Writing Exercises – Imperative

The second of the writing exercises I’m working on today is “Imperative.’ The goal is to write a story fragment that is 500 words long, but that only uses imperative commands. I though this exercise to be an act of punishment by some far off person who claims that this will bring me some kind of unexpected result.

It kinda did.

The exercise forces me into a particular structure of narrative. It forces things to move along, sentence by sentence, which as the author of the book I’m using notes all writing should do – one sentence takes you to the next in a progression that’s always moving forward.

It belabors the point a bit, but I can see what he’s getting at.

So here’s the snippet I wrote. It’s a part of some of my upcoming surprises.


Please step forward. Please remain still while our diagnostics take count of your various biometric data. Please inhale deeply, then exhale. Now, provide one sample for each of the labeled samples in the seven containers in front of you. Take as much time as needed to complete this task.

Please remain seated for the next several minutes and confirm all information on the touch screen in front of you. Be sure to sign off on all documentation with your approved fingerprint as use of any non authorized fingerprints could result in the activation of the countermeasures agreed upon in your employment contract.

Stand and go to the decontamination shower unit adjacent to the intake center area. Wash everywhere thoroughly, rinse, then repeat on more time. Do not wash and rinse a third time as this may scrub off trace elements that we will need to continue monitoring your wellbeing within the facility.

Please walk through the exit and into the dressing room area. Change into your approved clothing as seen in the bin at your feet. Be sure that all sleeves and pants tuck neatly into your gloves and boots. Fasten your headset firmly to your crown, placing the earpiece in your right ear. Adjust the microphone to a space approximately two inches from your mouth. Test the microphone by saying: Hello, my name is ___________ my employee ID is _________. Do not take this instruction too literally. Say your full name in the first blank and your ID number in full in the second, as leaving the blanks empty may also activate the countermeasures outlined in your employee contract.

When you hear the beep in your left ear as a low noise, raise your right hand. When the noise becomes unbearable, put it down. Repeat this again upon waking if you have gone unconscious as a result of high sonic resonance Lower your right hand before it reaches the previous threshold if unconsciousness has occured in prior hearing calibrations.

Remove your headset now, and do not wear it anywhere else but in the listening facility at the end of the hall. Proceed to your Medical Overseer. Provide him or her with any information he or she may request.

Please provide one secret to your Medical Overseer that no one else knows. Write this down in your provided spiral notebook with your approved number two pencil. Do not include the names of family pets, spouses, prior addresses, or the name of your god unless they are one hundred percent uncompromised and secret. Once your secret has been extracted, proceed to your Floor Manager.

Please read today’s instructions extremely carefully. Do not skip any text, no matter how boring it looks. Especially be sure to review the countermeasures of your contract as they may be deployed at any time for failure to comply with facility bylaws and regulations.

Proceed to your listening station. Make sure that it is kept orderly and tidy. Please place your listening gear back onto your head, plugging the jack into the port provided on your desk. Ensure that your spiral bound notebook contains no traces of your secret. Rub your number two lead pencil over the top page until you are sure there are no secret traces remaining.

Make sure you are comfortable.

Please begin listening to your assigned transmissions and allow the Harcourt Group to welcome you to your new home at the Transmissions of Interest Program.

Writing Exercises – The Reluctant I

When my girlfriend and I started dating, she knew that what I wanted to do was write. She read my work, gave a lot of good observations from the reader point of view, and encouraged me to write more. As I did, she observed that I was always looking for ways to sharpen my skills.

So she bought me a book called ‘The 3 A.M. Epiphany‘ by Brian Kiteley. It’s mostly a series of exercises with some explanation on writing process and expansion on said exercises. I’ve used it on occasion with some random exercises where I thought I could use the lesson being taught, but I think I’ll start going through them sequentially now that I’ve got some time on my hands.

I decided to do one this morning called ‘The Reluctant I.’ The goal was to pop out a six hundred word piece in which the writer is not allowed to use the words ‘I, me, or my’ more than a total of three times. The goal is to have a narrator who is less interested in his personal feelings or thoughts, and more interested in what has occurred.

I decided to do this in the form of a witness statement being given to a police officer by a security guard who got brought in on an odd call.

I figured I’d share it here. Enjoy.


Incident Witness Statement: 7204-028

Witness: Brendan O’Niell

Crime Scene: Castro’s Convenience, corner of 17th and South St.

Look, you’ve asked three times already between two officers. But, sure. We can discuss this again if you want. The facts ain’t gonna change though.

