Do you ever feel like the story you’re writing is bland? Like it needs to be spiced up? Or maybe you want to write a story but you’re fresh out of ideas. Perhaps you need to practice storytelling?
Fiction writing exercises are perfect for toning your storytelling muscles. They can also provide you with a wealth of ideas for writing projects.
Today’s fiction writing exercises are designed to stimulate creativity and get you thinking about story from fresh angles. Read more
When we writers discuss fiction, we usually focus on plot, setting, dialogue, and especially characters. These, of course, are the essential elements of decent storytelling. But what we often forget to address is the prose.
The words we choose to depict action, express characters’ thoughts, and render their dialogue is another important, albeit often overlooked, element of writing–and that’s true of any form of writing, including storytelling.
Language can raise a story to new heights or it can make a story sink. If readers are struggling to understand words and phrases or if they’re constantly distracted by unnecessary words and repetition, the story will take a backseat to the poorly constructed prose, and you’ll risk losing the readers.
No matter how compelling your story is, if you can’t convey it through well crafted prose, it will get lost in the slush pile and end up in the discount bin. Today’s fiction writing exercises encourage you to set story aside and focus instead on the language, which is at the very heart of the craft of writing. Read more
These fiction writing exercises are designed to help fiction writers gain a better understanding of their characters, including antagonists, by learning how to relate to contradictory or opposing viewpoints.
Remember, an antagonist is not necessarily a villain. An antagonist is anyone whose purpose is at odds with the protagonist’s goals.
In addition to antagonists, we should be writing characters who are unique and complex, not characters who are all cardboard cutouts of ourselves. That means we have to get into the heads of people who are strikingly different from ourselves.
These fiction writing exercises will help you do just that. The idea is to try and view the world from a perspective that is completely different from your own and to get inside the head of someone who is not like you. Read more
Whenever I’m working on a story idea, I spend a lot of time during the development stages making character sketches and writing backstories for my characters. I usually end up with too many of them and some characters get cut. The lucky ones get resurrected in some other story.
Some of my favorite stories are plot-driven, but character-driven stories tend to resonate with me on a deeper level, which is why I believe that regardless of plot, stories with strong and compelling character arcs are the best. They start with a character who wants something and we see the character through conflict after conflict until he or she emerges changed, usually stronger and for the better.
The most compelling characters are unique in some way and brimming with personality. But they are flawed too, and I think that oftentimes, readers find themselves more in the characters’ flaws than in their strengths.
Conversely, the least interesting characters are boring. They lack personality or their goals aren’t clear. Oftentimes, they act “out of character,” doing things that are inconsistent with their established personalities and behaviors.
Character exercises can help with all that.
Create Characters with These Fiction Writing Exercises
You can use these exercises all by themselves–create a character just for fun, and who knows? Maybe one of these exercises will lead to your next big writing project. Or you can use them to develop a character for a story you’re already working on, but keep in mind that the story itself often shapes characters, so be flexible and allow your character to change with the story. In other words, you don’t have to stick to the profile you’ve created for your character.
1. Character Backstory
I define backstory as everything that happened to the character up to the point where the narrative begins. Sometimes it helps to start at the beginning:
This character was born in a small town south of San Francisco just a few days before the 1906 Earthquake. Her mother was a schoolteacher and her father ran a general store…
The character backstory can be simple, covering the highlights and important events throughout your character’s life. It can also become rather elaborate, depending on how much detail you want to put in and how clearly the character speaks to you.
For this exercise, write a character backstory starting with your character’s birth and hitting all the major events of your character’s life up to the point where the story starts. Try to write a minimum of 1000 words.
2. Psychological Profile
As with backstory, a psychological profile can be minimal or detailed: What is your character’s greatest fear? What traumas has your character experienced and how did it shape his or her personality? Does your character have any psychological disorders or conditions?
But the most important question you ask in a psychological profile is this: What does the character want and why?
If you really want to create a character who is complex, then try identifying an internal goal, an external goal, and figure out what the stakes are. If you can come up with an internal goal and an external goal that are at odds with each other, all the better.
