I began creating these writing exercises/ prompts for HerCorner.com, a
site I managed for the HerPlanet.com network.
this: Think up a small business for yourself, silly or serious.
Come up with a list of names for your business. Are any of them
available as web domains?
this: Your face is on a Wanted poster! What notorious deeds could you
have done to be 'Wanted Dead or Alive'?
this: Write about a world without mathematics. How would everyday life
be different? What would never have been invented? What inventions
might replace things we take for granted now?
this: You accidentally step into someone else's shoes and by some
weird twist of fate, you become them and carry on their life. What do
you miss most about the person you were before?
this: Pick an established story theme like Cinderella, cops and robbers, etc. Now add the unexpected. How would Cinderella's story change if she were a blog fanatic? How would cops and robbers cope with a fire-breathing dragon named George?
this: Create a character and give them a family tree. Go all out, give
them eccentric ancestors: world travelers, horse traders, mad
scientists, whatever your creative bent comes up with. Don't forget the
dates for birth, marriages and deaths - drag out all the skeletons in
Choose something with a lot of pictures (magazine, newspaper, colouring
book, etc.) then draw cartoon balloon dialogue for each person or
character. Poke fun at them, use satire or sarcasm, whichever comes to
you as you look at the pictures. Each picture is just one scene, not a
whole conversation, how much can you get out of one balloon?
Write about the things in your junk drawer. Everyone has some place they stick the little things they could use someday: elastic bands, paperclips, scribbled notes, receipts, buttons, broken this and that. What's the story in your junk drawer?
this: Write about someone you
know, up close and personal - yourself. Describe yourself: physically, mentally,
emotionally, your style, your flaws and eccentricities, what's special
about you, what are your motives and goals. Practice writing about
others by writing about yourself.
Write one good thing about a very bad character and write one bad
thing about a very good character. No one is black and white or made
of cardboard. Give your characters life by having some shades of grey.
It's an ordinary, routine morning. You step out the front door and...
Browse the racks of greeting cards in a store. Pick out one of the
cards then write about the person who would send that card and the
reason for sending it.
this: Describe a person (or
a character you are writing) in ten words or less, bring them to life
in one short sentence.
this: Look over your
writing and pick out three words which you use frequently (maybe
overuse?). Now, write without them. Look up substitute word in the
thesaurus if you have to. See if you can get by without your old
this: Write yourself a letter to be opened one year from now. What goals do you have now? What do you hope to accomplish in the coming year? How are you feeling about yourself as a writer? Tell your future self something you want to remember a year from now.
this: Compose up to 50 words
(not one over that limit) about the experience traveling of through a severe
storm. Writing about anything with a limit of 50 words is challenging. So here's a good test for your wordage. Have fun.
one intense emotion you've experienced (pain, fear, lust, anger) and
give it to a fictional character. Make sure the character is not you.
Create a scenario and involve another character as an antagonist or
Try this: Describe an historical event that intrigues you. Use the
perspective of someone who was really there but on the sidelines. How
do they take part in some small way?
Try this: Write about the path not taken. Start with something you did
today but imagine your day if you had made a different choice. Just
something as simple as missing your bus, taking the other route,
wearing a different shirt, etc.
Try this: Blogs are popular online now (online journals and
scrapbooks) try writing your own 'about me' page for your blog. How
much or how little would you say about yourself? Keep in mind the
flavour of a blog: informal, opinionated and creative.
Try this: In honour of Valentines Day, write a really steamy love
letter to someone real or imagined. Be shameless and daring, make it
lusty and full of passion. Have fun with it.
Try this: Write about your perfect vacation. Where would you go, who
with (or alone), what would you most like to do and how long would you
stay away, if you could?
Try this: Try writing a short story without using the letter 'e'. It's
much harder than it sounds. 'E' is the most often used letter. If
that's too frustrating, just pick a different letter to avoid. Work
your way up to 'e'.
Try this: Design a game. If you can draw add those too. But, game
design starts with an idea and a story or plot to focus all the
characters and play on. What kind of game would yours be: strategy,
racing, role playing...?
Try this: Think of something you were really angry about and write a
letter to whoever was responsible. Be as bitchy as you can. Don't send
it, just write it.
Try this: Write about your Christmas traditions. What are you
favourite things, things you miss and things you can't wait for?
