for a meal is a weird little diner that’s straight out of an earlier decade. Write a 10-minute scene of any genre which brings four additional characters into the diner along with the owner/cook that works there.
As part of my ongoing commitment to supply great lesson plans for today’s classrooms, I always enjoy getting feedback on how the material is used and what kind of new content you’d like to see in future columns. I’m also happy to answer any questions related to specific problems your students may be struggling with. Just drop me a note at or through my website at http://www.authorhamlett.com.
Former actress/director Christina Hamlett is an award winning author, professional script consultant, and ghostwriter. Her credits to date include 30 books, 154 plays for young actors, and 5 optioned feature films.