For example: let’s say your character’s internal goal is to improve his community and his external goal is to become a politician so he can accomplish his internal goal. In his mind, his community is at stake. Those are big stakes if the character loves the community and has deep ties to it. What happens when the character gets into politics and has to start wheeling and dealing? With he sacrifice another community’s well-being to make things better for his own? Will he hang his city’s factory workers out to dry so he can do something to benefit the town’s small businesses?
For this exercise, list your character’s internal goal, external goal, and what’s at stake. This is an especially useful exercise to do with a protagonist. Whenever your story gets stuck, remind yourself what the protagonist’s goals are, and that will often get you back on track.
Bonus: if you’re creating a character who is not the protagonist, write a short description (it might be just a single sentence) stating the character’s purpose to the story.
3. Coping with Conflict
Some say that story is conflict–just one conflict after another. These conflicts are constantly pushing characters toward their goals and pulling them away from their goals.
For this exercise, you’ll experiment with writing scenes that show your character coping with conflict. Write one scene where your character faces conflict and gets defeated. Write another where your character overcomes some conflict. If you’re working on a short story or novel, write scenes that take place outside of your story. Try to write a minimum of 1500 words per scene.
A Few More Activities for Creating Characters
- Sketch picture of your character; search the web for images that resemble your character; or find video showing an actor, actress, or other public figure that you can use as a model for your character.
- Create a character journal and write a few entries in the character’s voice about his or her daily life.
- Write a letter from your character to a loved one (or write a letter from a loved one to your character).
Got any fiction writing exercises or activities that will help writers create characters? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.
Are you looking for more writing exercises? Pick up a copy of 101 Creative Writing Exercises, available in paperback and ebook.
Today’s post is from my book, 101 Creative Writing Exercises, which is available from your favorite online bookseller in paperback or as an ebook.
Chekhov’s Gun is a literary device in which an element is mentioned in a story and its purpose or significance becomes clear later. For example, early in a story, the narrative mentions that the hero carries a knife. Later, he uses that knife to defend himself in a fight. If the knife hadn’t been mentioned earlier, it might feel like an object of convenience. On the other hand, if the knife is mentioned but he never uses it, the reader might feel cheated after anticipating a good knife fight.
The real purpose of Chekhov’s Gun is to remind writers that they have an obligation to fulfill all promises made to readers. If the narrative mentions that the hero carries a knife, the reader expects that he will, at some point, use it. If he doesn’t, the writer has failed to fulfill a promise. In other words: don’t pepper your story with unnecessary, insignificant, or meaningless elements. Make everything count!
The term “Chekhov’s Gun” comes from a letter from Anton Chekhov to Aleksandr Semenovich Lazarev (also known as A.S. Gruzinsky) in which he said, “One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it.”
Write a short scene and introduce two objects right at the opening of the scene. Make sure one of the objects is used later in the scene, but leave the other object unused. Note that these objects will not be part of the descriptive content. For example, if the scene includes a description of a room and mentions a chair in the corner, you don’t have to use the chair later because it is part of the setting description.
Let your scene sit overnight then read it back the next day. Notice how the unused object lingers in the reader’s mind in an unpleasant way. Once you’re done, feel free to revise and edit out the unnecessary object or add action in which it becomes significant.
Tips: Differentiating between what constitutes a necessary or unnecessary element can be tricky. In some cases, a knife that is mentioned may not need to be played later (for example, a knife might be mentioned in the context of one of the characters eating). In other cases, a chair that is mentioned will need to be played. A woman might carry a purse, but that doesn’t mean she needs to retrieve anything from it because most women carry purses. On the other hand, if she’s carrying a file marked “TOP SECRET,” the reader expects to eventually be let in on the contents of the file.
Variations: Go through a story you’ve already written and look for instances in which you included unnecessary or misleading elements.
Applications: The difference between excellence and mediocrity in storytelling often lies in the details. Chekhov’s Gun is one of the many details that could cause a story to lose credibility with readers. Therefore, checking your narrative for unnecessary or irrelevant elements will strengthen and improve your work.
