About six months ago, we made a post called Nineteen Exercises. People seemed to like it, so here’s a list of nineteen more. For those of you who missed the first list and aren’t going to read the introductory material there (even though we linked to it), here it is again:
Note: Some of these exercises will produce bad writing. That’s fine. These are not guidelines of things you should do to every (or any) piece you write. They are just nifty little activities to try.
Writers fall into habits. We use the same words over and over, or repeat the same techniques. These exercises are designed to push you to strain your fiction, style, and vocabulary so that the habits die. Feel free to adjust to exercises to fit your needs, but don’t feel free to cheat. Some of these are hard, and they’re hard for a reason.
Not reading the introductory material here would have been a serious mistake on your part. So let’s assume you did. Here we go:
- Eavesdrop on a conversation. Write it out verbatim as it happens (this is hard–don’t sweat it if you fall a bit behind). Turn that into dialogue you think you would actually find in a word of fiction.
- Eliminate your main character.
- Eliminate emotion words (“happy,” “angry,”) etc., and all “I feel” (and similar) statements in narration and dialogue. Get emotion across anyway.
- Replace every verb (except “to be”) with a synonym. Do not use a thesaurus.
- Change the loyalty of your main supporting character.
- Eliminate all dialogue.
- Eliminate all narration.
- Recreate a short story from memory. Essentially, write a second draft without referring to your first draft. Accuracy is the opposite of important here.
- Tell one story a bunch of different times, using a different third-person narrator each time. Try to get at least three versions.
- Describe something you see every day: a storefront, a bus, whatever. Describe it in as much detail as possible. Go back to it with your notes and see what you missed.
- Rewrite a story such that no two consecutive sentences start with the sentence’s subject.
- Figure out which character in your story does the least amount of stuff. Summarize the events of the story in that character’s voice with that character’s commentary.
- Rewrite whatever you’re writing (be it a poem, story, whatever), as another kind of thing (a screenplay, letter, whatever).
- Recall somewhere you have visited but have not lived. Put a character there and have this character walk around and describe stuff–and not just visually.
- Take the characters (that you created) from one story and put them in a completely different story.
- Completely adjust the structure of your story. If it is linear, fragment it. If it is fragmented, make it linear. If it’s epistolary, make it un-epistolary. Do something weird.
- Eliminate ten percent of the content from each page of a story.
- Introduce an irrelevant scene into a story and justify its inclusion.
- Think about a kind of problem you’ve never had. Maybe you’ve never had your heart broken or had something really big fall apart. Write a story where that happens.
Let us know if you have any questions about these prompts or writing in general. If you want us to read something you wrote, tag it with writeworld, and we’ll be sure to check it out!