Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Nine Exercises #1: The Hand Fate Deals You

Welcome to Nine Exercises to Help You Draft a New Story.

These are especially nice if you're feeling stuck, only have a few minutes to write, or are just looking for a low-pressure way to get your pen moving across the page.

You don't have to do them in order, but if you do, you'll come out with a rough (very rough) draft of a new story.

I can't guarantee it will turn into a good story, and if it does, it will be through lots of revision, because that's how writing usually happens. (I'll talk about revision in later posts.) But I can promise these will get some story ideas moving around in your head, and give you some practice putting those ideas to work.

Exercise #1: The Hand Fate Deals You

Time: 15 minutes (45 minutes if you do it 3x)

Here's an exercise I like to do in class. It might look complicated, but the very specific parameters can be unexpectedly freeing.

You may not like the hand you're dealt (in class I do this by actually dealing cards), but you don't have to think about changing it. You can't! You must write what fate has assigned you.

Here's the exercise:

Write down three numbers between one and fifty.  (If you like, use this random number generator.)

Now click here. Write down the three words or phrases associated with your numbers.

Now write down one more number, this one between one and twenty-four.

Click here. That's your character.

Get your pen or word processor ready, and make sure you have a timer. After you read the directions, you'll set it for fifteen minutes.

These four ideas—the three writing prompts and the character—are the hand fate has dealt you. (In class, they'd be on cards sitting in front of you.)

Here's what to do with them: The first word or phrase should be included in your first sentence, the second somewhere in the middle, and last one in the last sentence. And your character is your character.

Now write for fifteen minutes.

If you can, do this whole exercise three times, dealing yourself a different hand each time. If you can't, that's fine. You'll only need one completed exercise to move on to #2, but if you have three, you can choose your favorite one.

Next: A Problem

image by Hiromi Nishizaka

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