Writing

The WordWrites Guild has initiated regular writing exercises/assignments. Attendees are asked to share their completed work with the group at the WordWrites Guild meeting immediately following each posted assignment.

Each exercise typically includes a maximum number of words, with no minimum word count.  Authors are welcome to read their work aloud during the next meeting, and will be encouraged to suggest future writing prompts and/or assignments.



Our current writing prompt is an exercise in choices, in options. As such, you are welcome to use it, or not, but we certainly hope that you are inspired to write something romantic or dark or profound or silly, and that you opt to join us at the next WordWrites Guild meeting on August 4th, at the North Dearborn Branch Library to share your creation.

Have fun!

Begin with a binary situation, basically, the opposite of anything. It might be yes/no, war/peace, on/off, light/dark, life/death … anything that you consider to be two opposing somethings … and write a 512 word or fewer essay, poem, memoir, etc. incorporating that conflict. 

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WRITING EXERCISE for June 16th

In 500 words or fewer, write a piece that includes the following:

Abundance of Wild Roses
Disturbed
Aardvark
Town Drunk
Blood Test


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WRITING EXERCISE for June 2nd

In 600 words or less, write a piece that includes the following:

Forty days of rain
A whale
McDonald’s
Bleeding feet from hot, sharp lava rock


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WRITING EXERCISE for MAY 12th

In 500 words or less, write a piece that includes the following:

Outdoors in the summer
An unexpected visit home
Something breaks down


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WRITING EXERCISE for MAY 5th

This assignment is limited to a maximum word count of 500 words, and must be written as a flashback (present, past, present). Writers are encouraged to incorporate the following words into an essay, poem, vignette, etc.

Please click on each word for its definition and correct pronunciation.

Improvised

Intricate

Malediction

Concatenated

Have fun and please join us at the North Dearborn Public Library on Thursday, May 5th, at 6:00pm. We’ll be glad to welcome you and would love to hear what you’ve created from this assignment.

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WRITING EXERCISE FOR April 21st

Our latest writing assignment has a whopping 600 word limit – and the words du soir are:

Conduit
Sanguine
Disheveled
Chromatic
Incipience
Pusillanimous

Please click on each word for its definition, correct pronunciation, and origin.

Have fun!


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WRITING EXERCISE FOR April 7th

In 400 words or fewer, write a story with a main character who is a taxidermist and an historian. Put that character in a situation involving a long awaited invitation and a television broadcasting actual memories.

 

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WRITING EXERCISE FOR FEBRUARY 18

In 500 words or fewer, write a story using the following five Ws:

Who:   Colonel Lloyd

What:  Protections

Where: Talbot County

When:  1865

Why:   Liberty

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WRITING EXERCISE FOR February 4th

Here are the prompts for our February 4th meeting. These are all from Writer’s Digest A Year of Writing Prompts. Use 300 words or fewer for any story using one prompt, 500 for combining two prompts, or 750 for combining all three.

Write as many stories as you like using the following prompts and the rules above.

 

The Fog

He’d never been in her bathroom before. As he turned on the hot water to wash his hands, the mirror, which was prone to fogging, fogged. And he saw what was written there. 

No Cracker for Polly

A man buys a parrot and is horrified when he discovers the only thing it can say is, “If you ever tell anyone what you saw, I’ll kill you.”

Poor Cell Phone Reception

You’re talking on your cell phone while driving into work one morning. All of a sudden, your signal gets crossed and you start picking up another conversation. What is said in that conversation?

 

 

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WRITING EXERCISE FOR December 17th

The Prompts

Write stories for any or all of the following prompts in 300 words or fewer for each story.

Or, combine any two prompts into a story of 500 words or fewer.

Or combine all three into a story of 750 words or fewer.

