Today’s post comes from my book 101 Creative Writing Exercises. This is from “Chapter 5: Fiction.” Let’s take a look at symbolism in 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. Read More
Today’s creative writing exercise comes from my book, 101 Creative Writing Exercises, which takes you on a adventure through various forms of creative writing: fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction.
This exercise is called “Everyone Has an Opinion,” and it’s from “Chapter 9: Philosophy, Critical Thinking, and Problem Solving.”
Enjoy! Read More
101 Creative Writing Exercises takes you on an adventure through the world of creative writing. You get to experiment with fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction while learning useful writing techniques.
Today I’d like to share one of the exercises from the book. This is from “Chapter 3: People and Characters.” The exercise is titled “People are People,” and it offers tips and ideas for writing about people — real or imagined.
Writing About People
People and characters are among the most important elements in a piece of writing. In nonfiction, you need to treat subjects fairly, and in fiction, you need to make your characters believable.
To create the effect that a character, a made-up person, is real, a writer must have a deep understanding of people. What motivates them? What are their fears? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
Writing about real people presents its own set of challenges. If you’re writing about someone whom you adore or respect, how do you deal with their flaws, mistakes, and weaknesses? If you are writing about someone you despise, how do you treat them fairly or objectively?
When you’re telling someone else’s story, you take on a huge responsibility. Whether the people you write about are real or imagined, it’s a tough job.
Choose a real person and write a short story from that person’s life. This piece will be nonfiction, written in third person. Your mission is to tell a story rather than write a biographical piece. Use the prompts below if you need ideas:
- Some relationships are complicated: siblings who don’t speak to each other, couples who sleep in separate rooms, exes who still come to holiday dinners.
- Choose a celebrity or historical figure to write about. It can be someone living or dead. Do a little research about the person and then write a short piece telling a part of his or her story.
- There’s always a bad apple in the barrel: the bully on the playground, the snitch in the office, and the drama queen who stirs up trouble at every opportunity. They have stories, too!
- Authority figures: parents, bosses, and government officials. You know them; they’re in charge of the world. What’s their story?
- Bonus: for this prompt, you get to mix in a little fiction. Everybody loves a mysterious stranger. The cute barista. The handsome doctor. The eccentric woman who sits on the park bench every Thursday afternoon. Think of an interesting stranger you’ve seen around and concoct his or her story.
Tips: To add realism to your story, use dialogue, mannerisms, and gestures. Don’t spend too much time on physical descriptions; a few, choice details will suffice. Focus on revealing the inner conflict and struggles of your subjects through their words and actions.
Variations: Instead of writing a nonfiction piece, write fiction, but use a real person as inspiration for your main character.
Applications: If you can tell a good story about someone, you can probably get it published, whether it’s fiction or not.
Today’s writing exercise is an excerpt from 101 Creative Writing Exercises, a book packed with creative writing exercises and ideas. This exercise comes from chapter 2, “It’s Personal,” and it’s called “Writer, Know Thyself.” Enjoy!
Writer, Know Thyself
This exercise asks you to look in the mirror and ask yourself a critical question:
Why do I write?
There are many forces that drive writers to the page. Some do it for love, for creative expression, or because writing is simply something they must do, a compulsion. Others do it for riches, prestige, or to make a living.
It’s not easy to succeed as a writer. Most writers have day jobs and write during their free time, chipping away at novels, drafting essays, or penning articles, short stories, and poems. They spend their evenings polishing their work, and they spend their weekends submitting it to agents and editors. Some plan to self-publish. Many already have.
Writing professionally requires an immense amount of self-discipline, because in the early years, you’re hustling. Trying to land gigs. Building up clips.
On top of self-discipline, writers are competing in a field that’s saturated with dreamers and overrun with talent. Creativity is fleeting; gigs are scarce. Far too many novels end up half-finished and buried in a bottom drawer.
For those who intend to succeed, finish that novel, get that poem published, or earn a living wage as a freelance writer, staying focused is imperative.