Today’s post comes from my book 101 Creative Writing Exercises. This is from “Chapter Five: Fiction.”
Symbols and Symbolism
In Alice and Wonderland, a white rabbit appears and Alice follows him down the rabbit hole that leads to Wonderland. The white rabbit is a herald—a character archetype that signifies the first challenge or the call to adventure. This is the change in the main character’s life that marks the beginning of the story.
The white rabbit became so widely known that it eventually evolved into a symbol. Because it’s white, it can symbolize purity. Because it’s a rabbit, it can symbolize fertility. But because it was the herald that called Alice to her adventure, the white rabbit is often used as a symbol to represent change. Sometimes, it’s simply used as a herald.
The white rabbit appeared in The Matrix, an episode of Star Trek, and in several episodes of Lost. In Jurassic Park, a character finds a file labeled “whiterabbit.obj” and in Stephen King’s The Long Walk, a character refers to himself as “the white rabbit type.”
The white rabbit can function as a traditional symbol or as a reference to Alice in Wonderland. Such is the case with the song “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane.
Symbolism occurs whenever one thing represents something else. For example, a book could represent knowledge. A caged bird could represent oppression or imprisonment. In a story, the repetition of a symbol (every time the book or caged bird appears) can have significance to the story. Maybe every time a character fails because he doesn’t know enough, there’s a book in the scene. Or perhaps a person who is oppressed keeps a caged bird but doesn’t recognize the irony (that he is imprisoning a living creature while suffering his own oppression).
Develop a list of five to ten symbols. Invent your own symbols rather than using ones that commonly appear in fiction. If you’re working on a story or novel, make a list of symbols that you might use in your project. Symbols are often linked to big themes: love, revenge, sacrifice, redemption, narcissism, etc.
Tips: You might find it easier to choose a theme or issue and then look for a symbol that represents it. On the other hand, if you have an interesting image (a red scarf, a snow globe), you might find a way to turn it into a meaningful symbol.
Variations: Choose one symbol and write a list of ways it can be used throughout a story. For example, a white rabbit in a story could appear in a pet store. It could be somebody’s pet. It could be in a science lab. It could be part of a magic show. Make sure you don’t give the symbol more importance than the plot or characters. A symbol is present to add depth and give the story greater meaning. It’s an accent to the story, not the central focus of it.
Applications: Symbols enrich a piece of writing, adding layers to the themes and meaning of the piece.
Setting is one of the most important elements in fiction writing. If your readers don’t know where the story is taking place, they’ll get lost and confused, and it will be hard for them to enjoy your tale.
Some stories have simple settings based on real places. You can use your hometown or a major city. A setting can also be completely dreamed up, which is often necessary in speculative fiction writing (Wonderland and Never Land, for example). You can keep a setting in the background, referring to it only when necessary, or you can bring it to the forefront and allow it to function as a character in your story.
Some authors go to great lengths to take the reader through a story’s setting. Just last year, I read a book in which the character drove around Los Angeles. The author took us down L.A. streets, past parks, and into real neighborhoods and establishments. It was a bit much, but I’m pretty sure if I were a resident of L.A., I would have gotten a little thrill out of the familiarity.
Today, we’ll take a deeper look at setting with a few fiction writing exercises designed to help you establish the settings in your story.
Fiction Writing Exercises: Place and Time
There are two sides to setting: place and time. If you’re writing a contemporary novel, the time in which your story is set is relatively straightforward. However, if you’re writing historical fiction, futuristic fiction, or a story that includes time travel, you’ll need to make sure readers always know what time it is.
Setting it Up
For this exercise, you will choose several settings and write short, opening descriptions that tell the reader when and where the action is taking place. Contemporary readers aren’t crazy about lengthy descriptions, so keep it simple: a couple of sentences or a short paragraph of description will suffice. Here are a few prompts to help you get started:
- A ghost town in the wild old west.
- A contemporary metropolis.
- A medieval household.
- A made-up fantasy land.
- Aboard a vessel, such as a spaceship, in the far-off future.
