One minute each. Make lists of noises that:
(1) remind you of summer
(2) remind you on being n church (or temple or mosque or whatever
(3) beautiful noises
(4) kitchen noises
(5) shopping mall noises
Most Beautiful Thing in This Room"
Look around you. What is the most beautiful thing you see? Describe
it in detail. Write down everything you can think to say about
Was Telling the Truth"
She was telling the truth, but they didn't believe her. Write
the scene using dialogue.
Describe an elegant hotel room from the point of view of a character
who is on the verge (about a day or so away from) of a psychotic
What is your (or your character's) secret yearning? And how did
you (or he or she) come to have that yearning?
Describe an elegant hotel room from the point of view of a character
who is having a psychotic breakdown.
Years Younger Than Yourself"
What do you think people born ten years after yourself are not
generally aware of, but should be? Be specific.
Describe the ceiling and describe the floor in:
~the room where you are right now
~the last library you were in
~your childhood bedroom
~your last elementary school classroom
~a magnificent palace
~ a wigwam
~a very peculiar wigwam constructed by a New York City-based
They were told that the only way to make it safely through
the forest to the city was to stay off the path. So they entered
the forest where it thickest... Keep writing.
What things are turquoise? Make a list.
Describe a wolf. Describe a forest. Describe a sky.
Focusing on exclusively on the architecture, jot down five adjectives
for the following structures:
~the last religeous building you visited
~your elementary school
~the most beautiful building you have been inside in the past
~the most recent restaurant you have eaten in
~the ugliest building you have been inside in the past week
~a sports stadium
~the hut of a gnome
the Perfect Afternoon"
Another emulation exercise. Here is a sentence from Katherine
Mansfield's short story, "The Garden Party":
And the perfect afternoon slowly ripened, slowly faded, slowly
its petals closed.
The idea is to keep the syntax but vary the adjectives/ nouns
/ imagery. For example:
And the awful afternoon slowly shriveled, slowly chilled,
slowly turned black.
And the perfect tea party slowly ground down, slowly began to
become a tedious bore, slowly everyone left or else fell asleep.
Do as many as you can in five minutes.
Write a little something that includes the following:
~the smell of fresh-baked baguettes
~a man in a beret
~the words "souvenir" ; "clink"; and "lurk"
No and Not Saying No: Part I"
This is Part I of a dialogue/ character exercise. Imagine a very
pushy mother who is telephoning other parents with children at
her child's school to get them to help with a special project
that she has decided it is of utmost importance. No one else
thinks so; however, some are better at saying no than others.
In today's exercise, write the dialogue for the telephone conversation
between Pushy Mother and a parent who may or may not be convinced
to help out (you decide).
Tip: try to give each a unique voice.
No and Not Saying No: Part
This is Part II of a dialogue/ character exercise (if you haven't
done Part I, not to worry.)
Imagine a very pushy mother who is telephoning other parents
with children at her child's school to get them to help with
a special project that she alone has decided is of utmost importance.
Some are better at saying no than others. In today's exercise,
write the dialogue for the telephone conversation between Pushy
Mother and a parent who not only refuses to help out, but by
sheer force of will and charisma manages to talk the pushy mother
into doing something no one else could possibly convince her
Use this for an opening line:
Grandma used to say, If you want strawberries, don't sow radishes.
Right now, from right where you are, very precisely describe
all the shadows you see.
with Body Language: 3 Scenes"
Precise body language can often enliven dialogue. For example,
a character might say, "No, I cannot do that." If she
says that while "hunched over and cupping a hand over the
receiver" the effect is dramatically differrent from, say,
"glaring down from the top of the steps, with arms akimbo."
In three different scenes, take the same dialogue and add tags*
and body language--- but, as these tend to be overused, try to
avoid "shrugging," "nodding" or "sipping."
(1) In a cafe:
(2) In an office:
(3) On a hiking trail:
"It's impossible, you don't want that"
"Can't you see?"
"Why should I be quiet?
*For example, "he said" or "she asked".
Dash, dart, deck, delight, duck How many verbs that
begin with the letter "d" can you think of? Spend the
whole five minutes on this one list if you can. If you have to,
go on to the letter "e".
Pepperoni, PeptoBismol, pablum, petunia, pickle how many words that
begin with the letter "p" can you think of?
Thing in a Shopping Mall"
What is the most bizarre thing you ever saw in a shopping mall?
Where exactly were you? How did you react? Try to get down as
much detail as you can.
Take three characters you are working with in your writing. Imagine
that they all visit the zoo. Which animals will which characters
want to see? Not care about? Watch intently? What will they say
about their favorite and least favorite animals? How will they
behave while visiting their cage/ enclosure? Be specific.
How a character handles a given object can be immensely revealing.
Briefly describe, as specifically as you can, how the following
characters would handle a pencil:
~ a harried middle aged librarian named Greta Hurleyburton
~ an elderly lawyer named Gregory Wooster IV
~ a ten year old boy named Bruce
~ a purple-haired installation artist who signs her work "Ahn
Very briefly, describe an attic. High up in the rafters in this
attic is a trunk. Describe that trunk and how it gets opened.
Inside that trunk is a suitcase. You open the suitcase and inside
is a shoebox. Inside the shoebox is a another box. Describe that
box. Then: describe what's inside.
Your character's eyes, eyebrows, forehead, lips, neck, hands,
torso, feet in short, the whole
body how would it react in the following
~a three year old girl, on seeing a neighbor's very small and
~same girl, when that dog wags its tail and comes up and gives
her a kiss.
~a senior vice president of a major investment bank who has just
heard that his long-time rival's fourth wife has left him for
the owner of a miniature golf course by the freeway.
~a ninety-year old woman surrounded by her children, grandchildren,
and great grandchildren, when presented with her birthday cake.
From Henry James's novel The Portrait of a Lady, here's
an example of "echoing" in dialogue:
"She has offered to take her--- she's dying to have Isabel
go. But what I want her to do when she gets her there is give
her all the advantages. I'm sure all we've got to do," said
Mrs. Ludlow, "is to give her a
"A chance for what?"
"A chance to develop."
"Oh Moses!" Edmund Ludlow exclaimed. "I hope she
isn't going to
example, echoing works well to show the two characters's easy
going affection for one another. So, try writing a similar scene
with echoing in the dialogue. If you need a prompt: a boss and
his/ her ingratiating subordinate planning the new furniture
arrangements for the office.
In the room where you are right now, what are some surfaces you
normally do not see? For example, the underside of the table,
or underside of the chair. Perhaps there is something you can
only see if you stand on top of the chair. Perhaps you would
notice them if you were a dog lying on the rug, or a fly buzzing
around the ceiling . List and precisely describe these surfaces.
By use of specific detail, show that your character is experiencing
a mid-life crisis.
Your character has lost an eye. This creates all sorts of unexpected
challenges for him or her. What are they? Be specific. Sketch
out a couple of mini-scenes.
Axes Oak Tree"
Describe the lifeguard. Why did he (or she) take an axe to the