Writing Something: A Comprehensive List of Tips from Bruce Taylor

 Credit: Justin Patchin Photography

Credit: Justin Patchin Photography

Bruce Taylor

This is an old list which I used for my creative writing courses when I was teaching at UW-EC. It hasn’t been revised in a while, but when I was using it I tweaked it every year.

I don’t know if writing prompts, journal tasks, exercises are common property for the common good but they should be, and in fact, have been for a while. So did I steal, borrow, revise, appropriate, and in some senses “create” this list, classified as it is?  Yes. If I have done a bad thing to anyone from anywhere at anytime, sorry.

Used for Classes so it began this way...

 Rarely is anything in a journal ever "finished", polished off. The journal is the place to begin things, rough them up and try them out.

Spend 20 ‑ 25 minutes minimum on daily writing in your journal. All assignments are meant to be suggestions and if deviating from the prescribed instructions including the very first one for any particular assignment provides more interest and/or inspiration, do it.

So you can ignore most of the above, though I do believe one should write daily for the same reasons one should floss, pray and spend quality time with your pets.

A journal is another thing, with all its own fears and complications. I do a whole thing about Life Writing: Writing For Your Life which talks about all the options involved. A journal, a notebook, a daybook, god forbid, a diary? Maybe we should call this Writing Something, Somehow, Somewhere.

So if you wish to ignore the  instructions above do so, but not the one that says the assignments are suggestions and if you want to deviate from them, do it.

Feel free to ignore the numbering and the categories if you wish, they were there to correspond with what we were covering in the class. Its probably better to just browse and pick out the ones that intrigue you.

Above all, if you don’t have fun or you’re not enjoying this, don’t do it. But give it a chance to settle in.

There are thousands of writing prompts available online in books on blogs wander around find some that you find intriguing try them out.

1 PAYING ATTENTION

1.1     Collect for an entire day words, scraps of dialogue, and phrases that you over‑hear and write something that uses many of them.

1.2      The same as above but use only words and/or phrases that you read.

1.3      Collect for an entire day images that you actually see and hear as you walk through the world, then write something that uses some  of them.

1.4      Collect for an entire day as many things as you can that are red, or blue, or sad or plastic or whatever, then write something that uses as some of them .

1.5      The same as above but write something about only one or two things, or write something about the experience of looking for these things all day.

1.6     Spend a day paying particular attention to faces, or the way people wave, or eat or something else we all do everyday. Write something deriving from the experience.

1.7     Sit at the end of a particularly busy and harried day and free‑write what sticks in your mind. Concentrate on sights, sounds and sensations ‑‑ not dialogue, stories, or "feelings"

1.8     The same as above but at the end of a particularly calm day. Con­centrate on sights, sounds and sensations ‑‑ not dialogue, stories, or "feelings"

1.9     The same as above but at the end of a day when you’re feeling particu­larly happy or sad. Concentrate on sights, sounds and sensations ‑‑ not dia­logue, stories, or "feelings".

1.10    Write something that evokes without labeling or naming a particular place at the moment you are there. Concentrate on concrete detail and sensory perception.

1.11    Write something that evokes the place you are writing at the moment as it was some  years ago or twenty  from now.

1.12    Sit in one room and describe that room as fully as you can, using as few adjectives as possible. Choose another quite different room and describe it, also with as few adjectives as possible. Write something that combines the two descriptions (cutting, adding, revising, etc.) into one scene.

1.13    Go to a public place (library, bar, restaurant, hospital emergency room, gas station, Laundromat, part, shopping mall, hotel lobby, police sta­tion, beach, skating rink, beauty salon, city dump, tennis court, church, etc.).  Sit and observe everything around you.  Then narrow your attention to a single person, focus on a restricted place, or zoom in on a single object.  What do you see that you haven't noticed before?

1.14     Spend 10‑15 minutes listing what you would expect to find at a specific place. Then go to that place and write something that uses only things that are not on your list.

1.15    Describe a specific, commonly recognizable object as completely as possible.  Do not name the object and do no use anymore adjectives and adverbs than you absolutely have to.

