Do you do fiction writing exercises? Some professional writers believe that exercises are beneath them. However, exercises to build your imagination are powerful — they can help you to write more easily, and write well.
Everyone is imaginative. Unfortunately, many of us who are highly imaginative into adulthood tend to use our imagination in destructive ways — we worry about things which never happen, for example.
Build your imaginative power: fiction writing exercises you can use at any time
I’ve had many queries from writers who’d love to write fiction, but who worry that their imagination is non-existent.
Let’s look at some exercises which will help.
1. Use repetitive tasks: they often trigger creativity
An imaginative mind state is focused. But it’s also loose — free wheeling, and dream-like.
Repetitive tasks which don’t require much thinking help to trigger creativity. For example, I go for a drive if I’m stuck on a plot point. Other writers do household chores, or go swimming.
Many writers get up early and write fiction before they write anything else. When you first wake up, you’re very close to your subconscious mind. You can concentrate, but also allow yourself to play.
Next time you’re enjoying writing fiction, pay attention to how it feels, so that you can recall the feeling later. When you can recall it, you can train yourself to use it. Then it becomes possible to drop into this imaginative mind state very quickly, in just a minute or two.
2. Collect evocative images for each fiction writing project
Images are powerful. Great art arouses emotions, so you can use images to trigger your imaginative mind state.
Let’s say you’re writing a thriller. Look through Google Images or Pinterest for an image which speaks to you, and symbolizes your project. You might find the image of a gun, or a setting, or a person.
Save the image to your computer. (You don’t need to license the image, you’re merely using it to access your imagination.)
If you’re writing a novel or a short story, start thinking about a cover. Mock up a cover on your computer, or draw an image.
After a few days, you’ll discover that as soon as you open a project’s image, you’re eager to write.
3. Think in pictures, then anchor them in reality
Whenever you open a project file to write, and feel uncreative, before you decide that you aren’t “in the mood” to write fiction, close your eyes, and imagine your characters.
Allow pictures to form in your imagination.
Just watch your characters for a few moments. Then, tell your story people to get on with it and act. If you’re writing a mystery, for example, tell your sleuth to start sleuthing.
Trust your characters. Start writing, following them wherever they’re going. Sometimes you need a lot of trust, but you’ll find that when you allow your imagination to take charge, the results are brilliant.
I like to anchor scenes by drawing quick maps, and time lines. A large white board is handy. Not only can you draw on it, you can also attach your maps and other images to it.
Musing over your white board ignites your imagination. You’ll see connections you haven’t seen before.
4. Try using these phrases to kickstart your imagination
Here are some phrases which can help to kickstart your imagination before you write a scene in a novel or short story.
- My character wants… (fill in the blank) more than anything else. She’s decided this, because…;
- My secondary character in the scene has a secret. He feels that… (fill in the blank.) This is because…
- This scene takes place…. (where? An example — in midsummer, at four o’clock in the afternoon. It’s humid; the noise of cicadas drowns out everything.)
When you imagine yourself, and your characters, in a scene you can put your readers there too.
Try these fiction writing exercises. They work — and they’re a lot of fun, too.
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