Setting as Backdrop: Too Much vs. Not Enough
For this exercise, you’ll write a short scene that kicks off the story and establishes the setting. Instead of presenting a snapshot of the landscape before moving into your story, you can bring readers right into the setting by combining the setting’s description with action and by using active language rather than passive:
- Instead of describing busy streets packed with shoppers, explain that shoppers coursed through the streets like rats in a maze.
- You can bring characters into the setting: Kate craned her neck and spied a tiny patch of sky amidst the towering skyscrapers.
- In establishing time, you can simply state the date (the year was 2012) or you can place something in the setting that identifies the era: A brand new 2012 Porche sped by and Kate whirled on her heels just in time to see it disappear around the corner of Lexington.
Setting as Character
Places that have a life of their own are hugely popular. Many science fiction and fantasy stories are set in places that function as characters: the U.S.S. Enterprise from Star Trek and Pandora from Avatar are two good examples. But cities, towns, and rural landscapes can also have personality. For example, New York has been called the fifth main character in Sex and the City. Houses, vehicles, cities, planets, nations, and rooms can all have personalities of their own.
For this exercise, write a character sketch for a place. Make a list of its traits: personality, style, attitude, class, and philosophy. Is it relaxed and laid back or dark and dangerous? Does it swallow people or lift them up? Is it friendly to newcomers or is it exclusive?
If you’re inclined, go ahead a write a scene or outline to show off your setting’s personality. Remember, however, that just because the setting is functioning as a character doesn’t mean it is the protagonist or antagonist. It can be a minor character and still be largely the backdrop (rather than forefront). Make sure you keep the focus of the story on the plot and characters.
How Do You Approach Setting?
Some writers may not think much about setting. They know exactly where their story takes place and the setting emerges naturally through the writing. But sometimes, a poorly established setting is unclear or confusing. Do you pay heed to setting? Do you work it out before you start your first draft? If you know of any other great fiction writing exercises that focus on setting, be sure to share them in the comments. And keep writing!
Are you looking for more fiction writing exercises? Pick up a copy of 101 Creative Writing Exercises, available in paperback and ebook.
Good fiction is comprised of many parts: plot, characters, setting, scenes, and dialogue. But we rarely talk about theme, even though it’s critical to good storytelling.
There’s no clear and easy way to define theme. It has been called the worldview, philosophy, message, moral, and lesson within a story. However, these labels, taken alone or together, don’t quite explain theme in fiction.
We can think of a theme as an underlying principle or concept. It’s usually universal in nature. Some common themes include redemption, sacrifice, betrayal, loyalty, greed, justice, oppression, revenge, and love.
Themes can be philosophical and they can ask questions or pit two ideas against each other: science vs. faith, good vs. evil, why are we here, and what happens when we die?
Themes in Storytelling
You need look no further than some of your favorite stories to explore and identify themes. Keep in mind that most stories have multiple themes. For example, in Harry Potter, I would say the most significant themes are love and good vs. evil. However, there are also themes of friendship, sacrifice, and redemption. One theme might stretch across an entire series while other themes appear at the novel or chapter level.
And themes are not unique to fictional literature. Any form of storytelling can (and should) contain thematic elements, including movies, television shows, songs, and poetry. Themes will also be present in nonfiction and in some cases, will drive a work of nonfiction, whether it is a memoir or documentary. For example, a documentary about the lives of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton will focus on the theme of justice in the context of a woman’s right to vote. Such a documentary won’t look closely at their personal lives but will focus on their founding of the women’s suffrage movement, keeping to the theme.
Today’s fiction writing exercises encourage you to explore theme by identifying it in some of your favorite stories.
Fiction Writing Exercises: Exploring and Developing Theme
Once you understand theme and have learned to identify it, you can start bringing it into your own work. There’s a good chance that themes will manifest even if you don’t put any special effort into theme development. Themes are so closely tied to human nature that it’s almost impossible to tell a story without a theme of some kind. But if you approach theme with intent (even vague intent), your work will have greater depth and meaning.
