Writing Exercises: Word Choice and Voice

ConCarolinas was nearly a month ago — it’s hard to believe how quickly the weeks are flying by. A week from tomorrow Thieves’ Quarry will be released, (Woot!) and I hope all of you will go out and get yourselves a copy in one format or another. The book also makes a great gift!

But I digress . . .

ConCarolinas! Right. During the convention, Faith, Misty, and I did several panels together: One on the first five pages (led by Faith), one on word choice (led by Misty), and one on voice (led by yours truly). During my panel, I mentioned that I had worked up a series of exercises that were designed to help writers develop their voice or voices for projects, and today I’m going to describe those exercises.

As it happens, I also have a couple of exercises to help with word choice and I’m going […]

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Turning the Ethical Upside-Down

Last week we talked about ethical situations in speculative fiction, and how they appear even when we might not be intending to write about them. Everything our characters do is dependent on their ethical beliefs, and when they make a move that conflicts with those beliefs, it needs to be hard for them and important to the story, or it just won’t feel valid.

Have you ever read a book review in which the reviewer complains that the protagonist behaved stupidly? It’s annoying to read something and know that the character we’re most connected to isn’t being smart. Sometimes it’s not that the character was actually stupid, but that he has done something that didn’t fit with his behavior up to that point. It generally means the author needed something specific to happen in her story and couldn’t think of a better way to drive things forward. If you’re […]

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On Writing: Writing on Demand, and a Story Assignment!

Recent discussions here at the site have focused on the need to write fast, to put butt in chair and get the work done. Catie mentioned it the other day in the context of NaNoWriMo. Edmund and James Maxey took the idea to the extreme on Friday. And, of course, A.J. has been telling us to write fast for some time now. All of them are right. I think that putting our internal editor at arm’s length and delving into a project in a way that forces us to write at a swift, steady pace so that we get the thing done, is all to the good. Our goal, of course, has to be completing that first draft so that we can then move to revising and polishing, and that’s the important thing to remember: James Maxey might have written his book in a week, but I guarantee you he […]

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Magical Items

Last week we talked about how no two writers will come up with the exact same story, even given the identical prompt. I was thrilled at everyone’s ideas, and even more tickled that with all the great ideas, not one person copied another, nor did any of you go in the direction I had in mind myself. When you worry that some other writer has already written your wonderful idea, remember what we did last week, and keep charging ahead with your story. Today we’re going to talk about the magic of objects.

Not long ago I posted about boxes, and the fascination I have for them. But it’s not just boxes that end up catching my eye. All sorts of objects have a strange way of getting my attention, almost as if they have a magic of their own. Many years ago, there was a store here in town […]

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More Writing Exercises!

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I’m teaching a short writing course at my daughters’ school. We had our second session this past Friday night, and, once again, I had my “students” do a couple of writing exercises in class. As I did last week, I did the exercises myself, right along with them, and found to my surprise that I loved the passages I wrote.

There was nothing terribly creative about the exercises I had the class do. Last week we worked on character development; this week we discussed point of view and voice. For the first exercise, I had the class write a scene in which the character they created during last week’s class meets the student him or herself (so when I wrote mine, I had the character I worked on the week before encounter me at a bus stop). I told them to write the […]

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A Literary Holiday Party

This past weekend, Nancy and I threw our annual Australian Christmas party. Every year we invite over a bunch of people (dozens upon dozens — it’s a big party) for an evening of food and wine and laughter. Christmas is a summer holiday in Australia (where we lived for a year) and so we have a fire in the fireplace and allow the crowd of people in the house to raise the ambient temperature until it’s pretty hot. Some years (without the heat on) we get the temperature in the house up to about 78 or 80 degrees. People come dressed in shorts and sun dresses, we eat shrimp and Thai chicken, kiwi (Yeah, I know — that’s from New Zealand; but we went there, too) and Tim Tams and Mint Slices (Australian cookies — sweet biscuits — that are to die for), and we drink a lot of plonk […]

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Writing Exercises for a Chilly Autumn Day

Fall has reached southern Tennessee. I spent yesterday raking leaves, and today the Cumberland Plateau is shrouded in a cold, shifting mist. In other words, it’s the perfect weather for curling up beside a fire and writing. In that spirit, I thought I’d do a post about writing exercises. Some of these I have used quite a bit; others I have merely heard about or seen others do. But I believe all of them have value. You might find that one of them (or several) are exactly what you need to get you past a rough spot in your current project.

1. An Exercise to Help with Descriptive work: This one comes by way of my older daughter’s English teacher. He has the kids in his class doing several of these a week, and my daughter has been enjoying them immensely. The basic idea is that you observe someone as […]

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