Writing Exercises

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Writing Exercises

Below are several archived tips from the former “Writing Exercises” category. Though the following tips have all been edited by the current guru, James Gapinski, most are the original creations of past Life Tips gurus.

Writing Prompt: The Telephone Call

Tip edited by James Gapinski

Write a brief story which begins "in medias res" with a telephone call. Have one of the callers inform the other of some event that has taken place. Begin writing

after the call has begun and end it before the characters hang up. In other words, just focus on the dialogue and building tension within the scene. No more than 500 words.

A Word on Creativity Exercises

Tip edited by James Gapinski

These exercises are designed to boost your creativity and show you that the possibilities for story ideas are endless. For exercise purposes, try to keep them to 500 words or less. You may choose to develop them into full stories later, but for now just focus on the task described.

Non-Human Narrators

Tip edited by James Gapinski

Write a story from the point of view of a non-human. This can mean an alien, an animal, or a chest of drawers. The unconventional source of narration frees your creativity and allows you to have some fun with the story. It gives you an excuse to play with dialogue or try your hand at being funny.

What are you most ashamed of?

Tip edited by James Gapinski

The superlatives in our lives--the most frightening, most hilarious, etc.--are the seeds for our stories. Try writing a story about something from your past that you are ashamed of. Don´t write about something that happened within the last year--it must be something you have gained perspective on.

Beauty and the Beast: The Magic of Character Pairs

Tip edited by James Gapinski

Sometimes you can create fictional magic just by placing two opposing characters in the same room. Consider opposites or "incompatibles" from real life that might make sparks on the page.

Personalities that breed conflict create increased readability.


Tip edited by James Gapinski

Take a few moments and answer the following questions about the protagonist in your story. This will help you generate ideas about where the story will go and how it will develop during revision. Keep in mind that there may and can be multiple answers for each.

* What does my character want?

* What does he or she fear?

* How does he or she deal with his emotions?

* What are his or her social and intimate relationships like?

* What are his or her past experiences, and how does he or she regard them?

* What does he or her view (or not view) as personal responsibilities?

* What elements of the spiritual does he or she exhibit, and how does he or she deal with them?

* What does he or she do for a living?

* What does he or she do for leisure?

* What failures does he or she secretly feel accountable for?

* What biases or prejudices motivate his or her behavior?

* Are there any "catch phrases" or verbal quips that are unique to him or her?

* Does he or she dream at night? If so, of what?

* Where does he or she go in daydreams?

* What strikes him or her as humorous/non-humorous?

* What does he or she take seriously or fail to take seriously?

Other Resources:

The University of Iowa Writing Center: "Writing Exercises for Creative Fiction Writers - Characertization."

Point of View

Tip edited by James Gapinski

Write a story that employs more than one point of view. The exercise focuses your attention on point of narration, so that you are conscious of things like physical observations, language, and personal biases unique to each individual character.

Other Resources:

Writer's Digest: "Fiction: Point of View," by Steve Almond.


Tip edited by James Gapinski

Write a story in which one character tries to "sell an idea" to another. Focus on the verbal exchange as one character attempts to persuade the other, and on heightening the tension throughout the scene. Begin in medias res, don´t worry about getting us in to the scene.

Other Resources:

Poe War Writer's Resource Center: "12 Exercises for Improving Dialogue," by J. C. Hewitt.

Writer's Write: "Screenwriting Writing Exercises - Dialogue," by Stephen J. Cannell.

Barnes & Noble: Write Great Fiction: Dialogue, by Gloria Kempton; 2004 (book).

The Liar

Tip edited by James Gapinski

Write a story in which one character is clearly lying. This can be either the narrator or another character. You´ll want to focus on peeling away the layers of truth and untruth--the non-liar(s) will inwardly and outwardly wrestle this out.

Writing Prompt: The Dinner Party

Tip edited by James Gapinski

Write a story centered entirely around a dinner party. One of the characters should be mysterious in some way, inspiring the other guests to ponder and discuss him or her.

Character Driven Plot

Tip edited by James Gapinski

A good plot always traces back to character elements. Characters find themselves in situations and must act and react to those situations as best they can. Consider this as you construct the plot of your story.

As a pre-writing exercise, make a list of situations your character might find him or herself in. Then, in a separate column, try and predict what might happen based on what you know about the character.

Writing Prompt: Given First Line

Tip edited by James Gapinski

Write a story beginning with this line: "I didn´t hear you come in last night."

Other Resources:

Short Story Ideas: "First Lines"



6/28/2012 9:10:38 AM
tanya said:

These tips helped so much tanx


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