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Diaries are fascinating documents of inner lives and history. Which famous historical figure, real or fictional, fascinates you? Is it Cleopatra? Bluebeard? Barack Obama? Pretend to be that person and write an entry in his or her journal.
Ernest Hemingway believed the “quality of a piece could be judged by the quality of the material the author eliminated.” His theory of omission, also called “the iceberg theory,” emphasizes that the core of a good story lies beneath the surface, like the mass of an iceberg. Revise a story, poem or essay …
Often we neglect the senses in our writing, especially in how much they can offer in terms of describing moods and emotions. • Write about the scent of happiness. • Write about the texture of anxiety. • Write about the sound of despair.
Write a character bio for an obscure character in your project. When you have given your all to uncover the fascinating, paradoxical qualities of this character, write a scene that reflects what you discovered.
Do robust aerobic exercise and sit down to write immediately after. Even if it’s just for 5 minutes. See what comes, and then use the most exciting line or moment you created as a jumping-off point for a scene. (You can write it after you shower!)
Write three pages of dialogue with two goals in mind: Make every word count, and don’t bore the reader. Now, take one line from one character and give it to the other character. Use that line as a starting point for a new scene.
Coming up with a first line can be one of the biggest challenges of writing. Use one, or all, of these first lines: • Charlene leaned closer to the stranger and asked him to repeat what he said. • I had been following the man with the tartan umbrella for more than an hour when …
In his memoir On Writing, Stephen King warns, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Print the first five pages of your work in progress and cross out every adjective and adverb. Do the sentences still convey the right meaning? How can you add nouns and verbs to do the heavy lifting?
In a paragraph or two, describe an event from your character’s point of view, perhaps a dinner with a friend, a walk in the park or a neighborhood-watch meeting. Write about the event again from a new emotional point of view—anger, delight, hope, detachment or despair.
Imagine your protagonist looking at childhood pictures of your antagonist. What details stand out that make your protagonist truly empathize with the other? Do the same exercise reversing the characters.