1.16    Evoke a common everyday object.  Concentrate on its possibilities, on its appearance in other circumstances or unfamiliar context, posit its future or its past.

1.17    Hold in front of you a souvenir or keepsake. Free‑write about it.

1.18    Write a completely developed description of something using words of only one syllable. Now try it with only words of two syllables.

1.19    Use your senses, your memory, and your imagination to observe ordi­nary things or events: a pencil, a bag of potato chips on your desk, a pic­ture, a moth on a window pane, the water dripping from the roof.  Start with observed details, but be alert for what is weird, wonderful, miraculous, and puzzling about it.

1.20    Go to a gallery, studio, or museum where you can observe sculpture, paintings, or other works or art.  Choose one work of art and draw it.  Then describe it as fully as possible. 

1.21    Return to the gallery above the next day, reread your first descrip­tion, observe the artwork again, and add details you didn't notice the first time.

1.22    Write an open journal entry.  Describe events from your day, im­ages, impressions, bits of conversation ‑‑ anything that catches your interest. Free write some of your thoughts, responses, questions, associations to and about the above topic.

1.23    Write an open journal entry.  Writing for yourself, describe one event from your week that upset or angered you.

1.24    In a class you are taking, record in detail the dress, habits, mannerisms, nervous tics, speech, and gestures of the teacher.  After describing the teacher in detail, choose a single word that expresses your dominant impression of him or her. Circle the details in your description that reinforce this dominant impression.

1.25    As you sit in a lecture class, restaurant, student lounge, library, department store, airport, or bar, describe the three or four most common types of people you observe there.

1.26    Observe the behavior of one person in your dorm, house, or apartment as he or she gets ready for a date on Friday or Saturday night.  Record how this person gets ready, noting the clothes, conversation about prospective dates or companions, and appearance of the person as he or she leaves for the evening.  Explain what you learned by observing such behavior.

1.27    Pick a favorite song from you collection and play it.  As you listen, write down the associations or memories that come to mind.  What were you doing when you first heard the song?  What other people, places, or events does it remind you of?

1.28    Go through old family photographs and find one of yourself, taken at least five years ago.  Describe the person in the photograph‑‑what he or she did, thought, said, or hoped.  How is that person like or unlike the person you are now?

1.29    Free‑write about a favorite relative who you no longer see.        

1.30    Remember a place, a sanctuary where you used to go to be alone.  What was it like?  When did you go there?  Have you been back there recently?  If so, how had it (or you) changed?

1.31    Consider your name and Free write some of your thoughts, responses, questions, associations to it.  How did you get it? What has it been like to be named what you are. What has happened to you because of your name? If you could change your name would you? To what? Why?

1.32    Free write some of your thoughts, responses, questions, associa­tions to what the world was like when you were born. How was it different? How was it the same? What were the important things going on? What were the major problems?

1.33    Remember the first job you had.  How did you get it, what did you do?  What mistakes did you make?  What did you learn?  Were there any humorous or serious misunderstandings between you and others? Was it ultimately a good or bad experience? What did you learn?

1.34    Write about something you used to love as a child. Concentrate on how good it was and why it was so good.

1.35    The same as above but concentrate on some thing you hated and how bad it was and why?

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2 PLAYING WITH WORDS

2.1       Pick at random four very different types of books.  Open each one at random and copy into your journal three or four sentences.  Then open another book and do the same thing. Continue this sequence until the page is full.  Now write something using what you have.  You may cut any words you want, rearrange any words, but add only articles and prepositions, and adjust verb tenses.

2.2     The same as above but write anything you want deriving in any way whatsoever from what you copied into your journal.

2.3     Write something by cutting out and pasting together words from one magazine or newspaper.

2.4     The same as above except use only the headlines from two or three different newspapers.

2.5     The Same as above but use signs you’ve seen during the day.

2.6     Write something deriving from the above two suggestions.

2.7     Write something that takes as its first line, the last line of something else and goes on.

2.8     Free‑write (single or multiple line) using one of these starters: If I were....,       The first thing.... (or the last thing), I am the one who...., The worst there is.... (or the best), I used to be (a) ________ but now I am (a) _________, I wish....

