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Exercise Wednesday: Talking to your future self

August 27, 2014

Young Jennifer (Elizabeth Shue, right) meets old Jennifer (Elizabeth Shue, left).

In just about every form of storytelling that involves time travel, there’s a situation where a character winds up talking to their past selves. We even used that as a writing exercise at one point, imagining your character talking to a past version of themselves and dispensing wisdom.

Today, we flip it. Instead of writing from the point of view of the older, more mature, presumably wiser version of the character, we take it from the younger side.

The seventeen-year-old who isn’t quite as responsible as he should be and is about to get fired from what seems like a meaningless job. The early-twenties woman who’s dating a guy who isn’t good for her and is about to say yes to his off-handed marriage proposal. The parents who struggle to keep it together through the sleepless chaos of new parenthood, who are certain they are the worst parents ever. EVER! (Please let me sleep. Just a couple hours. Please? Can we put some Benadryl in the formula? Wanting to do that doesn’t make me a monster, does it?)

Pick a character–or even yourself–and write a scene in which future and past versions meet, but write it from the point of view of the younger version. Is he disdainful of his older version? Dude, you sold out.

Does she think her older version doesn’t understand what it’s like to be going to everyone else’s weddings when you don’t have a date?

Will the parents listen to their older selves and either cut themselves some slack or, if necessary, step up their game?

Figure it out and write it down.

Time limit: 30 minutes

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