Those who succeed are not the most talented or the smartest. They are the ones who refuse to give up. They have good writing habits; they are focused and motivated and consistently work toward their goals.
As a writer, it’s important to know where you are in relation to your goals.
This exercise presents a series of questions about your goals and motivations as a writer. Your job is simple: Write a short paragraph to answer each question. Keep your answers concise and try not to go off on tangents.
You can revisit this exercise at least once a year to see how you’re progressing, to stay focused and motivated, and to remember why you write.
- What do you write, or what do you want to write? Think about form (fiction, poetry, memoir, etc.) and genre (literary, speculative, romance). Be specific.
- How often and how much do you write? Ask yourself whether you have enough time to write and whether you could make more time for your writing.
- What are your top three goals as a writer?
- Why are these three goals important to you?
- What is your five-year career plan as a writer? What do you need to do over the next five years to achieve one (or all) of your top three goals?
- In the past year, what have you accomplished in working toward your goals?
- What can you do over the next year to move closer to your top three goals and your five-year career plan?
Tips: Keep your goals separate and specific. If you want to publish a novel through legacy (traditional) publishing, you don’t need an additional goal of getting an agent. Getting an agent is implied in the greater goal of legacy publishing.
If you have more than three goals, then list up to ten, but highlight your top three priorities.
If you’re not sure what your goals are, then make goal-setting a goal. Give yourself some time to set goals (a few weeks or months).
Variations: Instead of answering all the questions in a single session, you can spread them out and answer one question a day. While concise answers will be the clearest, the first time you do this exercise, you might want to write a full-page response to each question. You can also use these questions as journal prompts and write your answers in your daily journal.
Applications: These questions help you clarify your intentions. When you know what you want to accomplish, it becomes easier to attain. In addition, articulating your goals ensures that you can discuss them intelligibly, which comes in handy when submitting query letters, in meetings and interviews, and in discussions with other writers and professionals in the publishing industry.
Here’s an excerpt from 101 Creative Writing Exercises, a book that takes writers on an inspired journey through different forms and genres of writing while offering comprehensive writing techniques, practical experience, and ideas for publishable projects.
Each chapter focuses on a different form or concept: freewriting, journaling, fiction, poetry, creativity, and article writing are all covered.
Today, we’ll take a peek at “Chapter 10: Article and Blog Writing” with an exercise called “You’re the Expert.” Enjoy!
You’re the Expert
You know a little bit about a lot of things, but there are a few things you know a lot about. And knowledge is power.
One of the traditional duties of a writer is to collect and redistribute knowledge and information. After all, writers are responsible for textbooks, instruction manuals, and reference collections, like encyclopedias.
The Internet has made this type of material more accessible than ever before. People no longer have to trudge to the library or buy expensive sets of encyclopedias (which quickly become outdated) to research and learn. They just log in and look it up.
Choose something you know a lot about. In fact, choose the one thing you know the most about. It could a subject you studied in school. It could be a video game you’ve played for countless hours. It could be something simple, like the parts of speech in the English language, or it could be something complicated, like how photosynthesis works. Write an informative article explaining this thing to a layperson — someone with zero experience or knowledge about the topic.
Tips: Assume your reader is ignorant about the subject. If you’re doing a piece on photosynthesis, assume your reader doesn’t know what carbon dioxide is. If you’re doing a complex piece, break it down into simple steps and definitions.
Variations: If you’d rather not get into the nitty gritty about your subject matter, write a statement explaining your own expertise. Why are you qualified to write about photosynthesis?
Applications: Many writers have built careers around writing about what they know best or what they can research and explain to readers.
Don’t forget to pick up a copy of 101 Creative Writing Exercises, available in paperback and ebook.
Today, I’d like to share a fun exercise from my book 101 Creative Writing Exercises, which is packed with writing exercises that encourage you to explore different forms and genres while you discover useful writing techniques. You’ll find plenty of inspiration throughout the book with ideas for projects you can eventually publish.
Today’s exercise is from chapter 11, “Creativity.” It’s called “What’s Your Superpower?” Enjoy!
What’s Your Superpower?
