Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Joy of Story: Some Writing Exercises

• Write a story based on one of the following archetypes: “Cinderella,” “The Ugly Duckling,” “Cain and Abel,” “The Prodigal Son,” “The Myth of Sisyphus,” or “Pandora’s Box.” You may write from any point of view, and set the story in any time frame. Write from your own life.

Extra Credit: Write a story based on more than one archetpe at the same time.

• Write a story with the following theme: The most important thing I learned when I was young, before I knew any better.

Imagine a special place you like to go, a place that has much meaning for you. Write a story about going to that place, and being surprised to find someone there whom you haven’t seen in a long, long time.

Write a story with the following theme: Yesterday it all made sense.

Extra Credit: Do it in 99 words.

Think of something you feel strongly about an opinion that defines who you are—or who you are not—(vegan, pacifist, tea party member, hater of cell phones, facebook junkie, kayaker). Why is it important? Sell your reader on this. When did this idea come to you, and did that change your life? Show (don't tell) this in the context of a story.

• Write a story with the following title or first line: "I promised my parents I would never tell this to anyone."

• Write a story about a childhood humiliation or triumph. How did it change you? Do you still dream about the experience, and if so, does the memory affect your behavior and your choices?

Write a story with this opening line: “When my mother told me, ‘That’s just the way it is, dear, so you’d better just get used to it,’ I finally said aloud the one word I had never said to her before.

• Write a story about an argument you had, but write it from the other person’s point of view.

Extra Credit: write this story (or any story) in words of one syllable.

• Write a Story about how you once stood up to authority. If you didn’t actually stand up to authority, but wish you had, write the story as if you had.

• Write a letter to a child of the future. Tell that child a story about a lesson you learned the hard way, so the child won’t make the same mistake.

• Tell the story of the most important choice you ever made.

•Write a story that starts with, or ends with, this sentence: “‘Get your hand off my knee,’ said the Duchess, as she stared reflectively into the fire.”

• Write a story that starts with, or ends with, this sentence: “‘Are you trying to tell me,’ my best friend said, squinting to hold back the tears, ‘that you never even met this person before?’”

• Write a story that opens like this: “Trick or treat!” the little devils shouted.
  I cackled. “Come inside, my precious morsels,” I told them. “I have something special for you!”

• Write a story with the following first line: “We’d been living together two months before he took a deep breath and said, ‘Um, if it’s all the same to you, do you suppose we could keep the glasses in the cupboard right-side-up instead of up-side-down?’”

• Write a story about an event that happened while you were traveling with the person you loved. How did that trip change you, or change the other person, or change the relationship?

Extra credit: Write the story entirely in dialogue.

•Write a story with this first line: “We stood on the bridge at midnight, as the clocks were striking the hour.”

Make up a story about a fight or argument that changed or threatened to end your relationship with your best friend.

• Make up a story about a relationship that changed your definition of the word “Love.”


  1. I first met you, John, when you had a call-out for 99 wd stories on the Wizard of Oz. Quite a challenge. I'm passing on this site to two creative writing teachers I know. I hope they decide to follow.

  2. Thanks for spreading the word, Sunny. Story is essential. It's the way we writers see our universe and record our lives. It's also the way we find meaning. And the way we enjoy creating. The operative word is, I suppose, "enjoy."