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Grief Printables

Exercises from Writing With a Heavy Heart
 
Copyright 2012 by Denise Jaden
If you have purchased a copy of Writing With a Heavy Heart, please feel free to
print additional copies of the exercises for personal use here.
(Highlight the exercise you’d like to print, click CTRL-P and check “Print Selection”
if you’d only like to print one exercise.)
Exercise: Healing Timeline
Look at your current work in progress dealing with grief. Even if there may be several characters enduring a loss of some kind, choose one character and map out his timeline for healing. You can come back and complete this exercise forall of your grieving characters.When did the main loss occur for this character? (Even if there is no date/year
specified in your fiction, choose one for purposes of this timeline.)____________________________________________________When will the character regain a normal state of wholeness after this loss? (Even if this doesn’t occur during the course of your story, you should know when this will come.)

____________________________________________________

Name three scenes in the course of your story (and their approximate timing in the overall timeline) where your character is pushed to deal with his grief:

____________________________________________________

____________________________________________________

____________________________________________________

Look at the dates you have listed above. Are there any large gaps in the timeline of healing where you could add a character or situation that would bring your character’s grief to the forefront again?

Keeping the above chapter in mind, do all of these scenes have authentic reasons for pushing your character toward dealing with his grief, or do you still need to do some work on your backstory of your supporting characters?

In any of these scenes, can you push your character farther and make it more impossible to avoid friction with other characters?

Exercise: Methods of Grieving
Below, list your characters by name along the left-hand side. Even if these characters will not be dealing with grief during the course of your story, it is important to know their feelings on the subject in order to play up the tension that comes from differing opinions.
Can you give any of your characters more extreme opinions on how grief should be dealt with?
Character Name:                                Method of Dealing With Grief:
(Examples: Isolation/workaholism/weeping/stocism)_____________________        __________________________

_____________________        __________________________

_____________________        __________________________

_____________________        __________________________

_____________________        __________________________

_____________________        __________________________

 

Exercise – The Spectrum of Emotions

Sadness is not the only emotion of grief.Which emotions do your characters in grief experience?

____ Denial                                ____ Rage

____ Loneliness                        ____ Rejection

____ Confusion                         ____ Helplessness

____ Guilt                                      ____ Anxiety

____ Disappointment               ____ Anger

____ Sadness                                 ____ Resentment

____ Jealousy                                ____Inadequacy

____ Vulnerability                        ____ Vindictiveness

____ Fear                                          ____ Envy

____ Depression                            ____ Pain

____ Dread                                       ____ Bitterness

____ Loss                                           ____ Anguish

____ Dismay                                     ____ Sorrow

____ Betrayal                                    ____ Abandonment

____ Apathy                                      ____ Distrust

____ Lack of control                      ____ Other _________

Exercise: Loss History

Write out a Loss History for one or more of your characters. Take time to list any losses your character has experienced throughout the course of his or her life. Include any instances where he felt a sense of loss, no matter how unimportant the circumstances may seem in the present. Think of missed promotions, friends moving away, the deaths of pets, the ends of friendships, job losses, and lost opportunities, as well as loss of loved ones.Consider what kind of painful losses he has experienced and how he has reacted to each of those losses.

DATE:                     LOSS:

__________        _______________________________________

__________        _______________________________________

__________        _______________________________________

__________        _______________________________________

__________        _______________________________________

__________        _______________________________________

__________        _______________________________________

__________        _______________________________________

__________        _______________________________________

Exercise: Hasty Decisions Create Added Tension
Open your current work in progress. Pretend your main character has just discovered a tragedy that has propelled him or her into shock. List three crazy decisions he or she could make at this moment.

1. __________________________________________________

____________________________________________________

2. __________________________________________________

____________________________________________________

3. __________________________________________________

____________________________________________________

How would these decisions affect the next scene in your novel?

____________________________________________________

____________________________________________________

How would these decisions affect your character, or other characters, for the rest of the book?

____________________________________________________

____________________________________________________

List two things your character could neglect to do because he is in denial:

 

1. __________________________________________________

____________________________________________________

2. __________________________________________________

____________________________________________________

How can these lapses increase the tension for the following scenes?

