Here's another great writing tool, courtesy of Metafilter:Writing Exercises from John Gardner's The Art of Fiction
A series of hard-core writing exercises to help you sharpen up your skills as a storyteller. I call them hard-core because they're very focused and no-nonsense. Here's the first one:1. Write the paragraph that would appear in a piece of fiction just before the discovery of a body. You might perhaps describe the character’s approach to the body he will find, or the location, or both. The purpose of the exercise is to develop the technique of at once attracting the reader toward the paragraph to follow, making him want to skip ahead, and holding him on this paragraph by virtue of its interest. Without the ability to write such foreplay paragraphs, one can never achieve real suspense.
They're all like that - do exactly this
, and here's why you should do it. They're all intriguing exercises, at least to me, because they isolate specific things that are key to good storytelling and give you ways to work on those things. Not areas
, mind you. Things.
I really like that, the one-pointedness of the prompts, as well as the insistence on focus and outcome. (Each of them leaves you with this implication of "and don't fuck around"
that amuses me. I keep envisioning Sister Mary Ignatius, with her imperious glare and her long ruler, waiting for us to take our seats. Anne Bancroft really should have played that role, alas. But I digress.)
Anyway, I think this is another great thing to put in one's bookmarks. It's the kind of thing that's great for writer's block too, of course. Enjoy! :)