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Scenes in dreams and scenes in business writing

Updated: Jul 14, 2022

Recently, I dreamt a very vivid scene.

I had a small red rental car and a remote control that was supposed to help me park the car while I stood outside. I couldn’t get the remote to work, and I went toward an old man standing in a small house near the woods. I showed him the problem with the remote, and as I clicked around, I suddenly saw the car careen over a hill and into oncoming traffic on a major highway.

The scene went on, but what struck me about it in the morning was how much of a scene it really was. The details about the place and the action were precise, and I woke up feeling as if I had really been there.

On a neurological level, our brains are apparently wired to create scenes.

In first-person writing in the thought-leadership style, scenes have their place in anecdotes. And if they are well written and crafted with the right ingredients, your reader can also feel they were in the same spot you were.

When you tell an anecdote about how you got the idea for your business, it comes alive when it’s anchored in a specific place at a specific time. These are the ingredients of scene.

In the freewriting group I lead every Friday, many of the prompts I provide begin with these words: “Tell about a time and place when…”

At first glance, it doesn’t seem like a phrasing that would lead to a contemplative question or writing session. But, in fact, it can and does.

Want to give it a try?

Take some time, jot down what comes to mind. See if you can create an anecdote anchored in time and place.

Here are some of the prompts I've used over the past couple of years:

  • Tell about a time when you rose to the occasion. It was a challenge, and you met that challenge. What odds did you overcome? Which strengths did you rely on?

  • Tell the story of the last time you received criticism (either solicited or unsolicited). What happened, where were you, how did you make use of the criticism?

  • Tell about a time and place when you had to improvise. It was an important event and things didn’t go as planned. Instead, you had to rely on an impromptu script. What happened? What have you learned from the incident?

By Rhea Wessel

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