The Power of Exercise
We advise athletes to perform warm-up routines before playing a sport, musicians and singers use warm-up exercises too, and in writing class, prompts and creative writing exercises loosen your imagination while honing your writing muscles.
Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.
In Class, We Splurge!
The goal of the prompts is to encourage clear, lively writing. Encourage the use of specific images, well-chosen verbs and precise nouns, “showing rather than telling” and to avoid clichés.
To achieve this ideal takes practice, practice, practice!
The exercises are often more fun in a class, or with two or more people, but doing them alone and at home is fun too.
If, while writing, you’re at a loss how to continue writing consider the five senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste); or shift your perspective from high to low (what’s happening in the sky or the floor above or underground, under the sea, in a cellar…), from close to far away; or consider the journalist’s five questions—who, what, when, where, why.
Think of character development, theme and mood and always think of your audience – who are you writing for (and it is okay to be writing for yourself!).
- Choose a prompt – and remember, you can take as little of the prompt as you want – one word or the memory or idea it evokes…
- Weigh a few possibilities (brainstorm, mind map, outline, list)
- Write without interruption for 12-15 minutes. (Use an oven timer or the stopwatch facility on your mobile)
- Be surprised at what comes up and continue to write… and remember, you can always change your mind and choose a different prompt. At home, you are teacher, student, writer and reader.
If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.
Variety The Spice of Imagination
First lines, ideas for beginnings:
- It was no ordinary date…
- It was no ordinary house…
- She was no ordinary babysitter…
- ‘Look, I didn’t want to be a refugee.’
- ‘Three things happened this morning but only one changed my life.’
- ‘Welcome aboard,’ said the captain, but his smile didn’t reach his eyes.’
Describe a first – why is it memorable?:
- Your first kiss, first car, the first job
- Your first pet (kitten/puppy/ rabbit/bird, lizard…)
- Your first child, first grandchild, first sibling
- Your first day of school, your first day of university
- Your first night in a bed by yourself or away from home
Fibs, Excuses, Embellishments, Wishful Thinking …
- The dog ate my homework.
- She said, ‘It’s not you, it’s me,’ but I knew she was lying.
- The weekly horoscope said 5 and 8 were my lucky numbers.
- I was here the whole time, you just didn’t see me.
- The alarm didn’t go off.
- He was in the supermarket too. It can’t be a coincidence.
Quotes To Inspire A Reflection, Prose or Poem… Write Your Truth, Your Experience, Your Pleasure, To Know More,
- The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can. ~ Neil Gaiman
- Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come the most unsought for are commonly the most valuable. ~ Francis Bacon
- If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it. ~ Anais Nin
- I write for myself things that I’ve gone through. ~ Dolly Parton
- Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The keyword is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for. ~ Ray Bradbury
- Usually, I walk and think about things. When I come across a thought that makes me laugh, I write it down. ~Demetri Martin
- Writing a story… is simply an exploration of the nature of behaviour: why people do what they do, how it affects others, how we change and grow, and what decisions we make along the way. ~ Lois Lowry
- I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. ~ Joan Didion
I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged.
Choose three prompts from the suggestions above or write whatever thoughts they triggered… look at the challenge as an exercise to warm-up the process, one for ‘homework’ and one to move out of your comfort zone and instil a passion for writing!
Here are three efforts from me triggered by prompts and written in class during a splurge:
Try the following exercise frequently to hone your writing skills:
- Create a short story that is 26 sentences long, each sentence beginning with the letters of the alphabet starting with A and continuing to Z.
- Add other, arbitrary conditions, such as a sentence should be only one word; there should be one question mark, one quotation, there has to be a definite beginning, middle and end – no loose anecdotes or ramblings. There must be a story, not just a stream of consciousness!
- Rigid rules often produce fascinating results—such as with well-written sonnets, which have 14 lines and tight rhyme schemes, each line governed by a specific number of syllables and alternating stressed and unstressed syllables.
- Apply some form and rigid rules to your stories and see if that makes writing – and finishing – easier.
I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
- Make time in your schedule for writing.
- When you sit down to write, don’t be afraid of how it will come out.
- Take pleasure in exercising your imagination and writing.
- Always celebrate the work you’ve done, no matter the result. Having shown up and done the work, kept to a plan or deadline is an accomplishment. Share here or email it to a friend or send it off to a competition – be brave:)
- Trust that you’re making progress, a little at a time, day by day – and have fun!
It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.
C. J. Cherryh