Exercise 1: Study in Themes
If you and I both watch the film Titanic, we might identify different themes in the film. I might identify social class as a theme and you might say that freedom is a theme. In this case, we’d both be right. For this exercise, you will choose one of your favorite stories and identify its themes.
- Choose a favorite book, movie, or television show (for a TV show, you should just choose one episode). Make a list of all the themes you can identify in the story. Try to find 5-10 themes. Go over your list a few times to make sure you’re identifying themes (big, sweeping concepts) rather than conflicts or plot twists.
- Next, determine one key theme that is woven through the entire story. You might find there are two or three major themes. List them all but choose just one to explore in the next step.
- Now, explain how the storyteller presented this theme through plot, character, and scenes. Make a list of events and situations from the story that embody the theme.
As an alternative, choose one of your completed poems, stories, or essays. The exercise will work better with a story, but poetry and essays will do. Now, go through the steps above to list all the themes in your piece, identify the main theme(s), and examine how you executed the themes. If you’re already working on a story, try to identify a few themes that are appearing in your work and elaborate on them. Look for ways to integrate the theme with your plot and ask how your main conflict can be connected with a primary theme.
Exercise 2: Starting from Theme
Choose three themes and for each, sketch ideas for how you could make the theme manifest through character, plot, or scenes. Example: A thieving woman is fired because a co-worker reported her for stealing. Instead of accepting responsibility, she blames the co-worker and frames him so he gets fired too, even though he is innocent. (The theme is revenge.)
Exercise 3: Theme Master
Now that you’ve learned how to identify themes and integrate theme in your own work, make a master list of themes that can be used in storytelling. Whenever you come across an interesting theme, add it to the list. Then, you can refer back to it when you need a theme for one of your writing projects.
A Few Final Tips for Bringing Themes into Your Writing
Theme is not cut and dry and it shouldn’t be overly obvious. If you’re working on a theme involving sacrifice, you don’t want to have your characters making sacrifices in every chapter. Theme works best when it’s subtle.
Since themes can contain messages and morals, make a conscious effort not to force your personal beliefs and values onto your readers. There’s a difference between making a statement and being preachy. Most readers don’t like novels that preach at them. In fact, some themes work best when they work as questions and the reader gets to experience contrary viewpoints. For example, we all accept that stealing is wrong, but we feel differently about it when it’s done by a small child who is starving.
Finally, have fun with theme. You can go through your outline and make notes about where themes are addressed. Or, you can look for opportunities in your story where theme would be appropriate. You can do these exercises over and over for various stories in order to get a good handle on theme so that you can use it to enrich your own writing. You might also use the Internet to look for other people’s ideas about theme for any given story.
Let’s Talk Theme
How do you approach theme in storytelling? Do you purposefully develop themes or do you let them happen naturally? Did you find today’s fiction writing exercises helpful in understanding and exploring theme? Got any theme-related resources or ideas to share? Leave a comment!
And keep writing.
Are you looking for more fiction writing exercises? Pick up a copy of 101 Creative Writing Exercises, available in paperback and ebook.
Art Begets Art
A compelling story speaks to us much the same way that music does, communicating thoughts, feelings, and ideas in ways that go beyond concrete language.
A click takes place within the psyche. When you hear a song or read a story that resonates in this manner, you connect with it on a deep level. It almost feels like the author or songwriter was speaking for you, about you, or to you.
Some say that truly great art communicates directly with the subconscious. That’s why the arts coexist so naturally. Where you find a buzzing music scene, you can be sure a booming literary crowd is nearby. And where filmmakers toil with scripts and cameras, you can bet dancers aren’t too far off.
Creativity breeds creativity and we are like magnets, drawn not just into our own passion, but those that complement and support our passions. Music, film, and art all enrich and inform one another. So do the musicians, filmmakers, artists, and of course, writers.
Fiction Writing Exercises
Some people say that everything has been written, every story told. But that’s not true. There’s always another angle, a different perspective that can be taken. And writers have all the tools they need to grab that perspective and run with it. You just need a starting point, and these fiction writing exercises can help you find it. Try starting with a song.
Before you get started, here are a couple of tips to help you work through these exercises:
- Make sure you aren’t familiar with the song’s video or that you don’t rewrite the video treatment.