Try this: How would your day go if it was a disaster? -Note: This
exercise comes from: Fresh Ink
Try this: Imagine you've just moved. Consider the people or person who
lived in the house before you. Write about their life and the home
they made there.
Try this: Take your journal/ diary on a road trip. Write at least 3
pages in some location you have never written before. If you don't
keep a journal just bring along some paper and write!
Try this: Write about silence. Whether it's a brief pin-prick of time
or a long, drawn out moment, write about absolute silence.
Try this: Try to make a list of the best things you like about
yourself. List at least 10 things. Don't cop out either, you'll know
if it's an honest list or fluff. Don't cheat yourself or sell yourself
Try this: Write a weblog or online journal. Write one entry knowing
masses of unknown people will be reading it. Write another as if your
daughter or Mother were reading it. Lastly, write an entry no one will
ever read but yourself. How much do you feel comfortable writing about
yourself, who you are and what you really think?
Try this: Write a haiku about writing. Remember, a haiku is a short
poem with 3 lines which have 5, 7, and 5 syllables. A haiku captures a
Try this: Something really extraordinary has happened (a dragon gave
you a treasure hoard, you won the biggest lottery jackpot ever, aliens
from space came down to ask you for directions, etc) now... how do you
get anyone to believe you? Physical evidence is not enough, you might
be crazy enough to make that up yourself.
Try this: 1001 (or at least a hundred) uses for - last year's
calendar, a worn out toothbrush, roadkill, stale bread, flat pop,
dirty laundry, AOL CDs - pick one or come up with your own.
Try this: Write about something you lost. Give it an adventure, what
happened to it after you lost it?
Try this: Randomly pick two ads from the personals in your local
newspaper. Give them a story, does it all work out or is it a complete
disaster right from the start?
Try this: Consider your website (or your computer if you don't have a
site) and put together a FAQ (frequently asked questions) page all
about your site. Don't forget a guide to how to use the site as well
as the purpose for it being there. Study a few other FAQs to get
Try this: Write a simple poem then change it to show happiness, fear,
anger, love, and sadness. What words will you use differently? How
will you change the rhythm of the words?
Try this: Write an advertising slogan or jingle for your favourite
Try this: Write a grocery list for a character in your story.
Try this: Write something for the holidays, a family newsletter, a
scary story or a mushy love letter.
Try this: Pick an inanimate object, something ordinary like a light
bulb, a coffee mug, or a carpet, and give it life. What does it think,
feel? Answer as many who, what, where, when, why and how questions as
you can. Then the real challenge, can you edit it down to just a few
Try this: Write a poem that could be placed on a spacecraft like the
voyager, a poem that would explain to someone unfamiliar with the
whole human race who we are, where we’ve been, why we act the way we
do, and so on.
Try this: Use something you have written recently. Run a spellchecker
over it. If any typos or spelling mistakes come up make note of them.
Now, if your software has a grammar or style checker run that too.
What kind of mistakes does it pick up? Write those down and find out
how to fix them. Now, rewrite your original article or story. Run the
same checks again and see if anything new comes up. Keep track of your
most common errors and learn from them. You don't have to be a
grammar, punctuation or spelling queen but you should know your weak
points and focus on them in your work. That way you will be the one in
control and your quality of writing and communicating will improve.
Try this: Pretend you're someone else. Choose someone you admire or
someone you think interesting. Now write as if you were that person.
What would their writing style be? What would they choose to write
Try this: Set an alarm clock to go off in 5 minutes. Sit with paper
and pen (or computer keyboard) in front of you and don't write
anything at all until after the alarm goes off. Once the alarm sounds
write as many ideas down as you can.
Try this: Write backwards. Begin your story from the ending and work
your way back to the beginning. This way you've already finished
writing your story, you just need to add in the details and in
Try this: Try writing like a theatre script. Show each action you want
your characters to make and give stage directions. Now, take all that
out and just leave dialogue. How much stage direction do your
characters really need and how much is just extra stuff? Could your
dialogue be getting lost in your stage directions?
Try this: Write a letter to someone you are angry or upset with. Spew
at them, full force. Write all the things left unsaid, or the things
you wish you had said at the time. But, don't send the letter. Keep it
as a journal entry, for your eyes only.