What if you could fly or make yourself invisible? What if you could heal with a touch or read minds? Superpowers like these are the stuff of science fiction.
Savants and prodigies are superheroes in their own rights, and they exist in the real world.
A prodigy is someone (often a young child) with an extraordinary talent or ability: a twelve-year-old college graduate or a fifteen-year-old Nobel Prize contender.
A savant is someone who is an expert whereas someone with savant syndrome (savantism) is a person with a developmental disability who also has superhuman expertise, ability, or brilliance in a particular area.
Prodigies and savants are real-world superheroes!
Create a new superpower. Write a clear description of it, and make sure you include the following:
- Explain how the superpower is obtained.
- Anyone with that superpower also has a specific weakness (like Superman’s kryptonite).
- Describe how someone might use this superpower for good or evil.
If you’re so inclined, create a character who possesses this power and write a story about it.
Tips: Stay away from overdone powers like flight, invisibility, and super strength. Avoid psychic powers like telepathy and telekinesis. Think up something fresh: for example, someone who can breathe in outer space.
Variations: If science fiction isn’t your thing or if you’re tired of superheroes, then come up with a character who is a prodigy or who has savantism.
Applications: Many stories, both real and fictional, feature ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. In this exercise, you flip convention on its head and create a character who is extraordinary. How does an extraordinary person fit into the ordinary world?
Don’t forget to pick up a copy of 101 Creative Writing Exercises, available in paperback and ebook.
101 Creative Writing Exercises is a collection of creative writing exercises that takes writers on a journey through different forms and genres while providing writing techniques, practice, and inspiration.
Each exercise teaches a specific concept, and each chapter focuses on a different subject or form of writing: journaling, storytelling, fiction, poetry, article writing, and more. Every exercise is designed to be practical. In other words, you can use these exercises to launch projects that are destined for publication.
Today, I’d like to share one of my favorite exercises from the book. This is from “Chapter 4: Speak Up,” which focuses on dialogue and scripts. The exercise is called “Body Language.” Enjoy!
Sometimes what people say without actually speaking tells us a whole lot more than what comes out of their mouths. Using body language to communicate is natural. We all understand it intuitively—some better than others.
As a writer, you can closely observe people’s body language and learn how humans speak without words so you can bring unspoken communication into your writing.
Imagine two characters, a man and woman, who are complete strangers. They are in a bookstore. Their eyes meet across the room. You wouldn’t write “Their eyes locked. They were instantly attracted to each other.” That would be boring and unimaginative. Instead, you would let the scene unfold and describe it to the reader—how their eyes met, how he gulped and she blushed, how they both suddenly felt warm, how the two of them slowly worked their way toward the center of the store until they finally met in the horror section.
Write a scene between two (or more) characters in which there is no dialogue but the characters are communicating with each other through body language. You can also write a nonfiction piece. Surely you have experienced nonverbal communication. Take that experience and describe it on the page.
Your scene can be a lead-in to two characters meeting or conversing. The scene should comprise at least two pages of non-dialogue interaction with two or more characters. Here are a few scene starters:
- A cop, detective, or private investigator is tailing a suspect through a small town, a big city, a mall, amusement park, or other public area.
- Strangers are always good for body language exercises. Think about where strangers are brought together: public transportation, classes, elevators, and formal meetings.
- Kids in a classroom aren’t supposed to be speaking while a teacher is giving a lecture, but they always find ways to communicate.
Tips: What if one character misinterprets another character’s body language? That could lead to humor or disaster. Maybe the characters are supposed to be doing something else (like in a classroom where they’re supposed to be listening to the teacher) but instead, they’re making faces and gestures at each other. One helpful technique might be to go inside the characters’ heads, but don’t get too carried away with he thought and she wondered as these constructs are basically inner dialogue.
Variations: As an alternative, write a scene in which one character speaks and one doesn’t: an adult and a baby, a human and an animal.
Applications: There are depictions of nonverbal communication in almost all types of storytelling from journalism and biography to memoir and fiction.