  • A hypochondriac gravedigger who is involved in a situation concerning father’s boots and stairs. (From: The Storymatic.)
  • As a child, he’d been told dolls were for girls. (From: Writing Exercises: the prompts. An Android app)
  • A helpful, 18-year-old- man who comes from a wealthy background, lives in a mining town, and tends to spend too much money. (From: Writing Exercises: the prompts. An Android app)

 

 

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WRITING EXERCISE FOR December 3rd

In 300 words or fewer, write a story with a character who is a CARNIVAL WORKER and an AGING MODEL. Involve the character in a situation that involves a HOLIDAY and an AWKWARD HUG.

–OR–

In 300 words or fewer, write a story from the following prompt: “Your car breaks down in the midst of a blizzard. Trudging through the snow, you discover something frozen in ice that will prove to be invaluable in the moments to come.”

–OR–

Do both.

–OR–

Combine both prompts in a story of 500 words or fewer.

 

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WRITING EXERCISE FOR November 19th

In 400 words or fewer, write a story about the following character.

An imaginative, 27-year-old woman who comes from a poor background, lives in a fisherman’s cottage and tends to cry a lot.

 

 

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WRITING EXERCISE FOR November 5th

In 250 words or fewer, write a story that takes place on the Appalachian Trail and involves a furniture upholsterer, a backpack, and  excessive rain.

 

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WRITING EXERCISE FOR October 15th

1.     You discover an abandoned house.  Something inside creeps you out on many levels.

 2.     Words to use:  Samhain

                          applesauce

                           deficient

                           peanuts

250 words for one or the other of the prompts

500 words if you use both

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WRITING EXERCISE FOR October 1st

Once again, we have multiple story possibilities.

First, titled “Revenge of the Literary Legends,” from Writers’ Digest’s A Year of Writing Prompts is:

In 500 words or less, write a parody or pastiche in the voice of one of your favorite deceased authors observing a facet of modern life that drives you absolutely mad.

Second, From The Storymatic:

In 250 words or less, write a story with a main character who is an actor with a hidden talent. Put that character in a situation involving a declaration of war and being pressured to skinny-dip.

Do any or all of the following options:

  • Write either or both stories with their respective length restrictions.
  • Combine the prompts in a story of 1000 words or less. Don’t say we’ve never done anything generous.

Happy writing.

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WRITING EXERCISE FOR September 17th

We have no shortage of possibilities this time.

First, from Writers’ Digest’s A Year of Writing Prompts is:

You [or your protagonist] go on a test drive in a new car. With the dealership representative in the passenger seat, you pull to the side of the road, turn off the engine, and lock the doors. “There’s something I should tell you,” you say.

Second, From The Storymatic:

Write a story with a main character who is a celebrity stalker and an exaggerator. Put that character in a situation involving a video camera and a warning [that] is ignored.

Here are the options:

  • Write either story in 250 words or less.
  • Write both stories in 250 words or less each.
  • Combine the prompts in a story of 500 words or less.

Happy writing.

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WRITING EXERCISE FOR August 20th

In 500 words or less, write a story that uses the following words in any of their forms or meanings.

  • Parachute
  • Ladybug
  • Starfish
  • Empty glass with a straw
  • Statue of Liberty

 

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WRITING EXERCISE FOR August 6th

In 500 words or less, write a story that uses the following words in any of their forms or meanings.

  • Aquamarine
  • Emulsify
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Motorcycle
  • Piercing

But, wait!

There’s more!

The story also needs to involve all five normal senses: sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing.

If it was easy, we’d only give you 250 words.

These prompts were chosen at random from the devious minds of the attendees at the July 16th meeting.

 

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WRITING EXERCISE FOR July 16th

In 250 words or less, write a story about a main character who is a homeless person who is a Hugger.  Put the character in a situation dealing with woods and an award ceremony.

These prompts were chosen at random from The Storymatic tool/game/prompt generator.

 

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WRITING EXERCISE FOR July 2nd

In 250 words or less, write a story that uses the following words.

  • Alligator
  • Chocolate
  • Mermaid
  • Pixie Dust

These prompts were chosen at random by the attendees at the June 18th meeting from their devious minds.

 

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WRITING EXERCISE FOR June 18th

We are back to The Storymatic for this writing prompt  and will give the 500 word limit another try. The challenge is: In 500 words or less, write a story about a main character who is a mind reader and is an office worker.  Put the character in a situation dealing with a police investigation and a blackout.