2.9     Pick at random a magazine article and copy the first 20 adjectives you find.  Arrange them to align down the length of a page.  Now do the same with another magazine article except copy the first 20 nouns you find.  You now have 20 adjective‑noun combinations.  Choose one that you find particular­ly provocative and allowing yourself no more than three minutes, write someth­ing using those words.  Do this until you have five three‑minute selections.

2.10    Write 20 concrete nouns down the left hand side of a page.  Then write 20 abstract nouns down the right hand side (or vice versa).  Now write something that uses at least three of the resultant combinations.

2.11 Make the longest list you can in ten minutes ‑‑ i.e. depressing things, happy or sad things, things that can't be compared, any things, etc.  Now write something that uses as many of those things as possible.

2.12    The same as above but write something about only one item ‑‑ i.e. the most or least, the funniest, the largest, thing on the list.

2.13    Free write some of your thoughts, responses, questions, associa­tions to and about things that have special smells . Make a list. How do they smell? What associations do you have with them? Make more lists.

2.14    The same as above but for things that have special sounds or tex­tures or tastes.

2.15    Write something deriving from either of the two above suggestions above.

2.16    Write as many synonyms as you can for the word "man" and "woman" in five minutes. Now go to a Thesaurus and add to your list. Choose three syno­nyms that seems to mean pretty much the same thing and three that seem to be quite different. Use each of the six in one sentence each. Use two of the six in the same sentence. Choose three sentences you have written and swap the synonyms you've used for ones you haven't.

2.17    Write as many synonyms as you can for the word "white" and "black" in five minutes. Now go to a Thesaurus and add to your list. Choose three synonyms that seems to mean pretty much the same thing and three that seem to be quite different. Use each of the six in one sentence each. Use two of the six in the same sentence. Choose three sentences you have written and swap the synonyms you've used for ones you haven't.

2.18    Write as many synonyms as you can for the word "drunk" in five minutes. Now go to a Thesaurus and add to your list. Choose three synonyms that seems to mean pretty much the same thing and three that seem to be quite different. Use each of the six in one sentence each. Use two of the six in the same sentence. Choose three sentences you have written and swap the synonyms you've used for ones you haven't.

2.19    Write something deriving from the above three suggestions.

2.20    Almost all groups or cliques develop their own "Private Language." Explore a "Private Language" you use a part and/or participant in a group of friends, a family, a sport, a job, a class, an art etc. etc. Do you use terms, words, phrases that only certain people really understand what you mean? What are some of those words, what do they mean? How did they get to mean what they mean?

2.21    Write something deriving from the above.

2.22    Pick a topic and look it up in an encyclopedia or dictionary or symbols (birdsong, volcanoes, etc.).  Write something using information you find there.

2.23    Find out something personal and little known about a famous person from history and write something about him/her.

2.24    Write something to "go with" a famous painting.

2.25    Write something to "go with" a photograph.

2.26    Write something based on a classical piece of music.

2.27    Write something in which you respond to or "answer," either seriously or humorously, a question you've recently read somewhere.

2.28    Write something deriving from the above.

2.29    Find the "best" poem, essay, short story, you've written during the past year or two and tell why it is "the best."

2.30    The same as above but use the "worst".                  

3 THE IMAGE

3.1      Write something that emphasizes imagery to compare and/or contrast two people, things, or events.

3.2      Write something in which you ground one or more abstractions (Hate, Fear, Depression, Truth, etc.) with many concrete and specific images.

3.3 Using the first person, describe an event or action you are fairly sure you will never experience firsthand. Be very specific with your details.

3.4     Make several of the following abstractions come to life by rendering them in concrete specific details and/or images of varying length: racism, injustice, ambition, growing old, salvation, poverty, growing up, wealth, evil. Make up some of your own.

3.5     Write a short scene where a small object symbolizes hope, redemp­tion, or love to a central character, but let it symbolize something else entirely to the reader.

