Friday, March 4, 2011

From Vague to Specific: A Writing Activity

Sorry guys, no interview this Friday with an SFC Team member. We're all really busy working on getting the April relaunch of Stories for Children Magazine. So instead, here is great writing activity from my weekly motivator Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ.

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, it's important to write with clarity, not with vagueness. By communicating yourself in concrete, specific images, you help your readers understand you (and your poem/story).
Today's activity has two parts. You may or may not do the second part, if you'd rather concentrate on the first part. Don't skip the first part, though, because the second activity relies on what you'll be able to concoct in the first.
So crack your knuckles, pull out your keyboard (or sharpen your pencils) and let's begin.
First, pick a number from 1 to 5:
1. cave
2. garden
3. backyard
4. kitchen
5. teacup
Next, you guessed it, pick another number from 1 to 5:
1. joy
2. enthusiasm
3. relief
4. love
5. gratitude
Combine your two choices and you're off! What's your location? In a cave of love? Have you ever found yourself in the kitchen of gratitude? How about finding relief in a teacup?
Brainstorm and list specific/concrete images for your place. Concrete images can be anything -- fictional, nonfictional, whimsical, philosophical, you name it. You can come up with a list by asking yourself:
  ~ What happens in the garden of joy?
  ~ What's cooking in the kitchen of gratitude?
  ~ What happens after you drink in a teacup of relief?
  ~ How is it to be inside the cave of enthusiasm?
  ~ What things would be happening in the backyard of love?
Brainstorm for at least 5 minutes. Don't worry if the first few images you brainstorm are bland. As your list grows longer, the more interesting your images will become.
The first part is metaphorical and you'll likely find yourself writing a poem. However, you take your piece where you want to. If at any point in your brainstorming, you get a story idea, then by all means, pursue it.
Now for the second part. Are you ready? Again, choose any number from 1 to 5:
1. hate
2. guilt
3. pride
4. anxiety
5. fear
Now put the emotion you chose in your location/place. Plop it down, drop it like a bomb, sneak it in, etc. Make this emotion "disrupt" the generally feel-good ambiance of your place. It's the conflict.
What's pride doing in your backyard of love? Why is fear hanging about in the cave of enthusiasm? What's guilt doing in a teacup of relief? Again, brainstorm for reasons or for the things this disruptive emotion could cause.
So knock yourself out with this writing activity. If you'll excuse me, I need to make sure there aren't icky wiggling worms of anxiety and fear trying to make a home in my garden of enthusiasm.
Copyright (c) 2004 Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ
Shery created WriteSparks! - a software that generates over 10 *million* Story Sparkers for Writers. Download WriteSparks! Lite for free -

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