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Whether You’re Warmed Up or Not


Today’s entrée is a set of exercises meant to help the writer shift perspective and get those creative muscles flexed and toned.

These small forays into new territory will, hopefully, help you gain in your battle with daily wordsmithing. Are you ready? Here goes.

Circumvent the cliché. While Little Johnny can’t read, does that mean that Little Jill has educational challenges as well? If all of your eggs are in one basket, will they all break when that basket is dropped?

We live with hackneyed and cliché phrases every day. They speak to the simplistic and real metaphors of our lives. That’s the reason they still hang around our necks like a broad-winged bird descended from a pterodactyl.

Take each of the following adages/sayings/clichés and devise three ways of saying the same thing, with the same semantics. Make each new “saying” as fresh as possible.

  1. Rolling stones gather no moss.
  2. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
  3. The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.

Recast old characters in new roles. Most people can hear a line of dialogue or see one frame of a favorite movie and give you the name of the characters involved. Like favorite books, the stories that flow across a screen at the theaters make a place for themselves in our mental storage lockers, waiting for future review.

The following exercise is meant to help the writer change well-worn paths carved out by characters we know well and as an exploration of possibilities for such characters that wouldn’t otherwise be tackled.

  1. Most adults over the age of 35 will probably remember the character name “Maverick” as Tom Cruise’s character from Top Gun. The exercise is to recast this character as a “Cowboy,” complete with name. If it helps, picture TC when you’re putting together an action scene in the old/new west. Only one scene is necessary to write, but if a full story evolves from this exercise, so much the better.
  2. C. S. Lewis’s character of Lucy in “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe” presents us with a sweet child of remarkable resolve and steel spine when faced with adversity. Yet her complex personality allows for uncommon loyalty, self-doubt, and approval-seeking behavior.

Recast Lucy’s character, complete with name, as an adult. Place her in a           romance where finding her soul mate and an unforeseen future is the goal           of the scene. This will be a toughy, I think.

Make your practice work for you. When you’ve completed your exercises, take a good look at them. Evaluate them as you would anything you’d written for possible publication. Do an edit if you feel the piece needs it. You have been writing, after all.

Once you feel that you’ve done all you could with these little teasers, look at each one as an editor would. Is there a spark present that could build into a good story, article, poem, essay, etc.? Could you pitch any of these ideas? Do you see anything in any of them that that you hadn’t expected; a depth or challenge that startles you?

If you can answer yet to any of the above questions, perhaps, you’ve stumbled onto a new story for expansion. Take advantage of that possibility. Practice in all forms always helps a writer.

Put the exercises away when you’ve finished with them. Don’t throw them out. They can be used at later for prompts or more practice.

Also, if you’d like to share your efforts here, please do so in a comment. I’d be interested to see what you come up with. I might even be persuaded to add my own in an additional post.

Most of all have fun with this. Yes, it’s a useful exercise, but it can be hilarious, too, if given the right treatment. See you all back here soon.

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  1. March 15, 2012 at 8:29 am

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