3.6     Write something which evokes from your reader a maximum degree of the tragic, joyous, erotic, fearful, regrettable, terrible, etc.  Do not explain why or how what you are writing is tragic, joyous, etc.

3.7     Compose a short definition ‑‑serious or humorous‑‑of one or more of the following words: "freedom," "adolescence," "mathematics," "politicians," "parents," "misery," "higher education," "luck," or a word or words of your own choice.

3.8      Write something containing an extended metaphor or simile.  Write another.  In one, compare an ordinary object to something of great size or significance.  In the other, compare a major thing or phenomenon to something smaller and more mundane or less intense.

3.8.1       Look in your backpack or around your room and find one object that seems to represent each of the following: your life now; your life”not now”; the thing you want the most to be; the thing you are the most afraid of; the thing you would hate to lose the most or fight the most to keep. For two or more of the above write a short paragraph which explains why or how these things represent what they do to you.

3.9     Write something deriving from any of the other suggestions in this section.

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4 SHOW & TELL

4.1     Write some part of your daily routine ‑‑ getting up, going to bed, walking the dog, driving to work ‑‑ the more mundane the better, as seen by a disinterested, objective third person. Try as hard as you can not to tell the reader what you want them to know as much as show them.

4.2     The same as above but as observed by a person who wants the reader to like or to dislike you. Try as hard as you can not to tell the reader what you want them to know as much as show them.

4.3     The same as above but as observed by a person who wants the reader not to trust you. Try as hard as you can not to tell the reader what you want them to know as much as show them.

4.4     The same as above but from your own point of view which reflects a particular state of mind ‑‑ happiness or depression, joy, boredom etc. etc. Try as hard as you can not to tell the reader what you want them to know as much as show them.

4.5     Write something deriving from the one of the above three suggestions.

4.6     Create your Mr./Ms. Right.  Allow yourself no abstractions (i.e. handsome, intelligent, sensitive, etc.).  Do not simply describe.  Concen­trate, without ever saying why, on what it is about the person that "fits the bill."

4.7      The same as above except it should be from the point of view of someone who hates Mr./Ms. Right, but you purpose is the same.

4.8     Put four very different people together ‑‑ playing cards or riding a bus or something ‑‑ and with no dialogue or authorial intervention, concen­trating on showing, not telling what each of them is like.

4.9     Write something in which a character gradually approaches a given thing, situation, or phenomena, first as it is seen, then heard, then smelled, tasted or touched, or some other arrangement.

4.10    Describe in as much detail as you can the bedroom you have had in the place you have lived the longest.

4.11    Describe something that changes depending on your mood.

5 SETTING & PLACE

5.1     Write something that evokes a particular mood by its description of a place. Then write something that though describing the same place, evokes an entirely different mood. 

5.2      Write something that evokes a place in which a character encounters something unexpected or unpredictable for that particular setting ‑‑ i.e. danger in tranquility, beauty in what would normally considered the mundane, or commonplace etc. etc.

5.3     Experiment with the way you feel about the weather? Why do you like the kind of weather that you do? What kind/s of associations and/or memories do you have attached to different types of weather? What's the best of worse you've ever experienced? Do your attitudes towards certain types of weather change?

5.4     The same as above but take the kind of weather which you like least and try to find what's good about it; or the type of weather you like the most and explore only the bad parts.

5.5     Choose a country you have always wanted to go but never have. Now write something that might go on one of its city streets or famous locales.

5.6     Rewrite the above after consulting some books about that country, place or locale.

5.7     Use a description of a room to develop the character of the person whose room it is.

5.8     Describe your favorite place. Without telling why it is your favor­ite, let your reader know why.

5.9     The same as above but work with your least favorite place.

5.10    Describe a place where something important is about to happen but hasn't yet.

5.11    Describe a place that your feelings have changed about. Without saying why you feelings have changed, try to let your reader know.

