Is your pen stuck in a rut? Keyboard seem daunting? Writer’s block got you down? These ideas are a compilation of things I have done in my creative writing classes, in my writing groups, and by myself. These exercises are perfect for helping you get outta that rut and get some words down. They are each crafted to take between 5 and 15 minutes and are a great “Warm-up.”
They are perfect for the classroom or private use.
The Scene. Start by generating a setting. Write a list of things to describe this setting. Is it farmland? Is it a space ship? Is it past, present, or future? Try generating a scene you have never written about before. Think about all the details, is there a breeze? Is there a smell? Is the furniture comfortable? Are there security cameras? What is the light source? Whats the temperature? Whats the humidity? List every detail you can think of. If you are having difficulties setting your own scene hop online and type in “Landscapes” in Google or Yahoo. You’ll be surprised the images you see, and you can write up your list based on inspiration from that.
On your own: If you’re doing this exercise alone write down three different ideas on paper. Turn them over and choose one at random. Write a short story based on that setting of no more than 500 words, or no more than 5 minutes (whichever you prefer).
In the classroom: When your student’s have completed writing their setting have them pass it to the person sitting beside them. This becomes the challenge, your students will have begun their story in their own heads already, they will have probably gone as far as starting to imagine a character or a challenge with that setting. Give them 5 minutes or up to 500 words to write a story based on the new person’s setting. You can pass the setting around as much as you’d like. Perhaps even keep a “collection” of them in a shoe box for the next time one of your writer’s is stuck.
The 200 Word Challenge. This one is a LOT harder than you would think. Start with a simple three or four word sentence. For example: Mary pushed the button. Thomas cried out. Jim stepped back. Write this sentence as the first one of your story and make a complete story under 200 words that makes sense with the sentence. They can use whatever genre they want. The challenge is the short length of this, you will have to make every word count.
Emotionally Mundane. Get two shoe boxes, hats, or baskets. In one write down different emotions, these can be as simple as “Angry” or as complex as “Smoldering.” Some ideas: Hurried, harried, shy, giddy, snooty, embarrassed, sensual, lustful. In the other basket fill with mundane activities you do in every day life – be specific, slicing onions for burgers, scrubbing the bathtub, getting dressed, looking for your keys. At random draw an emotion and a mundane activity. In five minutes or less marry the two. It will be a challenge, since when is scrubbing a bathtub sexy?
The added challenge: Try hard to not write down the actual emotion or the actual activity. Instead of saying “Kayla was upset as she scrubbed the tub.” Show the scene and the emotion in such ways as you know what is going on without telling the reader what is. For example: Kayla rung the water from the sponge, her cheeks a vivid red. She felt the heat in her ears and fought to control the tears as she scrubbed at the hard water ring on the inside of the basin. She was grateful her back was to him as she felt a tear slip from her burning eyes. To stifle the sob she feared she’d let escape she turned the faucet on full to rinse. She leaned back and studied her work more harder than she had studied for her final medical exam.
The Box. On your own: This one is hard to do alone, but still possible. Start by going to the mall or a grocery store and people watch. Find a particularly interesting looking bag and person. Imagine what is in their bag? Is it for a child’s birthday? Is chicken noodle soup for a sick grandmother? Is it a heart ready for transplant? Maybe its a construction worker’s lunch. The most important thing is that you get this box to its owner. Write down the “adventure” of its delivery.
If your in the classroom: Get a box and put a single item in it. It could be anything you want, a toothbrush, a pine cone, etc. If you want to inspire an emotion try decorating the box. For example, make a cardboard box look old and ratty and put a piece of jewelry inside. Make the wooden box look beautiful with jewels and sparkles and put a piece of trash in it. You can vary the size, you can let your students handle it, you can let them smell it. Then set up the idea. This box needs to get to its owner and your writers must deliver it. You’ll be surprised who your students deliver to, and what is in the box.
The Creature. Collect some feathers, some hair clippings, some shiny “scale like” material, perhaps some flower petals, or a piece of leather or fur and display them together. Read the following to your students (or if you are by yourself read the following.)
WANTED: Unknown creature who has been eating the townsfolk! Reward $50,000. No one has seen the creature and lived, our only clues are the things left in its wake!
And show your students the collection. Their assignment is to detail their “capture” of the creature. And what the creature looks like.
While its very possible that none of these “shorts” will be used in your day to day or more serious writing its a good idea to start just letting your creative juices flow, and I hope these ideas have helped with that. Besides, you never know when you just might need a feathered furry creature to come eat your townsfolk!