The store was a mess on arrival, okay? It was fucked up when I got there. You can tell the pricks in the company’s liability department that. The security gate on the convenience store window is busted in like it got hit by a truck – no big surprise the burglar alarm went off. Glass is all over the place and the alarm is blaring. The lookie-loos aren’t out on the street – not yet. But, people are lookin’ out their windows, both from above the storefront and across the street. There’s stuff all over the place. Cheetos, soda, cigarette lighters, smokes, and that vape shit that’s got so popular. Junk’s everywhere. You can’t walk around without hearing something crunch underfoot. Protocol says that it’s required of all guards to take a look around the place before shutting off the burglar alarm. It’s policy and procedure. Standard stuff. So the book gets followed, no matter how fuckin’ weird the call site looks.

So there’s a mess, but it ain’t so bad that a walkthrough can’t be done. Anyone who comes in to do anything afterward is gonna make the same kinda disturbance. Sure, it’s dark – whatever made the impact knocked the shit out of the fuse box – but that’s what the maglite’s for. And yeah, the pistol for anything unexpected. Totally legal, permit and everything. Book says guards on call can carry licensced sidearms if they want with client consent, which is also in place. Check with the company. All above board.

Anyway, gettin’ further into the store a smell comes up. Not exactly sure at first what it is. Then it hits: ozone. That smell you get when you have a bad storm comin’ on.

That’s when shit got weird.

Cause, there’s this guy in there, behind what’s left of the counter. He’s not easy to see, right? Like a black human outline surrounded by, no shit, little bolts of lightnin’. Raisin’ the gun isn’t a question – that happens as a reflex. There’s some yellin’. Might have called him a motherfucker. Understandable though. Dude shows up lookin’ like somethin’ out of a comic book, some f-bombs are gonna drop. Harsh language ain’t against the law yet.

Then the second guy swoops in.

The other dude is dressed up in some kinda ninja outfit. He’s got a pair swords in his hands and he tackles the guy who looks like the end of a severed livewire. The lightnin’ arcs off his swords, and it’s runnin’ over his arms and legs and… fuck, how is that even possible? We both know that ain’t possible, but… shit. God’s honest truth.

They tussle. Lightnin’ guy gets tossed over the counter with the ninja guy wailin’ on him to beat the fuckin’ band. The swords aren’t doing shit to lightnin’ guy. They’re bouncing off the bolts like goddamned Nerf  blades. Then there’s this huge jolt of electricity and I go blind. But they’re still goin’ at it, makin’ a racket like you ain’t ever heard. Next thing it’s totally dark. Musta passed out or somethin’. EMTs are there, askin’ about injuries, doin’ their thing. Someone gets a gurney while they start askin’ about vitals.

Look, it sounds crazy. I also understand that the body cam the company mandates is all fucked up. It was next to a guy who looked like he shoulda been playing dress up as one of Thor’s fuckin’ brothers. But honest, man: that shit happened. So you do what you gotta do. Send in the headcase guys, make an arrangement with a psychologist, reserve a padded room if it makes you feel better. If the cameras in that bodega are still working, they’ll corroborate the whole thing.

Those guys were real.

Real and dangerous.

And beside – you got all of the people who were standin’ out there when the EMTs came on scene. Ask them. They’ll tell you the same.


There’s something about just unchaining your brain and letting stuff leak out. Don’t format it beyond making it readable, just let it all come out. Become an automaton whose guiding hand has gone absent. Let the output flow out. It does a little bit of good from time to time.

I first learned of Automatic Writing when I was about sixteen years old, not in an English class, but in a French Class. Our teacher was not only in it to teach us about the French language (most of which lays rusty and unused in the cellar of my mind) but also to give us a little insight into French culture. A lot of that was the arts, both visual and otherwise. Apparently there were a couple of French surrealists who dabbled in Automatic Writing, which, depending on who you asked, was either letting the subconscious come out to play in the written word or some external force acting upon a relaxed mind to send out messages in text. I’m thinking that the external side of things is probably not true – but overall, I have engaged in Automatic Writing from time to time as a result of a well rounded public education. The subconscious can sometimes give you keen insights into your own mind that are both terrifying and liberating. It’s often also extremely intimate and personal.  So much so that it is frequently inappropriate to even release such writings into the wild. I haven’t the streak of exhibitionism necessary (just enough to have a blog) to place it all out where people can see it.

But the process is simple enough for anyone to try. Pull out your preferred medium for writing, be that a notepad on your desktop, an actual notepad and a pen, whatever you need to relax and just start. It can just be scribbles if you have to start that way, or start with one word and see what chains onto it. There’s no need for punctuation, no grammar. Just write what comes to mind. Stop when the words do. Pushing out more than what’s being brought to the surface is planned writing. If you had to pause for more than a moment, the exercise is over.

automaton - scribbles
Though one could make the case that legibility is perhaps useful.

I find that on a word processing program I can bang out about 150-200 words before something switches me back to conscious thought. But, with practice you can go a lot longer and you can pluck out a few gems here and there that you can then place in conscious work. All fodder for the work.

Being an automaton doesn’t have to be all bad after all.

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