I was actually quite unfamiliar with writing exercises until about a few weeks ago. I mean, I’d done maybe one or two of them before but normally the way I usually put in my daily quota is by working on the stories I’m writing at the moment. So I was surfing the internet using one of my top ten favorite websites to waste time on, Stumbleupon.com, and found a few sites with some great ideas for writing exercises. And I did. So here are the ones I really liked:
- Create a character sketch of a person you don’t really know but get a brief view of, like someone sitting in a restaurant, someone you pass on the street or in the halls of a building. Ask yourself who they are, what they are about, what setting they’re in.
- Serial sentences: Select one sentence each from a variety of different books or other sources. Add sentences of your own composition. Combine into one paragraph, reordering to produce the most interesting results.
- Pick ten people you know and write a description for each of them. Focus on what makes each person unique and noteworthy.
- Record five minutes of a talk radio show. Write down the dialog and add narrative descriptions of the speakers and actions as if you were writing a scene.
- Sit in a restaurant or a crowded area and write down the snippets of conversation you hear. Listen to the people around you. Listen to how they talk and to what words they use. Once you have done this, you can practice finishing their conversations. Write your version of what comes next in the conversation. Match their style.
- Write a scene where there is an intense emotion going on. It can be in one character, it can be in the atmosphere, it can be with many people, but it has to be just one. Write that scene without using that emotion or any synonyms of that emotions.
- Read a news site, a newspaper or a supermarket tabloid. Scan the articles until you find something that interests you and use it as the basis for a scene or story.
- Write a diary or a blog of a fictional character. Write something every day for two weeks.
- Write a poem just when you are on the verge of falling asleep. Write a line a day as you are falling asleep or waking up.
- Walk a city block or a country mile paying attention as much as possible to one color; list all the things found in this one color; write about it.
- Compose a list of familiar phrases, or phrases that have stayed in your mind for a long time–from songs, from poems, from conversation. You can make a poem, a story or even just organize the list so it makes some kind of sense.
And my personal favorite:
13. A middle-age man is waiting at a bus stop. He has just learned that his son has died violently. Describe the setting from the man’s point of view WITHOUT telling your reader what has happened. How will the street look to this man? What are the sounds? Odors? Colors? That this man will notice? What will his clothes feel like? Write a 250 word description.
Writing sprints can also be extremely helpful for generating ideas and just getting word vomit out.
Group Writing Exercises
- Develop characters and a plot for a short story. Have each group member write the story from a different character’s point-of-view.
- When your group is in a public setting (like a Starbucks), pick one person in the room and have everyone in your group write a detailed description of that person, including both appearance and mannerisms. Compare your descriptions to see what unique things each member noticed. (Don’t make it too apparent that you’re staring at them, that just makes it weird).
- Have your group write a progressive story. Select the order in which members will contribute by drawing numbers from a hat; then, each member may twist the story in any direction by contributing one page per turn.
- Write a story where the first person writes one sentence of a story, just one sentence. Then they fold the space where they wrote over and hand it to the next person. The next person looks at what the first person wrote, and then writes building off of that, and folds their part over. The third person looks only at what the SECOND PERSON wrote, and then builds on the story. And it goes on. If you have over 10 people, it’s best to let each person only go once. If you have less, than it’s best to repeat at least a few people.