After 30 some ODD years in teaching, I have to cringe when I hear the old nonsense that writing can’t be taught. If that’s the case, I have been a lunatic for a long, long time. But rather than rant at a ranter, let me give out with several writing exercises that have served me and my students over the years well—so well in fact that I have seen whole novels come out of such exercises from struggling students.
After writing a story in first person, sit down and rewrite the entire thing in third person. It’s a great, freeing exercise. Conversely, rewrite a story you did in third person to first!
After writing a story from one point of view, take another entirely different tact by rewriting it from another character’s point of view.
After writing a story in single point of view, rewrite it to multiple point of view. Or visa versa.
Take a multiple viewpoint story and rewrite it to a single POV.
After writing a story set in a safe, comfy place you know only too well, rewrite it to have a far more exotic setting—challenging yourself to create a setting that requires some research and digging.
After writing a story from your own gender’s point of view and voice, rewrite it to the voice and point of view of the opposite gender.
Challenge yourself to write a story from your opposite—whatever that may be. A man, woman, black soldier, female nurse—creating roles/characters far different from yourself.
Write a story from inside the mind of a child.
Write a story from inside the mind of an abused child, or a misunderstood Downs Syndrome patient.
Write a story from inside the mind of someone considered the lowest form of humanity on the street.
Write a story in imitation and admiration of one (or more) of your favorite authors, doing all you can to mirror his/her style and voice. See if you can craft the “lost” pages of Alexander Dumas or Mark Twain or John Steinbeck, Hemmingway or Stephen King.
Any one of these “finger” exercises will make you a better writer overnight, and like any art form or communication skill, writing is learned. I ought to know. I taught myself.
Robert W. Walker
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