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Archive September 2012

Sometimes our dreams tell a story about our lives. Think about a dream you’ve had—it could be a recent one, one that you recall from your past, or one that recurs. Write down the details of the dream as descriptively as your memory allows, focusing on imagery, narrative, characters, and any odd or distinct details you can recall. Once you’ve written a description, freewrite about what the images, characters, and details remind you of from your waking life. Then, using the material you've generated, write a short essay about the dream. What do you think it meant?

Write a story composed entirely of letters from one character to another who never replies. The characters could know each other or could be complete strangers. For an example, read Claire Vaye Watkins's story "The Last Thing We Need" in her collection Battleborn (Riverhead Books, 2012).

Posted by Writing Prompter on 9.25.12

Revisit one of your poems that needs revising, especially in terms of its length. Rewrite it on a postcard, including only what is most important, using the limited space of the postcard as your guide. When you've finished, consider mailing it to someone!

Posted by Writing Prompter on 9.20.12

Some of the best stories and essays revolve around the author's hometown. Spend fifteen minutes freewriting about the town or city in which you grew up. Focus on the people, the places, the landscape, and the memories surrounding them. Where was your favorite place to eat? Who were the most interesting characters? What did you do with your family and friends? What did the school look like? Where did you go when you wanted to run away?

In R. V. Cassill’s classic book Writing Fiction (Prentice Hall Trade, 1975), he describes “conversion,” a method for revision that he says is “vaguely comparable to transposing a piece of music from one key to another.” Try the following conversion exercise: Cut up a story into its paragraphs (using scissors). Rearrange the paragraphs, and add any connective writing needed to support the new structure.

Choose a poem—one of your favorites or one you select randomly—and closely analyze its structure. How many stanzas does it have? How many lines comprise each stanza? How many stressed syllables are in each line? Is there a pattern to the number of syllables per line? Once you've fully analyzed the structure, write a poem of your own using that structure.

Extreme experiences can significantly alter our perspective on life. Write an essay about a time when you faced a near-death experience, or believed you were in serious danger. Consider the following questions: How did you react immediately? How did you respond later? In retrospect, do you wish you'd reacted differently when it happened? What from the experience do you still carry with you?

One of a writer’s most powerful tools is sensory perception. As an exercise, deprive yourself of stimulation. Sit quietly in a dark room, turn off and hide your electronics, and avoid becoming distracted. Try this for an entire day, or whatever time span you can manage. After leaving yourself alone with your thoughts for some time, write a story inspired by your musings. Try starting with a single sentence that may have risen to the surface during your day.

Posted by Writing Prompter on 9.11.12

Read up on a famous figure (living or dead) whose personality is completely different from your own. Write a poem from that person's perspective about an important event or series of events that shaped who he or she was. 

Posted by Writing Prompter on 9.06.12

Now that fall has almost arrived, ruminate about all that happened over the summer. Choose a moment or a scene that you distinctly remember and freewrite about it. What took place? Who was involved? Is it important? If not, why did you remember it? How did it make you feel? Review your freewriting and transform what you discover into an essay that transcends the subject at hand, so that it has universal appeal to readers.

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