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6 CHARACTER

6.1     Rewrite some earlier journal entry ‑‑ one not beginning with the same number as this one does ‑‑that depended heavily on character. Fill in this sentence as many times as you can about that character "He/She is the sort of person who ___________________." Vary the length and detail used each time.

6.2     "Obnoxious," the dictionary says, means "highly disagreeable, offen­sive, irritating, odious."  Describe the most obnoxious person you know by giving at least two detailed examples of his or her obnoxious behavior. 

6.3     The same as above but choose your own word and definition for it.

6.4     The reverse of the above: Tell how the most obnoxious person you know would describe you.

6.5     Oscar Wilde once said that a cynic is someone "who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing."  Describe a situation in which some person's actions illustrated that he or she fit Wilde's definition of a cynic.

6.6     The same as above but choose your own quote.

6.7     In a class you are taking, record in detail the dress, habits, mannerisms, nervous tics, speech, and gestures of the teacher.  After describ­ing the teacher in detail, choose a single word that expresses your dominant impression of him or her. Circle the details in your description that rein­force this dominant impression.

6.8     As you sit in a lecture class, restaurant, student lounge, library, department store, airport, or bar, describe the three or four most common types of people you observe there.

6.9     Observe the behavior of one person in your dorm, house, or apartment as he or she gets ready for a date on Friday or Saturday night.  Record how this person gets ready, noting the clothes, conversation about prospective dates or companions, and appearance of the person as he or she leaves for the evening.  Explain what you learned by observing such behavior.

6.10    Spend your day paying attention to people's gestures and body lan­guage.  Write down the more interesting ones and some possible meanings or reasons for them.  Write something that depends primarily on a depiction of gesture or body language.  Use as little dialogue and authorial comment as possible.

6.11    Create yourself as you would be if you were of the opposite sex.  Concentrate on what you think would be different about you by describing how you would do some specific thing.

6.12    Write a scene in which one character questions a second about a third.  Characterize all three.

6.13    Write a short description which by narrating a common place and unexceptional event you reveal something significant about a character.

6.14    Write something in which you develop a character by showing what a character does.

6.15    The same as above but concentrate on how the character does someth­ing.

6.16    Write something in which you develop a character by how the charac­ter says what he/she says.

6.17    The same as above but concentrate on what the character says.

6.18    Write something in which you develop a character by what someone else says about them.

6.19    The same as above but concentrate on characterizing the speaker.

6.20    Think of a person you know or have known who has a distinctive "sound" of his or her voice because of that person's background, locale, accent, viewpoint or whatever.  Write something which you think sounds typical of that person.

6.21     Pick two contrasting or contradictory qualities of your own personality (consistent inconsistencies). Create two characters that embody each and set them in conflict with each other.  Make each character radically different from yourself in at least one fundamental aspect: age, race, gender, or nationality.

7 POINT OF VIEW

7.1     Write a love scene, serious or comic, from the limited omniscient viewpoint, confining yourself to objective observation and the thoughts of one character.  Make this character believe that the other loves her or him, while the external actions makes clear to the reader that this is not so.

7.2     Write something that uses at least two different points of view to some significant end.

7.3     Recall an event or period from your life which at the time seemed hard to go through but which now seems humorous.  Write two pages, one each for the "heavy" and the "light" side of the situation.

7.4      Recall an experience that you had as a child that was important to you.  Write two pages, one which retells the event from the child's perspec­tive, the other which tells it from your current (adult) point of view.

7.5     Think of a dramatic incident in your life or the life of someone else.  Imagine that story being passed down throughout three or four generations, with parts being forgotten, changed, or added.  Write the three or four versions of that story.

7.6      Choose a crucial incident from a child's life (your own or invent­ed) and write about it from the distanced perspective of an adult narrator.  Then rewrite the same incident in the child's language from the point of view of the child as narrator.

7.7     Re‑write any earlier journal entry but switch the point of view, from "I" to "She" or "He" or "We."

7.8     Using the first person, write a self‑deceiving portrait in which the narrator is not the person he or she thinks they are. Give your reader subtle clues that your narrator is skewing the truth.

