Monday, October 17, 2016

Writing Exercise Inspired by Viet Thanh Nguyen's The Sympathizer

I am...

Last year's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Sympathizer, begins with the following paragraph: 

I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am a man of two minds. I am not some misunderstood mutant from a comic book or a horror movie, although some may have treated me as such. I am simply able to see any issue from both sides. Sometimes I flatter myself that this is a talent, and although it is admittedly one of a minor nature, it is perhaps also the sole talent I possess. At other times, when I reflect on how I cannot help but observe the world in such a fashion, I wonder if what I have should even be called talent. After all, a talent is something you use, not something that uses you. The talent you cannot not use, the talent that possesses you--that is a hazard, I must confess. But in the month when this confession begins, my way of seeing the world still seemed more of a virtue than a danger, which is how some dangers first appear. 

I love it when a novel begins with a confession about a personal trait in a way that we are forced to re-examine the virtue of the trait and question the narrator from the get-go (think Nick in The Great Gatsby). Today, I think I'm going to write one of these paragraphs for my mc in my WIP. It won't be the first paragraph, and I doubt it'll make it into the novel, but I'm excited to learn what secrets my mc will or will not reveal to me...

Feel free to join me and do the same on this lovely fall Monday. :)


  1. I'm participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time this year and I'm going to try out this exercise.