These prompts were chosen at random from The Storymatic tool/game/prompt generator.

 

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WRITING CHALLENGE FOR June 4th

We continue to shake things up on our Writing Challenge.  For June 4, we have a choice of two different challenges.  Wait, that’s not all.  By popular demand, we are also increasing the maximum word count to 500 words.  Yes, you read that right–500 words–that’s twice as many words as our previous challenges and at the same low, low price of nothing.

 

Oh my, I seem to have gotten carried away there. Seriously, our first challenge is from Writer’s Digest’s “A year of Writing Prompts” for June 4.
Secret Passage
“At your local public library, you are poking around the dusty back shelves.  There is a particularly boring looking book there, but for some reason you find yourself removing it from the shelf.  As soon as you move the book, the bookcase opens in like a door, revealing a deep, dark tunnel.”

 

The second challenge consists of prompts chosen at random from The Storymatic tool/game/prompt generator.

 

In 500 words or less, write a story about a main character who can’t stop thinking about that dream last night and is a zombie.  Put the character in a situation dealing with the first day of school and dinner with the family.

 

Feel free to choose either prompt or both.  Bring your results to the June 4th meeting and share with the group.

 

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WRITING CHALLENGE FOR May 21st

We’re doing something a little different this time.  We are using the prompt from Writer’s Digest’s “A year of Writing Prompts” for May 21;  Also, as a one time special offer, there will be no specific limit on the number of words.  As a practical matter however, strive to keep it short.

Procrastination Punishments

 “Develop a list of five punishments to dissuade yourself from procrastinating.  Each punishment should be tougher than the [previous].  For example, the first punishment should be for the first time you put off work.  The second for the second time.  And so on.”

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WRITING EXERCISE FOR May 7th

In 250 words or less, write a story about a main character who is a person who takes shortcuts and is a runner-up.  Put the character in a situation dealing with clothes that don’t fit right and a last chance.

These prompts were chosen at random from The Storymatic tool/game/prompt generator.

 

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WRITING EXERCISE FOR

April 16th

Create a story, poem, song – anything you can imagine – being sure to incorporate the following words. As always, the final count is limited to 250 words or less.

album
roses
ravioli
model
nail varnish

These words come to us courtesy of Creativity Games. Please visit that site and have some fun:

http://creativitygames.net/random-word-generator/randomwords/5

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April 2nd

In 250 words or less, write a story about a main character who is a farmer and the a hunter.  Put the character in a situation dealing with a long walk with an old friend and “can’t get down”.

These prompts were chosen at random from The Storymatic tool/game/prompt generator.

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WRITING EXERCISE FOR MARCH 5th and MARCH 19th

We’re trying something a little bid different for this 250 word challenge.   This time the story should include (in some form or another):

  • Saltines
  • Bloomers
  • Annie Oakley
  • Dreadlocks
  • Chartreuse

Good luck and happy writing.

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WRITING EXERCISE FOR FEBRUARY 19th

In 250 words or less, write a story about a main character who is an impostor and a retiree.  Put the character in a situation dealing with lightning and a motorcycle.

These prompts were chosen at random from The Storymatic tool/game/prompt generator.

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WRITING EXERCISE FOR FEBRUARY 5th

In 250 words or less, write a story about a main character who is a florist and the owner of a hot air balloon.  Put the character in a situation dealing with a garage sale and where there is something wrong with the water.

These prompts were chosen at random from The Storymatic tool/game/prompt generator.

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WRITING EXERCISE FOR JANUARY 15th

Below are three statements that can be taken any number of ways. Write at least two different versions of the statement of your choice. Be sure to incorporate the sentence into your essay, dialogue, poem, etc.

Certainly feel free to use your own real or imagined experience instead of using the examples given.

My cousin plans to be engaged for just a few hours.

The large crane lifted the grass from the water.

Until he matures, his pitch will be a little high.

