Practice Exercises for Writing Fiction Help
Practice Exercises for Writing Fiction
Practicing with fiction writing exercises, whether you start with something from your life or an entirely made up situation, will give you practice in fully visualizing scenes and looking for the ways in which action defines character, skills you want to apply in nonfiction writing as well. What you learn about jumping right into a story will also be useful in facilitating all of your writing; avoiding unnecessary exposition and believing in your subject strengthens your effort. As you begin working your way through the fiction writing exercises in this chapter, it won't be long before you understand what Ron Carlson means when he refers to as exploring for the spark. In his book Ron Carlson Writes a Story, the author reminds us that for fiction explorations, we use a "powerful act of the imagination...empathy."
Whether you are starting a new story, revising an older one, or just wondering how fiction writers go about creating memorable stories, the following exercises will help. As an analogy, imagine that you are practicing to become a competitive golfer. Golfers who are serious about improving their game spend time practicing the individual parts of it—the approach shot, hitting out of a sand trap, practicing uphill and downhill lies—because they know that the total game depends on their mastery of the individual elements. That's what these exercises are about—strengthening the individual elements. And, even if you are a strictly nonfiction writer, time spent practicing the elements of good fiction will benefit your writing. Creative nonfiction is enhanced by creating a clear structure, drawing graspable and most probably sympathetic characters, utilizing dialog well, writing in scene, and having a keen ear for tone.
As you write, you will almost certainly veer into territory you are unsure of. Keep going. You can rewrite later and apply the lessons we discuss. Some stories develop one exercise at a time and some take over the pen, and then the writer's job is to bring shape to, but not cut out, the liveliness that arrived and surprised the writer. Not knowing where you are going with an image that occurs to you or some encounter you suddenly visualize can lead you to rich material. If a cougar appears on the dining room table, deal with him. If your main character suddenly decides he or she must watch every single episode of "Friends" on DVD, write about that. You can apply the exercises ahead to help you decide what to use of your meanderings and how to make sure the material you include functions well in your story.
If you are already writing a story, keep pumping out the words and then stop to do the exercises. Or do the exercises in this chapter without having written a draft first. Alternatively, choose a story you've worked on in the past but didn't finish or are not satisfied with and apply these exercises to that story. Using the exercises in any or all of these ways, you will strengthen your storytelling and fiction-writing abilities.
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