Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Writing: Time to Exercise!

It can probably be said that everyone is creative in some way, but that is especially true of writers. As writers we tend to pay more attention to the things around us than most people do. We like to ask questions and think about people’s reactions and responses in certain situations. I’ve noticed myself that I like to concoct elaborate “what ifs” and imagine what would happen. Each update will offer a new writing exercise. Let your imagination go with these and see where they take you.

  • Write down the titles of 5-10 novels, essays, articles, or short stories you have been thinking that you would like to write “someday.” Then pick one of the titles and write the first few pages or paragraphs of the piece that you chose. Write for fifteen to twenty minutes. Now you have a start to writing about something that really interests you, instead of having the idea swimming around in the back of your mind indefinitely.

  • Find an old coat of yours or purse/backpack with pockets. Search through the pocket and write down all of the items you found. Example: 65 cents, one stick of gum, old bus ticket, receipt to Burger King, free coffee card, etc. Now create a short story using the items from the pocket to help create a character and drive the plot. What type of character would have a free coffee card? Perhaps a university student who drinks a lot of coffee and takes the bus to school. Try to include every item you found in the pocket as part of the story or character.

  • Pick out someone at the grocery store, in traffic or somewhere else where you're stuck waiting. Take in the details of the person and try to memorize as many as you can. When you get home, freewrite all that you can remember about the person and then create a story about whom he/she truly is. That old granny in like with the dozen eggs? She's really a sky diving instructor! The man picking his nose in the red sedan next to you? He has a secret foot fetish and can't wait to get home to clean out his sniffer! Go crazy and be imaginative!

  • This week, write your own creation myth. In short story length, explain something fantastic or mundane, for example: Carrots are really the hair clippings of Ares that fall from Olympus...and make it believable!

  • Do you have a vivid emotional memory? Something sad, happy or even embarrassing? Go back to that moment/event in your mind and write it as a short scene in script/prose form, from an omniscient perspective. This is really good practice for when you need to convey your own character's emotions to your audience.

  • As a young writer, I enjoyed writing about flying horses, time travel, and men who wore tuxedos. This caused a small problem for me. Some people, mainly geniuses, can create convincing stories about things they don't understand, but I can't.

  • For years, I wrote terrible stories. And I bored every unlucky reader who was dumb enough to read my stuff. I knew they were bored, but I couldn't figure out why.

    Then the answer struck me one day while I was “swiffering” under my bed. I don't know anything about tuxedos. But I do know about dust bunnies. It may not be glamorous, but I can describe the gray, fuzzy puff of a dust bunny in great detail. I can explain just how dust bunny colonies pop up behind my sofa. And, believe it or not, readers prefer dust bunnies over my flat and lifeless old way of writing.

    Look around your room and make a list of five interesting objects. The list can include cracks in the wall, priceless oriental vases, or discarded Kit Kat wrappers. Describe each item, write about how the item makes you feel, and then try to write a story or poem incorporating these items.

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