Thursday, April 7, 2011

Writing Exercises

So someone asked me some questions about writing exercises today and I thought I actually have some valuable tools in my box that I should share. So without further adu, here they are

Stealing Faces
I do this one all the time, when I'm bored in the grocery store line, sitting at a red light, in the waiting room at a doctor's office. If I wrote down half of them I'd never need to think up an idea for a story again. You start out describing someone, then expand it until they have a back story and a personality. You don't talk to them, just observe them from afar. Feel free to embellish and add things that aren't there, remember this is fiction. tH idea is to get you started creating.

Location, location, location
Think of somewhere you go all the time. Or go somewhere and sit and look at something new. Get out a notebook and write about it. Whether you're talking about your grocery store or your favorite hiking trail or an underpass you've never stopped under before, try to make the reader "see" what you're writing.

Rewrite a classic
Take a classic story you love (I did Shirley Jackson's the Lottery when I did this) and rewrite it. Play with it as much as you want. Get as creative as possible Shake up the characters, the setting, the plot, the back story, whatever trips your trigger. (I might post mine, "The Lotto" one of these days)

Random connections
Pick three books. Any books. They don't have to be connected in anyway. The more different they are, the better. Pick a random sentence on a random page of one. Now pick the same numbered sentence on the same numbered page in the other two. Find a way to connect the three. 
ex: "We no longer burn witches and we no longer, in groups, persecute cats" (Tiger in the House, Carl Van Vechten) 
"The feeling of all-pervasive evil had, in the last few moments, grown unendurable" (Diplomacy of Wolves, Holly Lisle
"They were not demons, they were just men who had too much power and not enough sense." (The Way of the Kings, Brandon Sanderson
 p 153, sentence 5
All three sentences came from literally the closest three books to me. The paragraph I get from this:

"The two old men glared at each other across the table, unaware of the wretched girl in rags edging away for fear of her master's wrath. When these two old timers came together, tempers always flared. She did not want to be a convenient target.

"Come now, Mort, surely you cannot argue! The men in charge simply must be possessed!"

"They were not demons, they were just men who had too much power and not enough sense." Mort said, waiving his wine glass about and slopping some over the rim.

"Then what of the evil they have done? They have practically ripped the very foundations of our very society!"

"We no longer burn witches and we no longer, in groups, persecute cats. Can't you see that things are looking up, Howard? Why by spring all the nonsense will be forgotten"

"And this makes it all better?"

"You girl!" She froze, fear making her hands feel cold. The feeling of all-pervasive evil had, in the last few moments, grown unendurable. She was afraid of Mort, of the cruelty she could see in his eyes. She wouldn't be surprised to find he had had a hand in many of the deaths laid at the devil's door. "Why do you shirk away from honest men engaged in intellectual conversation? Are you a God-fearing child?"

"I'm only a slave girl, sir, bought and sold to serve however my master deems fit." I lowered my eyes. Scars criss-crossed my back, teaching me the mistake of being to brazen or forward.

"Leave the girl be, Mort. She is a bit skittish, but who can blame her. Her father sold her to the duke to cancel his debts, and he was not easy on her. She keeps the wine flowing and does as she's asked without prompting."

"I don't trust her," Mort said, eying her askance. She struggled with her barbed tongue,  lest she earn his unwanted attention as well as another lashing."She has an unholiness about her."

"You see the devil in every woman, Mort. I assure you, he does not reside in the fairer sex. Now leave the girl to do her job."

This is completely random and don on the spot, so it's probably full of errors, but I wanted to show how this excercies worked.

Find and clip an article out of the paper. Write the story that would end with the incident described in the article.

I'm sure there are more, but my brain is done and my bed is calling.


  1. Thank's for the info, I look forward to using some of these writing exercises myself!

  2. Great exercises, Elizabeth! These would work well with a writing group. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Great ideas, Elizabeth! Thanks for sharing them with us!