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WRITING EXERCISE FOR DECEMBER 4th

Choose an opening sentence from the following Christmas carol titles to write a 250 word dialogue between a harried cashier and an impatient holiday shopper:

  • All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth
  • Santa Baby
  • It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
  • Holly Jolly Christmas
  • Up On the Housetop

And by the way, here’s a great site for a list of holiday songs – and oh so much more!

http://www.the-north-pole.com/index.htm

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WRITING EXERCISE FOR NOVEMBER 20TH

Select a recent headline from any newspaper.

Write a fictionalized story based upon the information, or lack thereof, in the chosen headline.

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I have a confession to make.

I have had ‘writer’s block’  no more than a dozen times in my entire writing career.

When fellow writers talk about hitting the proverbial wall, or having no idea as to what to write, or no characters with whom to converse, I feel terrible for them, but I can commiserate only to a limited extent because I have had very little experience with that kind of creative frustration. This is probably due to a decision I made a long time ago that I would go through the daily physical act of putting pen to paper and fingers to keyboard no matter what.

Now this is not to say that every word I’ve put to paper is worthy of the title Writing. Sometimes it is scribbling, dribble, noise in ink … but it is writing in that I am stringing words together to make sentences, and then gathering those sentences together to build paragraphs.

And what do those paragraphs have to say for themselves? What kind of story comes from those initial words?

Junk, usually.

Pitiful, embarrassing, frivolous, crunch-up-into-the-trash stuff . But once in a while – a great while – I meet a character who does have substance. I jot down a snippet of a conversation that does convey more than the color of the afternoon sky or the sound of rain on a tin roof.

And I listen for the guts, the oomph, the truth – and all at once, that prattle, that filler, that garbage begins to smell like real writing and I glide along with characters who take me places; who allow me to eavesdrop on their lives – and I feel a little like a Writer at least for a little while.

So when you are sitting at the table with the glassy eyes of a silenced poet, write about that. The next time you are stuck at a desk with the whirl of a laptop carrying you into a fog, write about that. And when you have had quite enough of complete strangers jabbering online about how they never have writer’s block, write about that, too.

Syllables to words to sentences to paragraphs do indeed a story make!

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Here’s a quick exercise that can be done in your head, while driving, with friends, or during a dull meeting!

Look for images, words, faces – anything – that begins with a letter of your choosing.

And then link everything you see into a brief  story

For example, I’ve chosen L since I see so many green leaves outside my window at the moment.

So, I have:

leaves

ladybugs

letters

legs

lollipop

lamp

And that’s it – create a story, discover a plot, design a world – at your own convenience and with no pressure to produce something spectacular. Just have fun with words!

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Time is a problem shared by writers everywhere – too much time spent at work, in front of the television, at the kitchen sink, on the road – and far too little time spent with words, characters and storylines.

Certainly there are plenty of time-management-made-easy books to read, and your mother, co-workers, friends – and those women having lunch at the table next to you – all have tips and advice as to how to become more efficient, but what really works?

Well, there are five very powerful and effective words that few writers have mastered, but many have uttered.  Brace yourselves … listen carefully and be sure to enunciate each word when saying them out loud. That ‘out loud’ part is very important.

Ready?

Set?

Say, “No, I am writing now.”

Aha- you think it is a simple thing, a pat sentence that just doesn’t work for you, and it is oh so easy for other people who aren’t as busy as you are.

The trick is in the meaning behind the words, and in the respect you, as the owner of those words, place within and behind each syllable.

No – quite effective as long as it is never followed by the word, ‘but’.

I – selfish? ego-centered? Possibly, but vital to the writing process.

am – present tense. Not ‘might’, or ‘wish’, or ‘should’ … am, as in doing not dreaming.

writing – placing words from your brain and heart and soul onto a piece of paper or into an e-document – that is what writers do. Often. Regularly. Like breathing.

now – this is very in the moment. This incredible word means that the dirty dishes will remain dirty, and the latest who-done-it on ChannelMurder will have to be recorded or skipped, and that  you’ve opted to volunteer for yourself for an hour or two instead of for every good and deserving organization – because you, too, are a good and deserving recipient of your own time.

