Simple Exercises for Creative Writing

Write a short story based on one of your favorite poems.
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Writers at all levels of skill and experience experience difficulty coming up with new ideas or visualizing the perfect ending to a story. Attempting challenges that are outside your usual comfort zone will prevent you from falling into the same writing patterns by encouraging you to generate new ideas or to gain insights into character motivations. They may also provide you with a much-needed respite from longer creative projects such as novels and screenplays.

Ask yourself, "What would my characters do if they were forced with a moral dilemma?" Writing exercises that center around a particular scenario force you to examine your character's back story and sense of morality to ensure their actions are consistent and believable.

While you may wish to imagine a moral dilemma unique to your story, "Writing Forward" and other writing resources provide a number of stock questions should you need them. Moral dilemmas can have high or low stakes; what matters is how your character processes them:

Your character must choose between two loved ones: kill one or lose both.

Your character's child suffers from a terminal illness. The character must choose between an experimental treatment that will either save or end the child's life and no treatment.

Your character, a parent, must decide between a low-paying dream job and a high-paying, tedious job.

Your character witnesses a sister acting in a verbally abusive manner toward her child, who suffers from a learning disability. Your character must decide between confronting the sister, calling Child Protective Services or doing nothing

Show the dynamics between your characters by eliminating dialogue. Instead, create a scene that is full of action and character development expressed through gestures, facial expressions and other nonverbal communication. If you can't imagine a scenario in which your characters are silent, consider the following prompts:

A husband and wife are giving each other the silent treatment while attempting to accomplish an important task.

Two or three characters are trying to sneak away without being noticed.

Former lovers must ride an elevator to the top of a skyscraper.

Rewrite the piece in a different literary style. Diction, sentence structure and other factors may change depending on the length and genre of a work and the writer's style. Look online for shorter works of writing such as poems, short stories or news articles. For example:

Convert a poem into a short story.

Condense a short story into a haiku.

Pretend that some of your own characters took part in a news story, either as participants or as spectators.

Write a parody or satire of a recent political event.

  • Don't grow discouraged if you are running short on ideas. Instead, consider trying the activity the next day or when you are feeling more creative.
  • Set goals for yourself. Try to give each writing exercise a definitive ending.
  • Do these exercises in a writer's group. Encourage each other positive feedback and constructive criticism.
  • Use these exercises as a way to gain distance and perspective when you are working on longer projects such as novels or screenplays.

Since 2003, Momi Awana's writing has been featured in "The Hawaii Independent," "Tradewinds" and "Eternal Portraits." She served as a communications specialist at the Hawaii State Legislature and currently teaches writing classes at her library. Awana holds a Master of Arts in English from University of Hawaii, Mānoa.