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Residual Affection from a Previously Savage Love: A Writing Exercise

Updated on June 2, 2016

For this writing exercise I’ve used four love-themed phrases: residual affection; savage love; exquisitely vulnerable; risk love. In every paragraph at least one of these phrases must appear. Each paragraph can contain up to three phrases. Every phrase must be used at least once; no phrase can be used more than twenty times. The entire piece must be at least 500 words, but cannot exceed 1500 words. Lastly, the goal remains to use these phrases in as startling and innovative ways as possible without the writing becoming overly surrealistic.

Which of these love-themed phrases do you like the most?

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Residual Affection from a Previously Savage Love, a.k.a. Ten Memories

Lindsey Perrinkle shock her head. Droplets from her recently showered hair—currently a darker brown since it was wet—fell onto her WSU sweatshirt. She had nothing to do, and so, as she frequently did, she sashayed her way down memory lane. The first memory had taken place two weeks earlier when the wind, which has blown languidly an hour before, had started to gust. Resisting the impulse to duck inside her 1999 Pontiac Grand Am with a cracked windshield and over 200,000 miles, she instead stood her ground and waited to see what the wind might do. The initial gusts, with limited fanfare, continued until it was as if the wind was raging against a great injustice. Lindsay became enveloped in nature’s force and fury to a degree which, whether she wanted this to occur or not, made her exquisitely vulnerable. For once she wasn’t safely cocooned in a vehicle or a building; she was at nature’s mercy, and she felt so alive it almost hurt in every cell of her body.

One example of a blustery day...

The next memory was tamer and vaguely bittersweet. She recalled being fourteen and in love with Tanner Prescott. Naturally she wanted to write him a poem for Valentine’s Day. When she asked Ashely, her best friend, for suggestions, she was dismissive. “You want to risk love for that boy? He’s not worth it. I cannot help you.” Undeterred, she sat in her bedroom, thinking of residual affection from her last crush, another one which didn’t work out, and hoping to find words for Tanner. None came, and so, in a fit of teenage melodrama, she concluded it obviously wasn’t meant to be.

Two years ago, when she was 24, she went in search of something to be passionate about. Life had flattened and dulled until every day was a carbon copy of the last. Sitting at McDonalds, sipping another chocolate shake—she shouldn’t afford them and her figure was suffering, but she was too encased in ennui to care—she thought about all the ways in which her life lacked savage love in any form. She couldn’t even get excited about attractive celebrities. Nothing stirred her. If she was plugged into the heartbeat of life, the main being keeping this machine going was falling asleep at the job.


Once, when she was a child, she wanted her father to notice her. Nothing she attempted worked. Running around wearing a cape and singing at top volume was insufficient. Putting on her mother’s makeup, however inexpertly, was a fail. Finally, she screamed at him how she was trying to summon something, some residual affection, he must still have for her. Aside from giving her a wary glance, he said nothing. Two years later, he left and she hadn’t seen the likes of him since.

Which of these phrases is an effective substitute for "residual affection"?

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At the age of eighteen she, by some small miracle, fell in love again. This time it was with the subject of psychology. Ashley, although attending another college, gently teased her about how exquisitely vulnerable Freud’s theories were making her. Clearly she was able to risk love, perhaps of a savage, unrefined variety, in academia; however, as she repeatedly mentioned, no one was invited into her life beyond those who were already loitering.

Vulnerability, especially after her father’s exit, was something to be avoided. It was like acne or unpopular kids in the lunch room or the creepy teacher who offered excessive office hours because he was lonely. Ashley tried to urge Lindsey into his office, convinced that he was worth risking love of something—the subject?—for. She refused. And so Ashley entered with a simple question and, two minutes later, emerged with rage dripping off her like sweat. “Screw that option,” she shouted for all to hear. Later, when Lindsey wanted to know what happened, she wouldn’t talk. There was, according to her, nothing worth saying.


“You know what you need?” This was Sam, her older brother. He was eating a plate of fries inside Wendy’s. He often offered advice, and usually it was unwelcome. This was no exception. “You need to find some savage love. You know the type. The kind of person you love to hate or hate to love. Something like that. Your life is boring.” He eyed her knowingly, as if he, of all people, was the expert on love. He wasn’t. Even now he didn’t know much about this subject—unless, of course, you included his blind, almost ridiculous affection for the Foo Fighters.


Wanting to know more of the world, Lindsey decided to take a road trip. She was nineteen years old. It was time to surrender all residual affection for her hometown of Palouse, Washington and fall in love with new places. It was time to get out of dodge. And yet it didn’t work. She wasn’t entranced with these other places, those with streets she couldn’t easily navigate and locals who didn’t know her first and last name. Lonely for Ashley and her family, with such affection still intact, she returned home two days later. This was a minor defeat, one Sam teased her endlessly about simply because he could.

Mrs. Patricia Brown stood in front of her English 202 class. She looked somber, almost too serious to be alive in such an absurd, uneven time in history. It was time to declare her assignment, and Lindsey feared the worst. After all, she wanted her students to feel things deeply and then write about them until all the sensations of elation or despair or wonderment had faded away. If Lindsey could and not screw up her schedule, she would have already dropped this class. With a winsome smile, one with too much innocence for her position, she spoke. “The assignment for Monday is to write a journal entry about the time you were the most exquisitely vulnerable. Please hold nothing back. I don’t care if it happened at the gas station last week. I want to know everything.”

Another earnest teacher

A tenth and final memory: Lindsey, short for her age and wondering when, if ever, she would grow, glanced around her fourth grade classroom. It was late April; soon it would be summer and she would be free. She wanted to know what freedom meant; she wanted to understand how to live outside her uninspired existence, how to, if only once in her young life, risk love and not be destroyed.


Summary: This writing exercise worked only somewhat well. The fact all four phrases were only two words long wasn’t ideal. If one or two of them had been five or six words, this would have potentially made the writing more colorful. Another option would have been including one of these phrases in every line of dialogue and writing a short story with mostly conversation and less introspection. If I did it again, I certainly wouldn’t go for the ten separate memories route. Instead, I’d opt for a more cohesive narrative.


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