Blog Archives

An Exercise in Perspective

public domain dragon.pngOne of the best things about being writers is that we get to play with reality. When we craft fiction, poetry, and even creative nonfiction, we can bend and twist the boundaries of our identity, the identities of our speakers and characters, and even the world around us.

Of course, there are varying degrees of reality contorting. One could tell the first-person account of the life of a three-winged dragon in the fictional land of Ingatek, or one could write a poem that relays a factual account of an observation but simply tell it from the perspective of a different person.

“Playing” like this can be fun, exciting, and it works the creative muscle in our writers’ brains that makes us stronger writers. Even hardcore nonfiction writers can benefit from the cross training taking on different perspectives provides. Being able to see the world and events from another’s point of view forces us to notice different details, make different interpretations of events and relationships, and possibly reconsider our own place in the scheme of things.

So today I offer a simple writing exercise in perspective. Use it as a quick warm-up for the day’s writing, or take it and run with it as far as your imagination (and time) will allow.public-domain-child

Exercise: Consider a locale you frequently visit – it could be the library, a bar or restaurant, a park, or even a neighbor’s house. Create a list of at least twenty-five descriptive words associated with that particular place. Write fast and try to complete your list in 3 minutes or less. Using your list, write a short story or poem about being in the place from the perspective of a young child. Keep in mind appropriate vocabulary, how children relate to adults and other children, how a child’s breadth of experience (or lack thereof) might impact what/how he or she experiences in the same place as adult. And have fun with it! You never know where a writing exercise might lead…

Do you often write from different perspectives? Is there a specific process you use when “getting into character” that helps your writing feel more authentic? I’d love to hear about your method in the comments! And if you try the writing exercise, let me know how it goes!

The Writing Life: Get Creative for Halloween with Tombstone Prompts

TOMBSTONE EPITAPHS*Don’t forget to comment on my Giveaway and Tweet daily for a chance to win!  Ends 10/25!*

A few years ago, I was teaching a workshop-style creative writing class to middle school and high school girls and decided to focus on “horror” as the genre for October. I did a different warm-up exercise each week, and the one that turned out to be my favorite was writing short stories based on funny tombstone epitaphs. The girls had a blast and came up with some amazing material! I have kept this trick in my bag and use it myself from time to time. This exercise could be simply that – a writing exercise. Or you can take it further – it could turn into a poem, a work of flash fiction, a short story, or even a full-blown novel if you take it and run! Even better? This exercise is one that the whole family can do together. It can easily be adapted for younger children by having them draw a picture and only a few short lines, while middle grade and high school children can join in the short story fun.

I’ve included a few epitaphs (supposedly from real tombstones) to help the juices flowing. (Click on the image to enlarge.) Don’t see one that calls to you? No worries! Check out this list from BYUthis collection from Amanda Chatel at Bustle, or this list (also linked above) from My Time Matters for more inspiring (and funny!) words from the graveyard.

If you try the exercise, let me know – I’d love to hear what you think!