____________________________________________________

____________________________________________________

 

Exercise: Causing Spiritual Change

What does your main grieving character believe spiritually?____________________________________________________

____________________________________________________

Does your main character believe in any kind of afterlife?

____________________________________________________

____________________________________________________

Does your main character believe there was any spiritual cause for their loss by the person lost, by the person grieving, or by certain attributes of a higher power?

____________________________________________________

____________________________________________________

Can you take THE OPPOSITE of any of the above answers and find a way to show that in a scene in your story? (Examples: If your main character is devout in his beliefs, can you show his sudden doubt in his spirituality
somewhere in your book? If your character has always believed strongly that there is no afterlife, could he now consider different possibilities for an afterlife? If your character thinks the reason for the death was due to a
mistake or a negative personality trait, can you find a place in your manuscript to attribute the death to a different cause?

Exercise: Self-Talk
Find and write down three sentences of self-talk or inner dialogue from your main character early after he experiences a loss: (Note: if you cannot find three, are you able to add some to bring the reader closer into your
character’s point of view?)

1. _______________________________________________

_________________________________________________

2. _______________________________________________

_________________________________________________

3. _______________________________________________

_________________________________________________

Flip ahead to the last three chapters of your manuscript. Find and list three more sentences of self-talk or inner dialogue from this section:

1. _______________________________________________

_________________________________________________

2. _______________________________________________

_________________________________________________

3. _______________________________________________

_________________________________________________

Is there a noticeable change in the level of acceptance in your character in the latter section? Can you make the changes more noticeable?

____________________________________________________

____________________________________________________

____________________________________________________

Exercise: Grieving Before The Loss

Is there a loss that your character is anticipating?____________________________________________________

____________________________________________________

If so, on a scale from one to ten, how much does he think he’s already dealt with the loss?

____________________________________________________

____________________________________________________

How much does he expect is still to come?

____________________________________________________

____________________________________________________

And as the author, how much grief do you know is truly left to come for this character?

____________________________________________________

___________________________________________________

Exercise: Grieving According To Age

Age of your character who is experiencing loss _______According to the above suggestions, or your own ideas, list two ways that your character would likely demonstrate his or her grief:______________________

______________________

Now list two OPPOSITE reactions from those you listed above. (Example: If you listed irritability above, the opposite might be calmness.)

______________________

______________________

If you find your character is acting stereotypical, one way to add character depth is to draw from your “Opposites List.” Let your character explode where he might normally bottle up his feelings, or become lazy when his
normal reaction may be overworking. Using opposites can add fullness to your character’s journey.

Exercise: Clues To Healing
Can you find three ways that your character demonstrates healing by the end of your story (in dialogue, actions, or self-talk?)

1. _______________________________________________

_________________________________________________

2. _______________________________________________

_________________________________________________

3. _______________________________________________

_________________________________________________

If you cannot find three ways, can you think of manifestations of healing that you can add to your current manuscript?

If this is too difficult, look back at one of your favorite novels with an element of grief and loss. Can you pick out ways that the grieving character is manifesting some measure of healing or recovery by the end of the novel?

Exercise: Setting The Tone
Take your current manuscript dealing with a grief theme, or use a book you’ve recently read and enjoyed. Look at the first two pages of the book and list three things other than sadness or grief that come into play during these early
pages.
If you’re working with your own manuscript, can you add humor, romance, mystery, or a conflict aside from any kind of loss?1. _______________________________________________

_________________________________________________

2. _______________________________________________

_________________________________________________

3. _______________________________________________

_________________________________________________

STEPS TO HEALTHY GRIEVING
(CHECKLIST TO SHOW FULL CHARACTER ARC)
1. Does your character acknowledge and understand his grief? Can he admit that he will be forever changed by his loss?

2. Does your character have the strength and boldness to grieve in his own way?3. Has your character told his story to others and given an honest account of his loss? Is he able to share his pain? Is he able to rely on others in new ways?

4. Has your character committed to whatever length of road he has to walk in order to move back into living life?

5. Has your character opened his eyes to the needs around him once again? Through his experience, he has developed new traits and knowledge, and he has received encouragement and consolation with which he, in turn, can
comfort others. Does your character have an increased ability to love and to be loved?

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