Try this: Suddenly you have dropped back in time, no explanations or
warning. Do you see dinosaurs, druids, castles or pirates? Write about
your first impressions. Don't forget the who, where, smells, sounds,
Try this: Write a fictional biography for yourself. Have grand
adventures, scandalous love affairs, skeletons in your closets, secret
criminal activities, and so on. Once you have it done re-work it to
300 words. Not more or less than 300.
Try this: Write an essay for a time capsule to be opened in 30 years.
What would you tell yourself or whoever opens your time capsule then?
What would you write about, yourself, life in the year 2002 or
something else entirely?
Try this: Pretend you are a gossip columnist. Write about a recent
personal encounter. Don't use any names of people, places or things.
How does that change your writing? Make you more aware of who, what,
why, when and where?
Try this: Think of a place you feel passionate about, somewhere you
have been often, whether its your favourite bookstore, garden or town.
Now, write a journal about the trip. Include all the details like how
it sounds, smells, your favourite spot or thing, where you found free
parking, where's the best view? Tell someone else all about your
place, as if they were going there themselves.
Try this: Create a character with a secret to confess. Write their
journal entries over the days, weeks, months they keep the secret.
Show how it affects the people in their lives. Why do they continue to
keep the secret? How does it affect them?
Try this: Practise paraphrasing. Take a large block of quoted text and
pare it down to the bare essentials. This is a great skill to have for
interviews or your own writing (if you tend to be wordy).
Try this: Find a newspaper article you feel passionate about and write
a letter to the editor. Write as if you are going to send it in to be
published, think carefully of each of your points, make sure the style
is professional and then actually send it in.
Try this: Write a letter to one of your ancestors, someone you have
never met but have heard something about. Or make up an ancestor. Tell
them all about yourself, who you are, what makes you the person you
Try this: Write a letter to someone from another planet. Tell them
about life on Earth. Describe everything to someone who may not know
what air is, who has never heard of the fast food concept, etc.
Try this: Write out your favourite joke (or fairy tale or poem). Then
rewrite that narrative as a tragedy, as a limerick, as a haiku, as a
serious academic treatise, as a breaking news story, or as the script
for a music video.
Try this: Eavesdrop on a conversation, capture a snippet of it in your
mind. Write a story or scene using dialogue only. Since every scene in
every story should contain conflict, you'll want to keep this key
concept in mind.
Try this: Watch something happen in public and remember what it was.
Try and remember everything and write about it in detail.
Try this: Do a full character analysis. Create a real person: how they
walk, the colours they like, who they most admire, where their family
came from, their Mother's maiden name, do they have a zit today and so
Try this: Your character is suddenly blinded and danger still abounds.
Focus on those senses you might normally neglect when writing.
Try this: Design three tools, inventions, or customs for your science
fiction or fantasy world.
Try this: In five hundred words or less, choose a superstition or old
wives' tale and describe how a character of your design came to learn
it and/or who the character first remembers teaching it to him/her.
Try this: Choose a favourite fable, fairy tale or literary story. Pick
a character (not the main characters) and tell the story through his
or her eyes in five hundred words or less.
Try this: Write a poem describing the colour red to someone who has
been blind from birth. Keep in mind, this person has never seen the
typical things like fire, the sun, etc which you could use as a
comparison. If poetry isn't your thing, write in prose but try to be
Try this: Pick out your favourite tape or CD and put it on. Sing a
long, dance, pretend you are one of the backup singers or the singer
herself. Put energy into it and go wild. Dress up like a rock star,
grab a make-shift microphone and sing out loud. When you feel charged
up write something.
Try this: Write about a dream, real or imagined. Be vivid. Dreams tend
to jump around since they don't have to make sense or be guided by
rules of time and space.
Try this: Get away from your usual writing place. Go outside, get a
coffee at the local diner, sit in your car and write. You may find it
hard to adapt to the change but it could bring you all new
Try this: Verbs make the world go round. With that in mind write a
story where the characters are running out of time or involved in an
extreme sport. Keep the action sharp and crisp with verbs.
Try this: Try a short word challenge. Write a short story using only
words that have six letters or less. Really great practice at keeping
it simple for anyone who tends to use ten dollar words when a 10 cent
word would work just as well.