So, there you have it. If you grab a branch from the back yard you could wave it around your head like a wand, or pound it on the floor like a sceptre as you announce with confidence and certainty …

No. I. Am. Writing. Now.

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April is National Poetry Month

For those of you brave enough to accept one – or more – of the challenges listed below,

your determination and creativity warrant applause and commendation.

Let the prose begin …

Poets and Poems Galore:

      http://www.poets.org/page.php/prmID/41

NaNoWriMo – 30 days = 30 poems:

      http://www.napowrimo.net/

Writer’s Digest’s 7th Annual PAD (Poem A Day) Challenge:

      http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2014-april-pad-challenge-guidelines

And for those of us who procrastinate, forget to look at the calendar as often as we ought, or for the over-scheduled, here’s another option for the fall!

http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/resources/n/nationalpoetryday.asp

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March 22nd is World Poetry Day!

It’s a great day to compose a few lines and recite them to your favorite spouse, pet, teacher, or even  a stranger on the street! Poetry is fun and always accessible!

http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/un/world-poetry-day

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Here’s a little exercise to while away the snowy days during the month of luuuv!. Write a romantic short story, compose a moving poem, or create an emotional epic including these three elements:

1. A block of salt – like the ones given to horses

2. An alarm clock that goes off every 12 hours

3. A faded beach towel

Have fun!

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Here are a few quick ideas to squeeze in a little bit of writing between all of those seasonal errands and to-dos:

  • Keep a notebook and pen or a digital recorder in the car to jot down those brilliant ideas that pop into your head while waiting in line at the bank or when trapped in a traffic jam.
  • Schedule working lunches – or breakfasts or dinners – with yourself. Be unavailable by phone or text and sit down, eat something relatively healthy and write for an hour.
  • For less than $10 you can buy a waterproof notepad to use in the shower – no kidding! This might be odd, but who knows – some folks sing in the shower, others write!
  • Share kid-duties with a fellow parent. You can plan a fun event with the children so that parent can sculpt, get a mani-pedi, or mop the floors – and when it’s your turn to be kid-free for an afternoon, you can spend quality time with your quill and ink.
  • Write a little bit every day. A paragraph, one poem, a really good sentence! It’s not the quantity as much as it is the doing.
  • Sit back, smell the turkey, listen to the conversations, arguments and laughter and be awfully glad you have so much fodder for future stories!

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A Novel Idea … In a Month!

It’s almost here – NANOWRIMO, the National Novel Writing Month begins on November 1st, and all writers are invited to participate.

Of course it sounds daunting, and for a writer who struggles to maintain three blogs, chirp like a bird on one Twitter account and effectively network with LinkedIn connections on a regular basis – oh, yeah, and meet those paying gigs’ respective deadlines –  I have to admit that I’m more than a little intimidated by the enormity of the challenge.

Having said that, what a great lesson it will be.

As I understand the process, new NANAOWRIMO writers are able to connect with fellow wordies. The commitment to put words on paper is made more manageable by optional in-person events, fellow writer pep-talks, flexible word count updating, and more.

I’ve taken the plunge and signed up  – and now I invite you to join me as I embark upon a 50,000 word voyage!

Come on in, the water’s fine …

http://NANOWRIMO.org

(Life jackets and rowboats optional for those of the  sink-or-swim philosophy!)

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A LITTLE BIRD TOLD ME …

Twitter.

Does the word make you roll your eyes, or does your brain instantly go into 140-character mode?

I am quite new to the whole Twitter experience, but already I see a wonderful perk to using it.

Succinctness.

One hundred-forty characters is not a lot to work with, but it is incredible how much information, humor, angst and nonsense can be packed into that limited space.

(Supposedly Hemingway wrote: Baby shoes for sale. Never worn.)

So here’s a Twitter-inspired writing exercise – compose a story, or the beginning of a story, within that 140 character limit.

Be creative, funny, dramatic or poetic – but most of all be brief.

Have fun!

