Writing Workouts by Carolyn MacCullough

Writing Workouts
By Carolyn MacCullough

These are a few writing exercises that always seem to produce great results with my classes.

1. Good stories often begin with a great first line. Here are some examples:
  • “All children, except one, grow up.” J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
  • “It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.” Roald Dahl, Matilda
  • "By our second day at Camp Crescendo, the girls in my Brownie troop had decided to kick the asses of each and every girl in Brownie Troop 909." Z.Z. Packer, Brownies
Spend ten minutes brainstorming the best, most intriguing opening lines that you can. Then pick your favorite and run with it.
2. Follow these lines and see where they take you:
  • “If I could tell you just one thing about that night . . .”
  • “The only thing that really scares me anymore is . . .”
  • “The first time I learned I really couldn’t fly was when . . . ”
3. Write a description of a room that stands out in your memory. It can your grandmother's kitchen or your first bedroom before you moved all the way across the country. Now look back on that room and re-describe the place. You can use any and all sensory descriptions but sight: you can describe what it feels like, sounds like, smells like and even tastes like. Try to write the description in such a way that people will not miss the visual details.
4. Pick your favorite fairytale. It can be something well known or something more obscure. Then choose someone who is not the main character in the story and retell the story from his or her point of view.
5. If you are working on a piece now, write a letter to your main character from another character in your story. What does this second character really want your protagonist to know?