7.9     Retell a famous fairy tale from a different point of view (e.g. Red Riding Hood as told by the wolf, Snow White from the witch's point of view, or Grumpy's).  Yours should be a substantially different story.

7.10    Write something in which you reinterpret a classic myth, legend, or folktale from a distinctly contemporary point of view. Yours should be a substantially different story.

7.11    Write a short dramatic monologue in which you develop a character from another century (e.g. a hospital orderly during the Civil War, a 19th Century English chimney sweep, or a blacksmith to King Arthur's court).  Make the character as remote from your time and situation as possible.  Concentrate on creating a texture and environment.     

7.12    Write three letters to three different people narrating a experi­ence you've had so far this semester: one should be to a parent or older relative, one to a close friend of approximately your own age, and one to a "non‑relative" authority figure in your life ‑‑ a former teacher, minister etc.etc.

7.13    At some point in the past, you may have faced a conflict between what was expected of you‑‑by parents, friends, family, coach, or employer‑‑and your own personality or abilities.  Write about one occasion when these expec­tations seemed unrealistic or unfair.  Use your own point of view.

7.14    The same as above but write about it from their point of view.   

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8 FORMS/FICTION AND DRAMA

8.1     Write something that is exactly one hundred words.  Try to manage a conflict, crisis, and resolution in this short space.

8.2     Write a short scene involving a conflict between two people over an object.  Let the object take on a different symbolic significance to each character. Place two characters in this very fundamental conflict: one wants something the other does not want to give.

8.3     A slightly more complicated variation on the above: each of the two characters has half of something that is no good without the other half.  Neither wants to give up his or her half.

8.4     Place two characters in conflict.  one expresses himself or herself sincerely and well in words.  The other character is unable or unwilling to do so but betrays his or her feelings through appearance and actions.

8.5     Write something in which a character seems to be weaker than the forces opposing him or her.  Give the character one balancing strength.  Let him or her triumph.

8.6     Place a character in conflict with some non‑life threatening aspect of nature; balance the forces equally so that the reader is not sure who will "win" until the crisis action happens.

8.7      Identify the most pleasant and peaceful experience you have had recently.  Using this situation as a starting point, introduce a bitter con­flict that develops within or between two characters.

8.8     Take a short story we have already discussed in class and write two pages to add on to the end of it.  Try to be consistent with the already existing theme, tone, character, and style.

8.9     Write something deriving from an assignment beginning with the same number that this one does.

8.10    Write the first sentence of a story about birth. Now write the first sentence of a story about death. Try other pairs, such as falling in and out of love. Try pairs that are not in opposition, such as spring and summer. Then invent your own pairs

8.11    Write the first paragraph of a story that begins ... with a generalization about life, then the first paragraph  of the same story but beginning with a description of a person.

8.12    The same as above but begin with a narrative summary, or with dialogue, or with several characters but no dialogue, or with setting alone, or with setting and only one character.

8.13    Choose five different first sentences from five different short stories in the class texts or class handouts. Choose one or more and use it to go on to write the first paragraph of a completely different story.

8.14    Choose five different first lines from five different short poems in the class texts or class handouts. Choose one or more and use it to go on to write a completely different poem.

8.15    Choose a poem from the class texts or class handouts and write an imitation of it; try to imitate its form, or feel, or shape, or sound but make yours a substantially different poem.

8.16    Choose a poem from the class texts or class handouts that is a monologue addressed to a particular person. Write an answer to the original monologue.

8.17    Write something that appropriates its form from a nonliterary source such as "the want ads," "a stand‑up comedy monologue," "a sermon," "classified ads," etc.

8.18    Write a parable, allegory, or fable.

8.19    Write something "concrete"; that is, something that depends primar­ily on visual not literary values for its affect.

8.20     Write something that imitates the rhythm of something else ‑‑ i.e. another piece of writing, a washing machine, anything.

8.21    Write something that is a spell or a charm.

8.22    Find a number of translations into English of something not in English.  Write your own version.  You do not need to know the original lan­guage.