AND THE STORY BEGINS …

So, there you are, sitting in front of the computer on a summer day, knowing that you should be writing, but just not terribly inspired. Words won’t come and sentences refuse to form when potential characters snooze, rest their boots on the table, and pull their hats low to block out the sun. Any possible setting is barren, dusty, and parched like the hazy backdrop of a C-minus Western.

Well, stand right up, brush off the sand and wipe away the sweat. Guzzle some icy lemonade – or stronger stuff if you are writing about cowpokes, gangsters or politicians – and say the following out loud …

“It was a dark and stormy night.”

Now turn 45* to your right. What do you see? Incorporate whatever it is into the rash and bold statement above. I happen to have a huge dry erase calendar on my wall, so I will say,

“It was a dark and stormy night when a flash of lightning illuminated the 31st of June – a day forever seared into her memory.”

Pretty lousy, isn’t it? Of course it is! OK, now turn another 45* and what stands out? In my office I have a dreadfully bland closet door, so brace yourselves …

“As she frantically reached for the door, the sound of incessant scratching came from the depths of the closet.”

Yes, I realize this is a horrific piece of work … just a few more spins to go! Slowly now, to avoid getting dizzy, turn yet another 45*. What do you see? I have an eclectic collection of … well, of bumper stickers, car show pins, black and white Appalachian postcards, key chain sized pen knife, dried flowers  – well, you get the idea. Here it is …….

“After a tympanic roll of thunder, she felt, more than heard, the closet door open, and then another burst of lightning filled the room with light and she noticed the glint of the letter opener hanging on the wall.”

And there you have it. One cliché laden start to something. Maybe.

Your efforts might be Pulitzer-esque and well worth a paragraph or an entire chapter. Or you, like me, might have created something so mundane, so lame that you have little choice but to saddle up, squint towards the horizon and skedaddle off in pursuit of greener pastures.

No matter – you have just spent a few minutes thinking about something other than a blank piece of paper or an empty screen.

Giddy-up and write on!

Many writers talk about the challenges of writing dialogue with varying degrees of frustration. It can be difficult to incorporate a certain tone, or a particular accent into a  character’s speech with honesty and authenticity, while avoiding boring and one-dimensional generalizations.

In order to transform mere words on a page into a multi-faceted, vibrant character, the writer must utilize the gift of observation. Only by listening to and – this is very important – watching actual conversations, is it possible to replicate real language, complete with tics, mannerisms, facial expressions and more.

Remember that pauses are as necessary to communication as are exclamations, questions and whispers. As with art, the white, or negative, spaces can be at least as powerful as the bold use of color AKA noise.

Choose a location most appropriate to your character(s) in question. An airport, international grocery store, shopping mall or niche coffee shop offer excellent opportunities for the observant writer to learn a great deal.


Listen carefully, making sure to note the physicality of language. Record, if appropriate, and make notes of how information is conveyed. Think about the unspoken messages being shared, and write down those words that are not spoken.

When ready to write dialogue for your character, post visual clues in your workspace, such as pictures of his or her surroundings, a sketch of his/her face, or a symbol of his/her struggle or motivation.

Read the written dialogue out loud to yourself and to others. Does it flow or are the words stiff? What kind of emotion comes through, and what does the listener actually hear the character say? What was your intention as the writer?

As with any writing, searching out the truth of the character’s voice takes time and work, revision and polishing. Happy listening!

Tense is vital to any story, be it fiction or non-fiction. Note how the past, present and future tenses can alter the reader’s understanding of these three simple examples:

The cat sat on the wet paint.
The cat is sitting on the wet paint.
The cat will sit on the wet paint.

When writing, keep a close eye on the tense being used. Consistency is terribly important, especially when the writer utilizes a different tense as a tool to denote flashbacks, predictions or foreboding.

An easy exercise and handy self-check is to read each sentence or paragraph of your work aloud, noting in the margin the tense used. Be certain that the character’s expression of time is compatible with that of the other characters, and with the plot in general.

Please Note:
All writing prompts and exercises provided by the WordWrites Guild are only suggestions. These are not assignments and are never mandatory.

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