Today I’d like to share an excerpt from 101 Creative Writing Exercises, a book that encourages you to experiment with different forms and genres of writing while providing inspiration for publishable projects and imparting useful writing techniques that make your writing more robust.
This exercise is from “Chapter 8: Free Verse.” It’s titled “Alliteration and Assonance.” It explores two literary devices that will make your writing more rhythmic and memorable. Enjoy!
Alliteration and Assonance
Developing a vocabulary of poetry terms and literary devices will help you better understand the writing techniques and tools that are at your disposal. It may not occur to you that you can build rhythm by repeating consonant sounds. When you know the meaning of alliteration, then this idea is more likely to influence your work.
Poetry terms, such as alliteration and assonance, show us how clever, creative word arrangements add musicality to any piece of writing, making it more compelling and memorable. These terms and the concepts they represent apply to all types of writing, not just poetry.
Alliteration is the repetition of the initial consonant sounds of words in close proximity to one another. Examples of alliteration include black and blue, we walk, and time after time.
In some cases, alliteration is used to refer to any repeated consonant sounds, even if they don’t occur at the beginning of words. An example of this would be “blue notebook,” where the b sound is repeated at the beginning of blue and in the middle of notebook.
Alliteration might also be used to describe the repetition of a consonant sound nestled in the middle or even at the end of words. Blueberry, for example, contains alliteration within a single word.
Assonance is similar to alliteration, except it deals exclusively with vowel sounds. Assonance occurs when accented vowel sounds are repeated in proximity:
Assonance allows literary writers to create fun phrases.
In the example phrase above, there are several runs of assonance. The opening a sounds in the words assonance and allows demonstrate one run of assonance. This run is marked with underlining. A second run is marked with bold lettering and occurs with the a sounds in create and phrases. Can you find a third run of assonance in the sentence?
Assonance often evokes a sense of rhyme without serving up a direct or technical rhyme. The phrase “fancy pants” is an example of this.
So, how are alliteration and assonance used for effect? Well, think about repetition in general. When you repeat something over and over, it becomes embedded in memory. Alliteration and assonance work the same way. If used correctly, these devices enhance the rhythm of a piece, making it more memorable.
Go through a piece of writing (your own or someone else’s) and look for instances of assonance and alliteration.
The material you work with can be poetry, fiction, a journal entry, or a blog post. Any form of writing will do.
Mark the runs of assonance and alliteration with bold, underlining, italics, or highlighting. When you’re done, read the piece aloud to get the full effect.
Tips: Double-check the runs you’ve identified for assonance to make sure they mark stressed (or accented) syllables. Watch out for sounds that are different but use the same letter (such as the a sounds in cat and cape).
Variations: As an alternative to identifying alliteration and assonance in a piece of writing, try writing a short piece with several runs in it. Or revise a page from an existing writing project to inject alliteration and assonance into it.
Applications: Musicality and repetition enrich any piece of writing. Too often, writers focus on content and not language. The study of poetry, poetry terms, and literary devices like alliteration and assonance reminds us to work on our language, word choice, and sentence structure.
Today, I’m sharing an excerpt from my book, 101 Creative Writing Exercises. It’s packed with writing exercises that are designed to help you explore all forms of creative writing: fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. The book will inspire you while imparting useful writing techniques that are fun and practical.
This exercise comes from “Chapter 2: It’s Personal.” The writing exercises in this chapter focus on writing of a personal nature: memoir, journal writing, and personal essays.
I chose this exercise because it’s challenging and fun. It asks you to look at your own life from a fresh perspective and make yourself the subject of a news report.
Give it a try! Then come back and tell us what you learned and how this exercise worked for you.
Is your life newsworthy? Have you ever witnessed, committed, or been the victim of a crime? Have you ever participated in a protest or a performance? Have you ever had an odd or unusual (paranormal or supernatural) experience?
Traditional and professional journalism is concise and factual. It adheres to a set of journalistic ethics, focusing on the facts and details of the story and presenting those facts thoroughly and honestly. True journalism is objective. The ethical journalist does not inject his or her feelings or opinions.