- Pick a song you like, something you can tolerate listening to several times over. In fact the more you enjoy the song, the greater the chance you’ll have fun with this experiment.
Exercise 1: A Story for a Song
Some of the greatest stories of all time have been told through song. Remember Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee?” John Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane?” What about Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff?” Each of these songs tells a clear and distinct story.
Choose a song that tells a clear story and write the story behind it. This is kind of like traveling backward and trying to find those one thousand words that represent the value of a picture.
Exercise 2: Ambiguous Tales
On the flip side, we have ambiguous lyrics, like “Hotel California,” by the Eagles or “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M. Tunes like these have inspired lively debates that ask, what are these songs about, anyway? And if we don’t know what the songs are about, why do they succeed at speaking to us? How do they become enormous hits that cross genre lines?
Choose a song that tells a vague story and write about what really happened. Your goal is to take a hazy story and make it clear.
Exercise 3: Who Needs Lyrics?
This is the biggest challenge of all: choose a piece of instrumental music (with no lyrics) and find the story in the melody, harmony, and rhythm.
Music and Fiction Writing Exercises
Throughout history, great artists have collaborated and mixed mediums and media to come up with fresh takes on ancient truths. These fiction writing exercises provide a new source for inspiration, get you working in collaboration with other artists (musicians), and give you creative license to put a new spin on something that’s been around for a while.
You can write a paragraph, a few pages, or an entire novel. You could also write a script for film or stage. If you’re strapped for time, just write an outline or a few character sketches. And if you don’t feel like writing it down, just work it out in your head. Find the connection between music and storytelling and let it capture your imagination.
If you have any fiction writing exercises to share, feel free to post them in the comments.
These fiction writing exercises are designed to help fiction writers shave away the fluff and reveal the bare bones of a piece of fiction.
We’ll start with one exercise that will help you assess the core structure of a story and then explore a few bonus flash fiction writing exercises that are good for developing concise writing skills.
What is Flash Fiction?
Flash fiction is a short story that is extremely brief. There is no official word limit, but generally, stories with less than 1000-2000 words would fall under the flash category.
Fiction Writing Exercises and Flash Fiction
Many writers have a habit of using gratuitous words and phrases in order to meet a word count, make a piece sound more rhythmic, or enhance descriptive passages. Often, such words hinder a story because they leave less to the reader’s imagination. Other times, there is so much description that the plot and characters get lost in the fray.
Fiction writing exercises like the one below will help you pinpoint areas where excessive wording is creating a problem. In addition, it will peel away the layers of your story, revealing its core. Plus, it’s a very simple exercise and can be completed rather quickly.
Flash Your Fiction
Select a short story you’ve written that is either completed or near completion. Try to choose one that is about ten pages long. You can do this exercise with an entire manuscript, or with a story that is just a couple of pages long, but ten pages is good to start with.
First, save the file with a new name so you don’t lose your original work. Go through the piece removing every single adjective and adverb. Next, remove words, phrases, and sentences that do not move the action of the story forward, especially if they are solely there for description.
Finally, go through the story one last time removing as much as you can without making the piece unintelligible. A traditional example is:
Boy meets girl. Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy wins girl back.
Of course, this is an oversimplified example, but it gives you an idea of just how much a story can be broken down into its basic movements.
More Flash Fiction Writing Exercises
If you don’t have any pieces that you feel are appropriate for this exercise, if you want to try something a little different, or if you just want to do more flash fiction writing exercises, here are a few projects you can tackle:
- Write a piece of flash fiction from scratch and try to keep it under 1000 words. If you really want to push yourself, aim for less than 500 words. It’s harder than it sounds!
- Instead of rewriting an entire piece, turn a scene or a chapter into a flash fiction story.
- Turn movies, novels, and other story sources into flash fiction writing exercises. Take the plot from a movie or book that you like and try to write it as a piece of flash fiction.
This exercise can be a lot of fun and it’s extremely eye-opening when you realize just how many unnecessary words we pack into our writing. It’s also interesting to see the skeleton of a story after stripping away its excess.
