When I came across the ten to one story, I knew I had to try it for myself. That set me off looking for similar writing exercises and I found and completed another three. Lots of you joined in too and it was great to see the variations in interpretation and ideas.
The lovely blogger, JC Wolfe, who first alerted me to the ten to one story exercise, also told me about a book called ‘What If?’ by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. It’s chock full of writing exercises to help hone your skills and covers all areas of fiction writing from plotting to dialogue and characterisation. I found an exercise in there that is similar to the ones I did previously and which I know some of you might enjoy having a go at.
This is what you need to do.
An abstract word
You then write a short story, or begin a longer one, using these elements. It’s an exercise in using your imagination and seeing where it can take you and I quite like the freedom of that.
What also resonates in this book, are the sections that get you to look at a story you’ve already written. A recent discussion involving the What I’m Writing group made me think about whether you can save a story that you think may have reached stalemate. One of the exercises I found asks you to take a story that seems stuck and true to the title of the book, asks you to write the words ‘What If’ at the top of a blank piece of paper. You then write five ways of how the story could be continued (from the stuck point) and using these ‘what if’ scenarios. JC Wolfe’s blog has regular ‘What If’ lists that could help you with this. Again, the idea is to let your imagination run free.
Another idea to look at a story that isn’t working is to break it down in to it’s component pieces. This is for the visual people, of which I am one and involves lots of paper and a place to lay everything out in front of you – scenes, narrative passages etc. When you look at your story like that, you can see if there is too much of one thing and not enough of another. You can also rearrange scenes to make changes to the story. I guess you could do this on Scrivener too, but I like the idea of being able to physically pick up and move things. I’ve done something similar with a story that is currently filed away and waiting for me to get back to one day. I put every scene on an index card and ordered them all up in to chapters. All I have to do is finish writing the story now!!
It may not be that the story itself has gone wayward, but the central character themselves. An exercise on characterisation from the ‘What If’ book asks you to look at the motivations of your central character. What do they want and why? Is this made clear to the reader in the story and how is it put across to us? What stands in the central character’s way and what desire does that set in motion?
I’ve been re writing a story in order to save it. To do this I ended up changing the point of view as well as making tweaks to the plot. The changes have been for the better and I do believe it’s helped. I didn’t want to bin it after spending so long on it and I’m sure that it’s possible to save any story with a bit of re-working.
Finally, I would like to share one more exercise with you. I can’t remember where I found this one though, so I can’t give credit to anyone (I’ve looked at that many). If you do know, perhaps you could tell me and I can add it in. This exercise involves taking a book (any of your choosing) and at random, finding the first line of one chapter and the last line of another. You then write a short story, using these two lines as your beginning and your end. If you like a challenge, this one is for you.
I’m sharing this for What I’m Writing.