But journalists are human. The news media in general is increasingly accused of using a variety of creative tactics to spin the news in favor of their own religious, political, or philosophical beliefs. For example, in a report, a journalist should not badmouth a suspected criminal, but that journalist can include a quote from a witness who has badmouthed the criminal while intentionally not including a positive quote from some other witness.
Journalists can pick and choose quotes, facts, and even which stories to report.
When you think about the fact that journalists and reporters are responsible for feeding us information about what’s going on in the world and then consider that they are mere human beings, flawed, emotional, and opinionated just like the rest of us, you can only begin to imagine and wonder just how spun all the news actually is.
Your challenge is to revisit your past and write a news report about something you experienced firsthand.
The rules are simple: straight journalism. What does that mean? True journalists are not allowed to include personal emotion or opinion in their writing. Be as objective as possible. Don’t take sides!
Write about the event or incident as if you are a journalist looking in on your own story from the outside. Make sure you include a headline that will attract readers’ attention.
Tips: To get a feeling for how journalism is written (its tone and style), visit a reputable news site and read a few articles.
Variations: Instead of reporting on a story, write a paparazzi piece. Were you spotted while out on a hot date? If you’re at a loss for subject matter, get creative and write a fictional news story; make up something or change something from your past or better yet, write a news story from your future (maybe you win the Pulitzer Prize in ten years).
Applications: The most obvious application is that you could, someday, become a journalist. Journalism in general is an objective style of writing (at least, it’s supposed to be), and this is a style that is difficult to achieve. This exercise encourages you to write about something you care about but to refrain from including your feelings or personal views.
101 Creative Writing Exercises takes writers on an adventure through the world of creative writing.
The book is packed with writing exercises that are fun and practical. Not only will these exercises inspire you, they’ll impart helpful writing techniques and offer valuable writing practice.
Try your hand at fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction, including freewriting, journaling, memoir, and article writing.
Today, I’d like to share an exercise from 101 Creative Writing Exercises. From “Chapter 10: Article and Blog Writing,” this creative writing exercise is called “Titles and Headlines.”
Titles and Headlines
A title or headline is the first point of contact that a reader will have with your writing. It’s your introduction, a chance to entice and intrigue readers so they want to buy your book or read your article. An effective title piques a reader’s curiosity and provides some idea of what the piece is about.
Some authors use titles as part of their brand. Sue Grafton is working her way through the alphabet with her Kinsey Millhone series (A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, etc.). Many romance novelists use words like kiss, love, or dance in their titles. In the sci-fi realm, anything associated with space is fair game: galaxy, universe, Mars, and stars. And a well placed mythological term, such as dragon or wizard clearly marks a fantasy novel.
In addition to book titles, many authors have a separate title for a series. This allows the author to use two different titles on a single piece of work. New readers will be drawn in by the book title while existing fans will gravitate toward the series title.
In poetry, titles can be more abstract. A poem’s title may seem irrelevant to the poem. Many poets take a word or phrase from the poem and use it as a title. Others will use a title that functions as part of the poem. The best poem titles evoke an image and give the reader an indication of what the poem will feel like.
Magazines use headlines prominently displayed on the front cover to entice customers. Newspapers use them to draw readers into a story, and bloggers, as many of you know, use headlines to generate buzz, links, and tweets.
Choose one of your writing projects or ideas and make a list of possible titles. Don’t run off a quick list. Take some time to contemplate each title and consider how it will resonate with readers and impact your project’s success. Make sure the titles and headlines you write represent the piece accurately. Avoid labels, words, and phrases that are misleading.
Tips: Look to some successful works by authors you admire to get ideas for titles. Peruse magazines, newspapers, and blogs for headline ideas.
Variations: If you don’t have any writing projects that need titles, then make a list of alternative titles for some of your favorite books, magazines, movies, TV shows, articles, and poems.
Applications: Every piece of writing has to be titled, and a title or headline is essential in selling the piece to its audience. Developing catchy, intriguing titles is an essential writing skill.