Saturday at VoiceCATCH, we did a group story-writing exercise. To do this outside of the workshop environment, find a writing friend to trade notebooks (or e-mails) with.
Pass the Notebook
1. Each person writes one noun, one verb, one adjective, and one adverb* at the top of a sheet of paper. Try to make these words specific and interesting. For example, tulip is more specific than flower. To hang glide is more interesting than to walk. Pass the paper/notebook to the left.
2. Each person takes the words he/she has been given and uses them in the beginning of a story. Write for 7-10 minutes, then pass the notebooks to the left.
3. Next, everyone writes a middle section to the story he/she has been handed. Pass the notebooks to the left.
4. Finally, everyone writes an ending.
In-class writing prompts often give us a good start. However, we can end up with a notebook full of beginnings, and not a single middle or end. This exercise forces middles and ends, good training for our writerly muscles.
Suggested Modification: When the VoiceCATCH crew tried this, many of our characters ended up, well, dead. The quickest way to end a story is to kill off the main character, but this isn’t necessarily the best or most creative way. For an extra challenge, add the following rule: No characters can die in the course of the story.
Noun – a person, place, thing, or idea
Verb – an action word
Adjective – a word that modifies a noun (a pink hat, ugly shoes)
Adverb – a word that modifies a verb, adjective, or another adverb (He spoke softly; The test was incredibly difficult; She sang very well.)
Bonus Exercise: Concise writing favors strong nouns and verbs over adjectives and adverbs. For example, “The peacock struts” is better than “The colorful bird walks proudly.”
In today’s prompt, writers are asked to use one adjective and one adverb in the beginning sections of the stories. After the exercise is finished, go back over this section. Can you replace the adjectives/adverbs with better nouns/verbs (“peacock” instead of “colorful bird”)? Or simply delete the adverbs/adjectives (“She sang well” instead of “She sang very well”)?