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.

Get yourself writing, part two

Welcome back!

I hope you found the first part of this series useful, and that it gave you some inspiration to start creating your masterpieces. We’re going to push on this week, so if none of the exercises from the last post helped, or they didn’t appeal then maybe these will fare a little better for you.

Don’t despair, either way, as there’s still more to come next week, too!

One line at a time

What you need: A poem, either written or recorded one line at a time

If you’re looking for a little more direction, try writing a story from prompts. Take a poem and read one line at a time. You must then write at least a paragraph based on that line, although there’s nothing to stop you writing more if you feel the need.

This doesn’t mean your story has to be a retelling or adaptation of the poem. Take each line as its own entity and write freely from it. One light might focus on a sound or place, while the next on a person or event. It’s up to you to connect them in the way that makes most sense.

Don’t try and rush this exercise, or you’ll write yourself into a dead end where your project makes no sense. If it helps, record the poem a line at a time and play it to yourself, rather than reading. It also works as a group exercise if done this way. You’d be surprised at how different everyone’s response is.

You’ll get different results with poems of different lengths, as shorter poems require you to really let your imagination take over. You might want to save these for later.

Mix it up: You can do this with monologues, speeches and even songs. For the latter, having the music accompany the words can make a huge difference to the end result, so try it both ways to find what works for you.

These next two ideas come from Kat, a fellow writer and good friend of mine.

Newsworthy

What you need: A newspaper or two, or use an online news publication

Pick a page from the newspaper or website and find a headline that catches your attention. They don’t have to be the big stories – in fact, this exercise works better with the more random, slightly obscure headlines – but whether its funny, outrageous or just plain silly, write that headline at the top of your page.

You can then write the new story how you expect it to be written. This is a great exercise to stretch your imagination while writing in a different medium than you may be used to.

To take it a step further, read the real news story once your done and compare the differences. You might be in for a laugh or two!

Mix it up: Instead of writing a news story, use the headline as the title of a story. You’ll write in a different format and come up with a completely different story. Remember, news stories tend to be shorter than stories, so use that to your advantage.

‘What if’ stories

What you need: A bunch of scenarios that may or may not be plausible:

  • What if pilots were afraid of heights?
  • What if swimmers were scared of water?
  • What if we couldn’t laugh?
  • What if vampires couldn’t smell?

This is a great exercise for anyone, as the stories can be both short or long, for kids or for adults. All you need to do is start with a very innocent “what if” question and build a story around it. The crazier and funnier it is, the more likely it will hook readers.

Moral lessons are easy to include in such stories, which is why they’re great for younger readers, but the premise of some questions can open up a whole new world to explore – and you might find that world appeals to readers everywhere.

Mix it up: Take some existing stories and change it around, from fairy tales to big budget movies. Ideas like:

  • What if the three bears had let Goldilocks stay?
  • What if the big bad wolf was a vegetarian?
  • What if Anakin Skywalker didn’t become Darth Vader?
  • What if Frodo didn’t destroy the One Ring?

So, what do you think? Feel free to keep sharing your favourite exercises and activities. We all need to do our part to get through this phase of self-isolation, and these ideas will still be here in the future, too.

‘Till next time.

A new look for a new phase

Well, I finally did it – I got off my backside and launched my new website!

There are a few more things left to do but I’m glad I was able to get a lot of my old content over. That meant going through it and deleting a lot of useless junk, but, hey, we all have annoying chores at times, right?

I’m looking at the best way to put creative pieces on here that I can share, short stories and such, as well as what social media accounts I want to connect. There are big decisions to be made but this is a start to something better.

Not only that, I have a new section for my growing freelance work, and that area will grow in the future, too, I expect. It all looks so crisp and clean. Some new images might be a good idea, though…

I’m going to have a bigger update soon but I just wanted to welcome you to my new website

Happy days are coming, people!