Get yourself writing, part five

As I mentioned last time, this will be the final part of this series. I’ve enjoyed sharing these great writing exercises with you, and I really hope you’ve enjoyed them – and that they’ve helped alleviate some boredom during this challenging time.

I’m giving us all a break, there’s a bunch of things to try from this series. There will be more, sure enough, but I don’t want to offer subpar ideas. Once I find a good one, or I’m shared a good one, you’ll have it here.

You can find parts one, two, three and four here, too.

So, let’s get to it!

Changing the medium

What you need: A story you’ve already written, or one you have permission to use for personal exercises.

This is an interesting, and sometimes challenging exercise, but it is a great way to try out different mediums of writing. It’s probably clear to everyone that I like prose. Constructing a story, describing events, scenery, characters and their interactions, developing plots – it’s what suits me the most.

There are plenty of other mediums, such as poetry and script, which have great histories in storytelling for different purposes. The way these stories are adapted for their needs is interesting, and can often lead to subtle differences, if not big ones to fit the medium.

Beyond that, new ways of telling a story have emerged. They might not be recognised by the literary critics but for the purpose of developing your skills and stretching your creativity, they can be great to explore. These include blogs, tweets/social media updates and even image-based updates.

Take a story you’ve written in one medium, or one you have the permissions to use in a personal capacity, and re-write it again in different medium, such as a poem, script or blog format. See what’s missed, or what’s needed, when you compare the two.

Mix it up: Tell the same story across multiple formats. Do it once as prose, again as poetry, and a series of blog posts. Once all are done, you’ll see exactly how the different styles work, and maybe how they can work together.

Retelling a story

What you need: A story told in a different form, a movie, TV show or stage performance.

A lot of films are based on, or released with, a book, which is a very long story to whittle down to a couple of hours or so. A lot of these are details which are present in scenery, characters, settings and items but dialogue and action are a different matter.

Whether you know a film or TV show inside out, even if you’ve read the accompanying book, a great exercise is to watch that film or episode and write it down on paper (or type it on screen). It’s a great way to recall details and events that matter, as well as find out what you miss. This can help you when writing original pieces as you have an idea what you might be missing.

I’m not suggesting you write a full novel here, but a couple of thousand words translating what you see or remember can reveal interesting details about your writing style and interests.

Mix it up: Watch the film or show first and do this task from memory, rather than at the time of watching. You can expand it to computer games, poetry readings and songs, too.

I wonder if there’s more to do with this, or an easier way to collate them. Let me think on it. If I come up with a better way to share these exercises, I’ll be sure to let you all know.

Until next time.

Get yourself writing, part four

Anyone remember what ‘normal life’ was like before this started? Before lockdown? It’s beginning to fade for me, too, but there have been benefits. More time and less distractions have meant I’ve been doing more writing myself. Not on short stories, this time, but on my current project. You never know, by the time this is done, I might have the first draft done!

Anyway, back to why you’re here. We’ve had part one, part two and part three looking at different writing exercises, and it’ll continue here. Ready to get going?

Good.

Using words

What you need: A list of words, either from a word generator, a friend or that you’ve created yourself.

This is a relatively simple exercise, and the difficulty changes depending on you. You need a list of words to start, and these words must all feature in what you write – in the exact way you’ve recorded them. No changes, even to alter the tense or make it plural, are allowed.

You should set a word limit on this piece at the start, as that will help you decide how many words to add to your list. A shorter limit, like 500 or 1,000 words, with a list of 20 could be more challenging than a 2,000-word piece with the same list, for example.

The kind of story you create is up to you, but if the list is themed, that might help with genre or setting.

Mix it up: You can do this same exercise in reverse. Take the list of words, or a different set, and write without using them at all. It might sound easy, but that depends on the number of words you have and how long your story is. If it is easy, make the list longer and change the wordcount.

The interview

What you need: A fictional character.

This is an interesting exercise in that it allows you to explore a character more deeply. It can be a protagonist that you think you know well, or a more minor character you want to flesh out and understand better.

Take the role of an interviewer sitting down with this character and ask questions about a topic. This topic can be based on real news you’ve seen or something in their world, but I’ve always found the former to be more interesting.

Consider the tone of your interviewer; are they polite or aggressive, pushy or laidback, informed or misleading? This can change the tone of the piece, as your character will react differently.

If it helps, you can always ask a friend to sit down with you and act it out, getting a feel for the setting and take other parts of communication into account, like tone and body language, for example.

This exercise can be done in script and prose form, making it very versatile.

Mix it up: Add in another character, either from the same world as the first or a completely different one. You can have the two complement each other or go against each other but taking the view of the interviewer into account is important, too. Bias, attitudes and topics can bring a whole different side of these characters to life.

This is the fourth set of writing exercises, and I hope you’ve found them useful. I’d originally intended to finish the series here, but there’s been a good reception to these posts and plenty more exercises to share – maybe from you, too. What I will do, after next week, is take a little break. I don’t want anything to get repetitive, but when I find good ones, or suggestions come in, you can sure I’ll share them. Maybe I’ll collate them in an easier to find place.

Check back next week for the last batch (for now).

Until then.