Escalating Troubles

by Nancy Casey

Situations can have a way of going from bad to worse, to even worse than that, and still end up with signs of optimism and hope. Today in your writing you will have a chance to imagine how that can happen.

Set up you page in the usual way, with a line where the title will go and a space for illustration or doodling. In addition, draw a faint line (or just put a couple of dots) about two inches from the bottom of the page. When you come to this mark, you will know it is time to change the subject.

Imagine somebody. An imaginary person. Don’t write about yourself or someone you know. Then you will be completely free to make things up.

Begin by writing down a moderately disappointing fact about the person. It could be something that happens to them, an idea they have, or the way that they feel.

Next, escalate. Use a phrase like, on top of that or if that’s not bad enough and add more information that makes the situation worse.

Escalate again, using an escalating phrase such as even worse, or to make matters more difficult or something similar.

Work your way down the page that way, escalating the imaginary person’s difficulties with each sentence. Use an escalating phrase each time. Try to think up a different escalating phrase each time you use one, but if you need to repeat one or two of them, that’s fine.

Continue, in your imagination, making your person’s life seem more and more difficult. You don’t have to dump murder and mayhem upon them (although you can.) You just have to make things happen that the person would probably rather have done without.

Stop writing when you get to the faint line that you marked near the bottom of the page. Add one more event to the imaginary person’s life. Don’t use any of the escalating phrases. Make this new event positive. It doesn’t have to be something that fixes everything that went wrong for the person. Just make one thing happen to them that will give them a bit of hope.

When you have finished writing, reread your work. Make small changes if you need to. When you are satisfied with the page, give it a title and write the date on it, too. Here is an example of what someone could write.

You can share your work by posting it as a comment below. You can type it in, or take a photo of it and upload the image.


Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. You can find more of her work here. If you would like to do this exercise or others like it with a group of people, come to the Write-for-You class at the Latah Recovery Center on Thursdays at 5pm. Anyone can join. Just show up! You can attend just for fun or work to earn a writing certificate. For more information, contact Nancy or the Latah Recovery Community Center.

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