8.23    Write the first paragraph of a story beginning with one of the following "Where were you last Night?" " " 'What the hell, ' he (or she) said, "and grabbed their/a _______.'"

8.24    Write a famous story idea in three, three word sentences; such as :Boy meets girl. Boys loves girl. Girl leaves boy. or Cinderella can't go. She goes anyway. Cinderella get Prince. or Man lures rats. People don't pay. Man takes children.

8.25    Photocopy three, at least two page, segments of dialogue from three stories you admire. With a hi-lighter, note when and where how much of the dialogue is summarized rather than presented in quotations marks."

8.26      Choose a journal entry other than one beginning with the same number as this one does and which has very little dialogue. Rewrite it so it is mostly dialogue.

8.27     Write down the things you say over the course of the day. Examine your own speech patterns. You don’t have to get every word, but you may find that you say less than you think and that your statements are surprisingly short. You might also find that you rarely speak in complete sentences. 

8.28     Find a crowded place such as a restaurant, a bar, or a shopping mall and write down snippets of the conversations you hear. Avoid trying to record whole conversations, just follow along for a brief exchange and then listen for your next target. If you are worried about looking suspicious, you might want to purchase a Palm Pilot, Handspring Visor or other hand-held PDA device. These handy spy tools make it look like you are conducting business or playing with your favorite electronic toy rather than eavesdropping.

8.29      Test responses to the same question. Think of a question that will require at least a little thought, and ask it of several different people. Compare their responses. Remember that you are focused on their words. Write them down as soon as you can.

8.30      Record several different TV shows. Some choices include: sitcom, news, drama, talk show, infomercial, sporting event, etc.). Write down a transcript using just the dialogue and people’s names. If you don’t know the names, just use a description such as announcer or redheaded woman. You can also transcribe two shows of the same genre, using one show you like and one you dislike. Compare dialogue between the fiction and non-fiction programming you recorded. Look for such things as greetings, descriptions of physical actions, complete sentences, slang, verbal ticks (Such as like, you know, uhhhh, well, etc.). Compare how these dialogue crutches change according to the show format and quality.

8.31     Rewrite one or more of the shows in exercise as prose, trying to recreate the show as accurately as possible. Note how easy or difficult it is to work in the entire dialogue from the show. Does it seem to flow naturally and read well or does it get in your way. Rewrite again eliminating any dialogue you feel is unnecessary. Try not to change any dialogue though until your final draft. Work with what you have. Remember that you don’t necessarily have to rewrite the whole show. Do enough to be sure you have the feeling for it.

8.32     Rewrite one of the the transcripts from  using as much of the dialogue as possible, but changing the scene in as many ways as possible. Change the setting, change the people’s intent, and change the tone. See how easy or difficult it is to give the same words a different intent. Again, do enough to be sure you have the feeling for it.

8.33     Write the dialogue for a scene without using any modifiers. Just write down a conversation as it goes along naturally. After you have completed the dialogue, add narrative description, but not dialogue tags such as said, shouted or ordered. Instead, try to work the dialogue into the action as a logical progression of the statements. Finally, add any dialogue tags that are absolutely necessary, and keep them simple such as said, told, or asked. Again, only put them in if you can find not other options. Compare this to the previous dialogue you have written and see what you like or dislike about the changes.

8.34     Write a scene in which one person tells another person a story. Make sure that you write it as a dialogue and not just a first person narrative, but clearly have one person telling the story and the other person listening and asking questions or making comments. The purpose of this scene will be both to have the story stand alone as a subject, and to have the characters’ reactions to the story be the focal point of the scene.

8.35     Write a scene in which one person is listening to two other people have an argument or discussion. For example, a child listening to her parents argue about money. Have the third character narrate the argument and explain what is going on, but have the other two provide the entire dialogue. It is not necessary to have the narrator understand the argument completely. Miscommunication is a major aspect of dialogue.

8.36     Write a conversation between two liars. Give everything they say a double or triple meaning. Never state or indicate through outside description that these two people are lying. Let the reader figure it out strictly from the dialogue. Try not to be obvious, such as having one person accuse the other of lying. That is too easy.

