Monday, May 12, 2008

Writing Exercises Pump Up Your Brain

I browsed through Meredith Sue Willis's extensive lengthy set of writing exercises today and found myself thinking about how I work out my writing muscles. I thought I'd share the procedure I use to warm up when inspiration proves elusive.

You can't write about anything without giving it a setting. Even something floating in a void must be described as doing so. When I'm stuck on a plot point, I forget the action and concentrate on the location.

Once I've put my subject somewhere, I realize that I have to explain why it arrived there and why it can't stay. If the character is acting towards a goal, would the reader know about it? I ensure that I've shared the motivation behind the action.

Now that I have a place and a push, I need a method. How does my cast get from Point A to Point B? They'll need to discuss things, at some point, if I don't want them wandering off in opposite directions. How do they relate to each other, angrily or cheerfully or brusquely? Can I communicate that without relying on adverbs?

By the time I've answered these questions, my brain has stretched itself, yawned, and gotten ready to do some heavy lifting. The who, where, and why lead you to the what, when, and how. Now you've got all of the elements of a real story, whether fiction or article.