One of the fun things about writing fiction is that you can assume
the voice of characters who would do and say all sorts of naughty,
slobby things. Here's the exercise: two characters (give them
names and a little description) are sitting on a back porch drinking
beer. They are arguing over which is the better sports team,
and a good portion of their vocabulary consists of swear words.
Write the scene with dialogue.
Describe the living and dining rooms of the man who is obsessed
Story of the Aztec Headdress"
To impress his friends at school, Greg told a made-up story about
an Aztec headdress. What was the story? And what were the consequences
Apropos of the holiday (Labor Day in the US and Canada), this
exercise is about generating vivid imagery having to do with
physical work. For five minutes, mine your sensory memories for
vivid sounds, smells, textures, tastes, feelings and objects;
for example, a stiff leather glove, the smell of sweat, muscled
arms, a shovel, a wheelbarrow with a squeaky wheel... and so
on...When you've finished, circle the one item that, to your
surprise, evokes the most powerful associations for you.
with an Unusual Mustache"
Write something that includes:
"Zap!"; Farming; the smell of a freshly-cut orange;
a man with an unusual mustache; a lampshade; a nailfile; the
shadow of a bird
In precise detail, describe your front door.
For this exercise, if you don't know, just guess.
In one minute each, describe the way the following people typically
do their laundry:
your best friend;
Quick, with the absolute first thing that pops into your head,
fill in the blank:
She's always losing her ___.
She's never ____.
It's always ____.
Then, continue writing.
Make a list of all the places nearby your home, your work or
school, or commute, where you could go to write. Try to
think of some really off-beat ones.
Your Eyes and Expand"
Take one minute to simply follow your breath in and out. This
is an important part of the exercise; be sure to do this first.
Then, for the next minute, close your eyes and imagine you are
expanding. You expand 30 feet out. What do you find there? Open
your eyes and jot it down.
Then, close your eyes again and for another one minute, continue
expanding, but this time, look beneath you. You may need to go
through bricks, or a carpet, or, if you live in an apartment
building, perhaps another floor or two. What do you find? Open
your eyes and jot it down.
In the remaining minute, follow your breath in and out, and resume
the sense of your normal size.
on the Moon"
For this exercise, if you recall the day the first man walked
on the moon, use your own memories. If not, do this exercise
for a fictional character named Fenwick. What do you remember
about that day? What made it, specifically, your day?
Mother and daughter are in a changing room, before a floor-length
mirror, arguing over one more wedding dress. The mother is thrilled
about this wedding; the daughter is tempted to call the wedding
off--- but show don't tell. That is, do not have the characters
state their feelings, but show them through tone, gesture and
indirect comments.Write the scene with dialogue.
Cindy, a highly educated, experienced, and competent professional,
peppers her conversation with "I'm sorry" (and then
she wonders why she's not been promoted). Sketch a few scenes
for Cindy with dialogue.
Happened to the Homework"
According to Allan and Barbara Pease's The
Definitive Book of Body Language, some of the most common gestures that
reveal deceit are the mouth cover; the nose touch; the eye rub;
the ear grab; the neck scratch; and the collar pull. Choose one
or more of these for a scene in which a little boy is lying to
his mother about what happened to his homework. What is his mother's
Besty writes restaurant reviews for a local glossy magazine.
Her identical twin, Belinda, reviews the same restaurant, but
for a different local glossy magazine. The restaurant is Chez
Zag, and, it so happens, both order the onion and date tart.
Besty is having a great day. Belinda, however, suspects that
her husband is having an affair. Write the first three lines
of Besty's review, and the first three lines of Belinda's review.
Credit Card Tragedy"
Ah, debt. Ever a topic for tragedy. Make a list that's all this exercise
is, a list--- of the events, temptations, and actions that sent
Herbert, a prosperous middle-aged orthodontist, into spiraling
credit card debt.
Had Been Waiting Since Sunrise"
Use this as your first line:
They had been waiting since sunrise.
As specifically and vividly as you can, describe the body language
of two people playing dominoes. (If this helps: one is losing,
the other winning.)
& Cold Combination"
Today's exercise is courtesy of Kim Roberts, a poet who lives in
about a time you were either very very hot or extremely cold
and try to include something visual in every single sentence
color, a description of an object, a metaphor). The idea behind
exercise is to combine two senses at the same time
the visual and
Baking chicken. What does this remind you of? Just start writing.
Hammer, wrench, nails... Describe your or your character's toolbox
and its contents. Once you've done 5 minutes' worth, go back
and circle the three most interesting; the three most expensive;
and the three most utilized.
You're Wearing Right Now"
Describe what you are wearing right now in specific detail
down the textures, the patterns, clasps, hooks, zippers, buttons...
Once you have finished the whole five minutes, go back and circle
the three details that would provide the best, most vivid description
of your outfit.
Write something that includes the following:
Taj Mahal; flock of birds; shadows; the smell of cooking lentils;
Before a Decision"
Your character is considering taking a decision... he or she
has a dream... Describe the dream.
In two sentences, describe a cat. In two sentences, describe
a kitchen. In two sentences, describe the view out the window.
in the Attic"
In two sentences, describe a gerbil. In two sentences, describe
an attic. Then, what does the gerbil do in the attic?
One character, Louie (feel free to rename him or her), wants
to go to an Italian restaurant; the other, Charlie, who is more
powerful in the relationship, has another idea. Louie is very
manipulative. Write the scene with dialogue.
Sunlight splinters (through the desert). Moonlight pools (in
the parking lot). Daylight filters (through the slats of the
shutters)... and so on. In this exercise, take various types
of light, for example sunlight, moonlight,
daylight and jot down as many
verbs for each as you can. Some might be really wierd
that's good. Once you've done four minutes, go back and circle
the three combinations you find most vivid and surprising. In
the remaining one minute, take your favorite one and write the
rest of a sentence.
Write about a hat that you (or a fictionalcharacter) once wore.
What did it look like? How it it feel, and smell? Describe it
in as much detail as you can. On what occasions did you wear
it? How did it come into your possession? Go on about that hat.
In her book, Reading
Like a Writer,
Francine Prose says, "my definition of gesture includes
small phyical actions, often unconscious or semi-reflexive, including
what is called body language..." This exercise is to generate
a list of gestures. Come up with one, two or three, for each
of the following:
~a little girl at the dinner table while her parents are arguing
~a woman in a lingerie department, debating whether or not to
put a purchase she can't afford onto her credit card
~a man coming out of church with his family. He has lost his
faith but will never admit it.
~a woman who, from a distance, sees her husband speaking with
his brother, and realizes that, though no one else would notice,
there is something the matter between them
~at a dinner at his house, man realizes that his boss thinks
his wife is a cretin
~"I love cats," she says but her gesture reveals
that, in fact, she can't stand them
~A very aggressive negotiator is having coffee with his partner.