Wednesday Writing Exercise: Film and Approaches to Writing, Part VII—“The Damned”

Set during the early years of Hitler’s regime, Italian director Luchino Visconti’s 1969 epic The Damned charts the shifting sympathies of the wealthy industrialist Von Essenbeck family, whose resentment toward Der Führer is eventually replaced by acceptance and loyalty.

Watch The Damned. Then try these writing exercises inspired by the movie, borrowed from my grad-school class on “Film and Approaches to Writing the Novel” with John Rechy:

  • Describe any conventionally genteel ritual—a game, a ceremony, a celebration—and render it ugly and/or grotesque, without using those words.
  • Using only the language of dance and choreography, and without dialogue, describe a scene of violence. Do not identify the violence.
  • Against a background of beauty, write a passage that depicts a destructive encounter (physical and/or psychological) between two people; do not use dialogue.
  • Write dialogue between two people in which they are discussing someone historical, contemporary or otherwise. Do not mention the person; suggest him/her and what single act (good or evil) prominently identifies him/her.

The Mots Justes Series on Film and Approaches to Writing

Part I—Persona

Part II—Sunset Boulevard

Part III—Providence

Part IV—Duel in the Sun

Part V—The Exterminating Angel

Part VI—Trouble in Paradise



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6 responses to “Wednesday Writing Exercise: Film and Approaches to Writing, Part VII—“The Damned”

  1. Thanks for tweeting my blog post, I’m so happy to have found your blog! These are great exercises, I’m going to try them myself, only adapted to the novel I’m reading.

  2. Teresa

    I have a scene that I’m working on now, and I intend to use this exercise in constructing the macabre aspects of the scene.


  3. motsjustes

    Hi Teresa, Very cool! I’d love to hear how it turns out. Good luck! -ae

  4. Teresa

    I wanted to tweet this link so badly, but there were too many characters. So I posted links to all your exercises on my blog and tweeted it as a writing challenge.

    I’ve challenged my readers to use your exercises on their WIP or just to pick one and do it. I’ve asked them to post their results on my blog. Whether they will or not, I don’t know, but I will be posting mine. I’ll let you know when it’s finished.

    I just hope the links draw people here. I absolutely love this blog!

  5. motsjustes

    Thanks again, Teresa! Do let me know when I can see the results! -ae

  6. Teresa

    Okay, it’s really rough, but I wanted to go first and get something online. I’m hoping some of my other blog readers will jump in if I posted something.

    I’m not sure if this would have passed in your class, but you certainly helped me kick-start my chapter.

    Thanks again for the exercises! Mine is here:

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