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Wednesday Writing Prompt: Mapping Vulnerability by Dara Lurie

I met Dara Lurie on Twitter and was thrilled to discover her amazing site, Transformative Writing. I am delighted to welcome her to the blog today with this amazing writing prompt on mapping vulnerability. She’s also generously offered to give away a copy of her book, Great Space of Desire, to one of our readers. Check out the Rafflecopter information below Dara’s bio for more information! Enjoy!

Wednesday Writing Prompt by Dara Lurie

As children, we are vulnerable to the world.  In response to challenging, sometimes painful experience, we develop methods of self-protection that determine, in part, the outward shape of our personalities.  That same, self-protecting impulse also fuels our imagination to create hidden worlds, magic circles and special talismans that empower us and keep us safe. Whether you are working in fiction or memoir, these hidden, magical spaces can offer surprising and powerful character insights.

Mapping Vulnerability: Tape 2 sheets of paper together then draw a heart or circle in the center.  Ask yourself: What makes me (or the character I’m developing) feel vulnerable? It might be a physical trait such as poor eyesight or an emotional trait like indecisiveness or shyness.  It could also be a specific situation such as having to take a test, speak in front of a group or meet new people.  Think of the word or words that express your (or your character’s) greatest feeling of vulnerability.  Write that word or phrase in the center of your heart or circle.

Without too much thought, scribble down all the ideas, associations and images that come to mind.  Place these words around your heart idea; draw lines between connecting ideas.   This will be your vulnerability map.

Once you’ve mapped out your ‘vulnerability landscape’ for yourself or your character, you can begin to explore the ‘safe world’ you  (or your character) inhabits often quite unconsciously.

As a child, I enjoyed watching vampire and other horror movies.  Problem was, these movies often terrified me so much I couldn’t go to sleep afterward.  One night as I was watching a particularly scary vampire movie, I drew a magic circle around myself.   I didn’t actually draw a circle, I simply imagined its circumference.  Within my circle, I told myself, I would be safe from all dangers.  And it worked!  Using the power of imagination, I invoked a safe world and from that moment on I was able to enjoy the scariest of movies confident of my protection.

Safe World Objects:

1. Make a list of 5 to 10 items you (or your character) carry in your bag or wear on your person.  This list can include anything from your wallet, house-keys and daily planner to your favorite underwear, shoes or jewelry.

2.  Randomly circle three items on the list.

3.  Set a timer for twenty minutes and begin describing the items you’ve circled.  Start with a detailed physical description of each item.  Then consider what feelings or associations come to mind as you visualize each item.

ExampleI have a red patent-leather wallet purchased at T.J. Maxx several years ago.  I enjoy the visual statement of that shiny read leather; it speaks of a confidence and optimism about life that I don’t always feel.

What ambivalence do you (or does your character) feel toward these objects?

Example: Though I enjoy the beauty of my red wallet, there are times when it feels a little too light and evokes my lifelong fear of penury.

Your turn: What are your favorite safe world objects? What safe world objects have you seen your favorite characters carry?

About the author. Dara Lurie is an author, workshop leader, manuscript coach, and intrepid explorer of the human psyche. She holds a BA from Vassar College in Film and Theater studies and an MFA from Hunter College, where she studied under Louise DeSalvo and Chang-rae Lee, and began her first book, Great Space of Desire: Writing for Personal Evolution. Find her online at:




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1 Response

  1. Sally Brower

    One of my favorite character’s safe world objects is a writing desk that belonged to her grandmother, one she played under as a child, and uses now to write her novels.

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