Writing Tip by Cheryl Klein


Recipe for a Short Story

I’ve always found it strange that some writers and writing workshops perceive themselves to be too “advanced” for writing exercises.  Specific constraints sharpen your skills and get you out of your comfort zone.  If I just sat down with the vague idea that I was going to write a story, the protagonist would probably end up a lot like me, and the story would circle back to the themes that always interest me. Sometimes that’s fine, but other times…blech.  That’s why I’m fond of this exercise (though it does take multiple people—a good excuse to schedule a writing date):

1)  Write the following on a scrap of paper:

–a name

–a mode of transportation

–an emotion

–a small object

2)  Trade your list with your writing partner, or if you have a larger group, have everyone pass his or her list to the left.

3) Write a short story or scene that involves all of the elements on the list you just received.

This way, even if you always default to “Michelle/spaceship/anger/paper clip,” someone else is now ignited by your comfort zone, and you get to get inspired by “Fluffy/unicycle/bemusement/golf ball.”

Biography of Cheryl Klein: Klein is a Writers at Work alumna and the author of Lilac Mines (Manic D Press) and The Commuters (City Works Press).  She directs the California office of Poets & Writers, Inc. and blogs about art, life and carbohydrates at  http://breadandbread.blogspot.com.  You can read more about Cheryl’s work at http://cheryl-klein.com.


One thought on “Writing Tip by Cheryl Klein

  1. Comment from Mary Eastman:

    Great blog post guys…something I can use with a friend tonight before I go to a Brenda Hillman/Robert Haas poetry gig at Villa Montalvo, a beautiful old estate near me here in Saratoga, California. I think they have Artist fellowships there as well in these lovely cottages. ANYWAY, hope all is well with you guys. I’m gearing up for NaNoWriMo beginning November 1st where I hope to finish my first novel Night Surfing…Mary Kennedy Eastham, Author, The Shadow of a Dog I Can’t Forget – Poetry & Prose… Website: http://www.RP-Author.com/MKE

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