Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Creative Writing Exercise to Build Scenes, Characters, Dialogue and Theme

Creative writing exercises are a good way to develop right brain activity and to stretch the imagination.

Practice in building scenes, characters, dialogue and theme can give a beginning writer experience in these techniques and can also help a veteran writer develop new ways to describe a scene or character or to deepen theme.

Creative Writing: Scene-Building Exercise

Being aware of your environment can help set scenes in a work of fiction.  For a skill-building journal exercise, take a walk and jot down what you see, feel, hear.  Concentrate on the senses.  Pay attention to small details, the falling of leaves, the buzz of insects, the scent of flowers.

Contrast the scene before you now with one of an opposite season.  If it is spring, describe how it will look in the fall.  If it is winter, describe summer.

Creative Writing: Character-Developing Exercise

Jotting down detailed character sketches is good practice for developing fictional characters.  Have you ever known an interesting “character”?  Describe him or her in detail.  What makes them unique?  How do they talk, act, dress?  What makes them different from other people?

Pick out three physical characteristics and describe themthe color of their eyes, the shape of their nose, their physical build.  Now pick out three non-physical characteristics such as their manner of dress, a habit such as tapping a pencil on the desk or scratching an ear, the way they walk. By mixing, matching, adding and deleting characteristics, a writer can create a backlog of unique and interesting characters.

Creative Writing: Dialogue-Building Exercise

Good writing dialogue often springs from an overheard or remembered conversation from long ago.  Being aware of conversations around you makes fictional conversation sound more real.
Recall an interesting conversation you have heard at a restaurant, bus stop, or any other place.  Make it more dramatic by turning it into an argument.  Now change the subject of the conversation.

Creative Writing: Theme-Building Exercises

Many writers struggle with theme. Theme is different from plot.  Plot is the action of the story.  Theme is the mental action–what the story is really about, the message the author is trying to convey and leave with the reader.  Most themes test courage or moral integrity.  An example of a common theme is “crime doesn’t pay” or “honesty is the best policy”.

Jot down a list of qualities such as honesty, loyalty, perseverance.  Now think of an instance where this quality might pay off.

Write down a list of old sayings and quotes from Ben Franklin and other sources.  Then think of a story to go along with them.  For instance, “the early bird gets the worm.”  Think of a time where the early bird came out ahead at work--by getting the account or the promotion.   What if the early bird did the right thing and didn’t get their reward?  Would they be bitter, revengeful, or take it in stride?  How the character reacts determines the theme.

Imagine a person caught in an unusual hypothetical situation that calls for a moral choice of some kind.  Stretch the imagination by wondering “what if”.  For example, what if you found out your best friend was embezzling from a company.  Would you tell?  Remain silent?  What if you came across a purse on a park bench with a winning lottery ticket inside  Will you redeem it or look for the owner?  What if you had the opportunity to steal a bag of diamonds and blame it on a known criminal?

Use these examples or make up your own exercises and practice daily to develop the habit of thinking creatively in terms of scene, character, dialogue and theme.

More Writing Tips:  Fiction:From Writing to Publication