12 Creative Writing Exercises that Will Get the Juices Flowing
Crafting stories, poems, and other kinds of great creative writing isn’t something most people can do with ease. It’s hard to pinpoint what makes a piece of creative writing interesting (Engaging characters? Clever wordplay? Rhyme and meter? Stunning plot twists?) and even harder to do those things well. After all, there’s a reason people like Stephen King get paid the big bucks.
But even Mr. King studied writing and worked on his craft at one point, which is why we wanted to offer up these 12 creative writing exercises to rev you up and get your writing going. Below you’ll find creative writing exercises that prod you, restrict you, and cause you to think both inside and outside of the box. Some of them may make you frustrated at first, but to a certain extent that is the point – one of the hardest things about writing creatively is finding a place to start and a path to follow, and in one way or another, all of these creative writing exercises will do that for you.
- Word mash. This one is best for freeform poems, but it can work as a method to come up with story ideas, too. Pick a novel (or use Magnetic Poetry, or a dictionary) and randomly pick out two or three words. Using these words, write a poem or craft a story. Chances are the words will have nothing to do with each other, but that’s the beauty of this creative writing exercise: You are forced to create meaning where there is none, and make connections that may be incredibly loose, but you’ll have a place to start by thinking about what the words mean and represent.
- Transformation. Do you love a particular book or poem? Why not think about ways to make part of Harry Potter, for instance, into a work of poetry? Or turn one of Shakespeare’s sonnets into a short story? You’ve already got the basic structure down, so your job is to be creative in bending what’s there to fit the rules of your chosen medium.
- Remove an element. Try to write a fight between two characters without any words at all. You’ll have to make your reader understand what is going on and feel for them from actions alone. Alternatively, write a scene that is nothing but dialogue. How can you show your reader where you are and what’s going on using just what characters say?
- Pick a word to rhyme. Creative writing exercises like a word mash are all about finding connections through meaning, but this one encourages you to connect words using sounds. Your goal should be to write down as many words that rhyme with your chosen one as possible and then craft a poem that makes sense (and rhymes, obviously!) using those words.
- Be sensory oriented. For most of us, the first sense we use when describing something is sight. Our eyes are how we approach the world. But interesting creative writing exercises involve picking other senses and using only them. Hear birds chirping, water running, footsteps approaching. Smell car exhaust, pine needles, fresh baked bread. You get the idea.
- Remove your adverbs and adjectives. Teachers love creative writing exercises that involve having students describe something, then removing all adjectives and adverbs. Most of the time, the description falls flat, so they’ll ask you to write it again without those kinds of words as crutches, using any other kind of language device you want. This will teach you new ways to show things to readers and avoid the clutter that adjectives and adverbs often cause.
- Rainbow story. This one is an interesting way to structure a story or poem. Each line, paragraph, or stanza must begin with a color of the rainbow while retaining meaning. It may feel restrictive, but you’ll discover it’s also a nice path to follow that allows you to plan where you are going.
- A thousand words. That’s what people say pictures are worth, right? For creative writing exercises, you don’t actually have to write a thousand words, but starting a project from an image can be quite beneficial. What’s going on in that picture? Who took it? Some writers have been inspired to write entire novels from a single photograph.
- Historical perspective. Great creative writing exercises often try to start you off with a single element, such as creating a character. Start with easy stuff: name, age, and description. Then think about what the person does for a living and what that might tell you about them. Are they highly educated? Where did they go to school? Are they happy in their life? Did they choose their profession, or did their parents push them into it? By writing a backstory, you not only deepen your character, but also can start to see what the story for this person might be.
- Pick a topic. It doesn’t matter what it is, but let’s say meeting for coffee. Write whatever your imagination can come up with that involves this topic. Is it a date? Old friends? Bitter enemies? Spies? Up to you.
- Observe someone. Try this the next time you’re at a coffee shop or the park. Look around and pick someone to observe. What are they doing? What do they look like? What do you imagine this person’s story to be from just watching them? Creative writing exercises like this can really propel you in interesting directions.
- And then…? These creative writing exercises can be done individually or in a group. Come up with a sentence to start your work, such as, “It was a dark and stormy night.” If you’re in a group of people, the next person should come up with the next sentence, and so on. Those doing this alone should take a phrase from a book or poem as their starting point.