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Writing Exercises

Writing exercises stretch your mind by giving you a chance to hone your skills, and to clear the miscellaneous thoughts from your mind before you get to work on your real writing! Try some of these:

Group Exercises

  • Develop characters and a plot for a short story. Have each group member write the story from a different character's point-of-view.
  • Take ten or fifteen minutes from a meeting to exercise your descriptions. Describe a scene (something from your current project, your daily life, anywhere), using sight, sound, touch, smell and taste.
  • One of our favorites is to pick several categories (say, Character, Place, Time, Event, Odd Object, Conflict) and have everyone write one or more suggestions for each. Put the suggestions into a hat (one category at a time), and have everyone draw a suggestion from each category. Then, everyone must write a story which includes the suggestions he or she pulled from the hat. You'll get some very interesting stories this way.
  • When your group is in a public setting (such as a coffee bar), pick one person in the room and have everyone in your group write a detailed description of that person, including both appearance and mannerisms. Compare your descriptions to see what unique things each member noticed.
  • Gather your group together in a circle. Have each person write an assignment for the person to his or her left (for instance, "Write about a seal taking a train to California" or whatever). Write for ten minutes on that assignment.
  • Gather your group together in a circle. Someone will start the exercise by writing one sentence. Pass the paper to the left, and the next person will write the next sentence. Go on until the story ends, or until your own version of the giant 6' ferret needs to enter the picture to put an end to it.

Just For You (or to share!)

  • A classic exercise: Begin with the line "I remember" (or "I don't remember"), and write for fifteen minutes.
  • Write a scene from your current project, from a different perspective (i.e., rewrite a scene from a different character's point-of-view, or from the same character's, but using first person instead of third).
  • Write a story from the point-of-view of and ordinary object (for example, a rug).
  • Pay attention to signs! Great inspiration can be found in signs, especially if part of the sign isn't working. Among our favorite are "Roadlooms" (formerly Broadlooms) and "Lines 'N Things" (formerly Linens 'N Things). When you spot a sign you like, build a story around it!
  • Begin a story with the last line, and write backward (end with the first line). Read it backward, then read it forward.

Suggestions by Our Visitors

    Here are some exercises suggested by visitors to our site:

  • Have each member suggest a word (such as an item, character, or event), then have everyone write a story using all of the words suggested.
  • Divide a piece of paper down the middle. On the left side, write about nine nouns (not necessarily related to one another). On the right, write about nine words related to one certain occupation of your choice. Then draw lines from one column to the next, connecting one noun with one word from the right column. Choose one of these paired-off words and write a short story or poem using them.
  • Have your group write a progressive story. Select the order in which members will contribute by drawing numbers from a hat; then, each member may twist the story in any direction by contributing one page per turn.
  • Create a character by starting with just a name. Add details until that character gets placed into a plot.
  • Take an ordinary snippet of a memory, maybe from childhood, and embellish it, disguise it, turn it into a "new" recollection.
  • If you choose to meet in a cafe or restaurant, then choose a person or people from another table and think of a story surrounding their reason for being there. It is interesting because one observes the tiny details (such as the way people are interacting, clothes, manner, etc.) and uses them to add truth to a story.
  • Have each person take a few minutes and write down five to ten opening sentences. Just write anything off the top of your head: "As soon as he walked into the room, he knew his life was about to change forever." "I would do anything-absolutely anything-for a hot fudge sundae right now." Whatever. Either have each person choose one of their own openings to write about, or put them all into a hat and draw. Then take about 15 minutes to write (you don't have to get a whole story down, just write until the time is up). Take a few minutes to read over what you've done and see if it's going somewhere, then do another 15 minutes; could be a rewrite, a continuation, or a new tangent based on something in the first bit. Repeat. Do the write/read sequence at least three times-four or more if you have time-and try to end up with a story.

And what ever you do, Don't forget to write!

Just then, a giant 6' ferret driving an 18 wheeler came along and ran them all over.
The end.


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