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Exercise Wednesday: Hidden shame

February 26, 2014

I read a story recently about a CNN anchor named Zain Verjee who suffered from psoriasis. From the neck up, she was a vision, but the rest of her body was riddled with what she calls “fish-like scales, tiny red islands floating on the surface of my skin.” She developed them when she was eight, and has only recently been able to overcome them, primarily through a tightly controlled diet.

She spoke of dressing in the dark, and the fight she constantly fought with the rest of her body, of the shame that existed under her clothes, of the massive battles of self-doubt she fought as she wondered who would ever want her like that.

Today’s writing exercise is not an attempt to trivialize the condition that Ms. Verjee struggled with (and millions of others continue to struggle with). But as we write characters with problems, one of the things we have to do is portray these problems realistically, starting with the emotional effect they have on the people who suffer from them.

Your exercise today is to write a character dealing with a problem similar to Ms. Verjee’s. It could be psoriasis or any other condition or struggle that brings private shame. The scene should be about their individual struggle. It could be a public event, like when someone asked Ms. Verjee to leave a public pool, or a private event, like going on a date and pushing him or her away because of what’s under the clothes.

To help, here’s the link to the CNN article. Some of the comments may be useful, too.

Time limit: Because there’s reading involved, 60 minutes.



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