8.37     Write a conversation in which no character speaks more than three words per line of dialogue. Again, avoid crutches such as explaining everything they say through narration. Use your narration to enhance the scene, not explain the dialogue.

8.38     Write a narrative or scripted scene in which several characters are taking an active role in the conversation. This can be a difficult aspect of dialogue to master, because with each additional character, the reader or audience must be able to keep track of the motivations and interests of the individuals involved. This can be especially difficult in prose, where the time between one character speaking and the next can be interrupted by action or description. See how many characters your can sustain within the scene and still have it make sense and be engaging.

8.39    Choose a journal entry other than one beginning with the same number as this one does and turn it into the first page of a short story.

8.40    Choose a journal entry other than one beginning with the same number as this one does and which has very little dialogue. Rewrite it so it is mostly dialogue.

9 DISCOVERY

9.1     Write a short scene in which a belief you hold passionately and profoundly would be untrue.

9.2     Imagine you were blind, or deaf or dumb, or illiterate, or very young or old, or of a different race, or gender ‑‑ free‑write  about this situation. What would it be like, what couldn't you do that you do now? How would it feel? What changes, adaptations would you have to make?

9.3     Novelist Ernest Hemingway once defined courage as "grace under pressure."  Using this definition, write something which shows this kind of courage in a difficult situation.

9.4     Controversial subjects depend as much on the audience as they do on the issue itself. Make a quick list of things you do every day‑‑the kind of clothes you wear, the food you eat, the books you read, the friends you have, the ideas you discuss.  For one of these activities, imagine a person who might find what you do immoral, illogical, unjust, or unhealthy.  What claim might they make about your activity?  What reasons or evidence might they use to argue that your activity should be abolished, outlawed, or changed? 

9.5     Write something deriving from the above.

9.6     Select one moment in your past that changed your life or showed you how your life had already changed.  What was the event?  What were you like before it and afterwards?

9.7     Human nature is continually puzzling.  Why are people generous one moment and stingy the next?  Why do we love or admire a person one moment, then hate that person the next?  Why do we want what we cannot have and, after a while, we no longer want what we have?  Explore your thoughts on some appar­ently contradictory aspect of human behavior.

9.8     Write something deriving from the above.

9.9     Totally new experiences may create a sense of physical exploration that parallels a mental exploration.  Recall some recent experience that was new, different, foreign, and perhaps even frightening.  As you record that experience, reflect on what you learned, how your preconceptions changed, or how it was strange or mysterious. What idea gradually dawned on you?

9.10    Eldridge Cleaver once said, "You're either part of the solution or part of the problem."  Examine one of your activities or pastimes‑‑sports, shopping, cruising, eating, drinking, or even studying.  How does what you do possibly create a problem, from someone else's point of view?

9.11    Write about something you've changed your mind about. Tell what you used to think, what happened to change your mind? Consider how have things been different for you because of this change? Consider how you felt about it all?

9.12    Prepare for a crucial situation that is likely to happen sometime soon. Explain why this situation is so crucial. Imagine exactly what might happen and write a description of it. List all the possible outcomes from the best to the worst and figure out what you might do about each.

9.13    Write something deriving from an assignment beginning with the same number that this one does.

10 REVISION

10.1    Revise any previous journal entry. Make the revision significantly better than the original in some way or ways . Include at the end a brief explanation of how you made it better.

10.2    Respond to some journal assignment you've previously written. Comment on it. Criticize it. Praise it.

10.3    Re‑write any earlier journal entry concentrating on sentence‑length, make all your sentences less than ten words, or exactly ten words, or more than ten words. Avoid the use of "and." as much as possible. Try other conjunctions.

10.4    Re‑Write any earlier journal entry without using any form of the verb "to be."

10.5    The same as above but concentrate on diction stop

10.6    The same as above but concentrate on making the entry more specific and concrete.

10.7    The same as above but concentrate on providing apt and adequate examples.

10.8    Re‑write any earlier journal entry but radically change the intended audience or purpose.