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A character is moving to another city. She visits her favourite public place and sees something that makes her want to stay. Describe this in 500 words, using third person POV (he/she). Then rewrite in first person, using ‘I’.
Why: Rewriting third person scenes (especially emotional ones) in first person helps you find your character’s voice. You’re telling the reader what your character thinks as your character, not an observer. When you rewrite in third person (if you prefer this POV), some of this immediacy will carry over.
A character arrives late to a party, not knowing that an old significant other is attending too. The relationship didn’t end well. The host introduces them to each other, unaware of their history. In 500 words or less, write the scene and rewrite it twice, once from each character’s perspective: The late arriver, the ex and the host.
Why: Sometimes a story scene can be effective written from a secondary character’s point of view. Writing as a neutral observer might help you notice details worth including in the scene (such as the main characters’ actions and body language); actions that you wouldn’t think about as much if you were writing from a different viewpoint.
Describe a big, rambling house in the daytime and make it seem comfortable and homely. Rewrite the piece, keeping everything except the adjectives the same. Change the describing words you use so the house feels sinister, eerie or outright terrifying.
Why: In setting, time of day and place work together to establish mood and atmosphere. This exercise will help you show how places take on different characters according to the conditions under which we experience them
Describe a character who is loved by everyone (if you’ve seen the cult classic show Twin Peaks, Laura Palmer is a good example). Describe the character and what is so lovely about her in 500 words or less, but end with a secret or flaw that not everyone sees. Why: Story characters who are perfect are boring. Great characters are light and shade. ‘Good characters’ can have flaws and ‘bad’ characters can have pasts that show the reader a human side. The villain Lord Voldemort in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series was once an ordinary boy.
Begin a story with the words ‘If I’d known then what I know now, I never would have…’ Continue the opening for up to 500 words.
Why: Conditionals (if, would, could, etc.) create a question in the reader: ‘Then what?’ Beginning a story with a character talking about having grown or acquired new knowledge in some way makes it clear to the reader that there has been momentous change of some kind, and change is what creates story.