Are You Up For It?
Have you ever written flash fiction? Do you aim for concise writing? Got any fiction writing exercises of your own to share? Leave a comment, and keep writing.
Fiction writing exercises help improve your writing by challenging you, providing you with fresh ideas, and forcing you to approach fiction writing from new angles.
This is a flexible writing exercise that could also be called Change the Tale. But in this exercise, we’re going to change the tale by changing the tail.
The idea is to take an existing plot and change the ending to make it completely different. This will help you understand the basics of story structure, particularly the part where you bring the story to a close.
Take the tail end off a story, right after the climax, and change it to something else. Choose a story from a book, magazine, newspaper, or film, and change the ending!
Changing the Tails on Tales
Here are a few idea starters:
Gone with the Wind - What if Rhett Butler hadn’t walked away?
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest - Without the lobotomy?
Titanic (movie) – What if the opposite characters had lived and died?
Try this with any of the Star Wars movies (I dare you!), or a Shakespeare play. Try it with a Dr. Seuss book or try it with War and Peace. Dip into nonfiction and try it with world history. What would life be like if World War II had gone the other way? What if a different candidate had won a major election (i.e. what if we’d had a different U.S. president in 2001?)?
Or just try it with the last book you read.
- You can flesh out a completely new ending for the story you chose by writing a polished piece or you can simply jot down some notes or an outline that explain how your new ending will differ from the original.
- Write a few sentences about how your new ending might affect the integrity of the piece or how a different ending might have changed the world. Would Romeo and Juliet be the classic that it is today if the two star-crossed lovers had lived? How would that have changed our culture, the literary canon, or the way the most compelling and moving stories throughout history have been viewed and received?
- Turn this exercise on its head and change the opening of the story. Make the hero and villain switch places. Tell the story from a different character’s point of view.
Which story ending will you change? You can pick one that you didn’t like much and fix it by giving it a better ending or choose a story with an ending you loved–just to see what a different outcome would have been like.
Fiction writing exercises are supposed to be fun and challenging, so tackle this with a light heart and a focused mind. And keep writing!
If you have any fiction writing exercises to share, feel free to post them in the comments.
Fiction writing exercises, and prompts in particular, are a great way to jump-start your creativity when you’re in the mood to do a little creative writing but need some fresh story ideas.
Fiction writing exercises and other creative writing prompts can inspire new writing projects by triggering your imagination. Sometimes, prompts and exercises help you come up with new ideas for projects you’re already working on and other times, they give you ideas for projects you haven’t started yet.
Here are some ways you can use these ten fiction writing exercises and prompts:
- Start the first sentence of your piece with one of the creative writing prompts and run with it.
- Write a story that includes one of these prompts somewhere in the text.
- Plan your story around a prompt but don’t include the actual prompt anywhere in the story.
- Use the prompt as your final sentence and build up to it.
- Alter any of the prompts to your liking and then use any of the suggestions above to write a story.
Bonus challenge: Write a story that includes each and every one of the ten prompts below. That would be quite a feat!
10 Prompts for Fiction Writing Exercises:
- She rolled over and felt her body push up against something hard.
- My wife disappeared on August 28, 1998.
- Sonny jumped up against the chain-link fence, wagging his tail furiously.
- Mom says it happens to all girls, but I think she’s just trying to make me feel normal.
- I’ve been to nine planets in twelve years and it’s starting to show.
- They say Old Weezie’s been reading palms out of her run-down shack for a hundred years or more.
- Acronyms give me a headache in general, but PBRT gives me a migraine.
- Ashley stared at the fruit, so lost in amazement that she didn’t think to comment on its size.
- Every day the sun comes up and every night it goes down again.
- When the elven guard put out a call to action, their plea went unheard and what followed was sheer terror.
If you decide to use any of these fiction writing exercises, feel free to post excerpts in the comments section and if you post a story on your blog, do come back and leave a link. Happy writing!
Are you looking for more fiction writing exercises? Pick up a copy of 101 Creative Writing Exercises, available in paperback and ebook.