Tiny writing exercises

“Tiny” might be debatable, considering I view a thousand words elementary-level writing. ? I used to upset teachers because I’d hit three pages in less than the five minutes’ time they’d have us writing for. They didn’t want to read over three pages; they’d expected less than one page per student.

Nevertheless: tiny writing exercises. Before my laptop died, I was focusing on practicing flash fiction writing so I could submit my stories to sites. Now, I’m having to write a little more old school. It’s not ideal, but I’m hoping the end result will be at least somewhat rewarding.

Flash fiction is difficult, though, requiring skill, patience and a lack of verbosity. But then I thought of writing exercises to help—tiny ones!

I tried to keep my examples beneath 300 words. (See? I can be less wordy. ?)

Mini character bios

Those bios at the end of guest posts or used for journalistic purposes—write one for a character.

Alternatively, you could write another character having to write that character’s bio. This one helps build perspective; you’re gaining a clear picture of how a particular character is seen by another character.

Olive Dooley, for example, through the eyes of movie director/producer Dennis Hart:

Olive Dooley is an American-born, English-raised actress. Despite no father figure being in the picture her entire existence, Dooley has grown into a talented, yet privileged woman who thinks her pretty features completely hide her ugly, manipulative side. So don’t let those sparkling, dull-green eyes and her professionalism fool you—Dooley was raised in the business and knows all the tricks. After all, her mother is one of TV’s most favorite screenwriters.

But through the eyes of, say, herself or her mother, you can gather a greater perspective, detrimental to understanding Olive as a person. Since Olive Dooley is my prime character example for this post, I’ll hold off on the other perspectives and save ’em for a rainy day. 🙂

Paragraph using specific literary device

Ah, literary devices. My most favorite literary technique is word play—from narrating to dialogue. Oftentimes, I will purposely structure sentences in situations where alliteration is highly present. The sentence preceding this one is a bad example.

List(s)/note(s) written by character

How would your protagonist take notes? Your antagonist?

If Olive Dooley was preparing for a drive to the beach, here’s what would be on her list (as notes to herself):

  • latest issue of Vogue
  • sunscreen, hat, towel, poncho dress
  • headphones, portable charger
  • highlighter, Just the Four of Us script (two copies)
  • Burt’s Bees lip balm
  • extra hair tie, headband
  • tote bag

Whereas I would list items in alphabetical order, Olive lists things a) in order of importance and b) as she thinks of them.

Creation and development of potential future setting

I find world-building tedious and annoying and overwhelming, but doing it in parts is easy. The stories I’ve been working on—all the characters I’ve been spending loads of time writing—exist in the same paper town. I really admire cohesiveness, and this allows me to intertwine others’ stories so they can all be linked to each other, even if through their best friend’s soccer teammate’s boyfriend. I love links and chains and loops—and patterns.

Since discovering I could add it to my writing and my stories, I’ve been really excited about building the the universe.

Olive, a Starbucks addict, must suck in her pride and finally—after three terrible hours of convincing herself Starbucks, unfortunately, does not exist in this blink-and-you-will-miss-it, boondocks of a town—enter Patsy’s Tea & Coffee, an old-fashioned diner-themed tea and coffee establishment resembling a McDonald’s…only “fancier”, if you grew up in only a small town.

Giving a character a random tragedy and having to deal with it

Torturing my characters is fun. I have trouble writing characters from happy-go-lucky lives, so the majority of mine have suffered different. One exception is Madeline, whose perfectly unique life starts to slowly unfold the moment I begin her story, much like the Lindsay Lohan-starring Freaky Friday movie when Tess Coleman is trying to wake her daughter, Anna, and Happy Together is playing in the background—but in slow motion.

Anyway, Olive.

Olive stared intently at the director and the blonde, her dull, green eyes carefully inspecting the situation. The other’s hair style was similar, if one ignored the curly locks clearly formed by a curling iron. The director was more relaxed with this girl than he was the rest of the crew. The only other time she’d seen him behave this way was with his wife—

And then it hit her. The blonde stranger resembled the director and his wife. Olive’s chest panged with electricity. Who was this girl? A twin? No—but a sister. The director, who’d paid off Olive’s mother—then continued to pay Olive herself—so he’d not have to adhere to any fatherly duties, had a daughter. Olive had a sister who could pass as her fraternal, yet seemingly identical, twin—who could easily be her ticket into many more acting roles if she played nice—yet all she felt toward this girl was jealousy.

Interviewing the character

Interviews help give a bit more depth to a character. Depending on what you ask them about, you may catch a glimpse of them bragging.

Conversation with a character

You, plus your character. You find out parts of them you didn’t know might exist. Maybe those parts will never make it to the light of day in their reality, but in yours? You might discover a guy you thought could be nice is really just playing nice.

Liz Lawson: You work with a lot of the same actors frequently, but Olive Dooley frequents your cast lists more often than anyone else. In fact, all but three of the films she’s been in were directed by you, and her roles almost seem tailored so only she fits into them.

Dennis Hart: I’ve worked with Olive since she was a kid. She’s got one of those friendly faces you can’t turn away from and a personality that makes you wish you were her friend, even if she can come across as a mean girl on the outside. Then she laughs, and you think all about how you really want to see her on TV, because that laugh…it just reminds you of a happier time, when things were really simple.

LL: Yeah. Family Holiday, the movie that kicked off your career, was her first major role. She became the Michelle Tanner of movies, but of your movies.

DH: Yeah, she grew up on set, so she learned to act and walk and talk like a professional fairly quickly. Toddlerkins kind of babysat her a bit, because her mom was writing the show, and she was on set and just a convenience. She captured Europe’s hearts, and people here started catching on, talking about this child actor they wanted some kind of connection to.

LL: But you’d worked with her mother, Angelica, years before Olive was even born.

DH: Exactly. So I took advantage. I knew Olive’s strengths and weaknesses best, so I knew how to use them and make America fall in love with her, too.

LL: It’s almost like you were a father figure to her.

DH (taken aback; straightens): No, I don’t think so. I simply helped guide her on the path to stardom. Isn’t that what every little girl wants?

Dennis Hart: Just when you think he might actually be lovely, he’s not. ?

Not a complete story, but I occasionally receive requests to post pieces of my fiction writing here on my blog. ? Maybe the exercises will help some struggling writer, and perhaps the examples with satisfy hungry readers. ?

Challenge: Create a 300-words-or-less result from one of the tiny exercises above, then comment with it so we can all read it. ❤️

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Comments on this post

Nancy’s gravatar

I’d think as a young person, it’s better to surpass expectations (as far as writing goes) because brain development is still happening.

I like how you’re taking an approach where you’re piecing the character together through different writing exercises. Aha, Olive sounds like the chick who’s into chic things XD. I can’t imagine what’s going to happen with Olive after realizing the girl is her sister! You’re doing really well with the fiction writing. I used to be into writing fiction from a character’s POV about 10 years ago. Don’t think I still have it in me :'(.

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Kya’s gravatar

I really love this! Your exercise of interviewing a character is really brilliant and would allow you to get inside their head a lot more, which is brilliant. 😀

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[…] them as shoe soles hit the ground, while flying leaves crashed into legs and, twice, dog leashes. Patsy’s Tea & Coffee hustled and bustled with customers aching to warm up with hot coffee or liquid chocolate. A […]

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