Monday, August 1, 2016

Creative Writing Exercises

I've been giving readers of Writing Corner (my column at Northwest Prime Time) the chance to do some Creative Writing Lab exercises along with my students in an onsite class.
Feel free to join in and send me your exercises too!  (See lots of Sharing Stories pieces by my students and other writers at Put "Sharing Stories" in the search function.) Send pieces to me at

Creative Writing Lab Two
    Fiction and nonfiction writing are alike in many ways. Fiction has five elements: Character, Setting, Theme, Plot, and Dialogue. Nonfiction has seven: Who, What, When, Where, Why, How, and Quotes. So, they have exactly the same elements. Who and What are Character; When and Where are Setting; Why is Theme; How is Plot; and Quotes are Dialogue. Learn the basics of either fiction or nonfiction, and you have a lot to bring to the other one.
   Also, both fiction and nonfiction require sounding authentic AND being interesting or entertaining. Another similarity—the writing process for each has the same stages: Brainstorming, Outlining, Researching, Rough Drafting, Revision, Editing, and Proofreading. (“Research” can be recalling your own experiences or things you’ve heard.)
   Lefthand Freedom is the homework for this second class. It is a simple exercise, but you will probably be amazed at the results. This works best if your time for doing it is not limited and you do not feel at all rushed.
     A large sheet of tag board works best for this and a crayon or felt-tip pen are preferable to pencil or fine-tip pens. A wide-tip writing implement is best.
     Write using your non-dominant hand: the left hand for right-handed people and the right hand for left-handed writers. 
      A simple, narrative topic or first line gets the flow going. For women, I always use, "Once upon a time there was a princess who lived in a castle."  For men, "Once upon a time there was a prince who journeyed to a castle." For further experiments, sample other simple starting sentences.
     Take your time to form legible letters as you create a story or essay. Although this may seem frustrating at first, the slowing down of your hand will, most likely, connect your mind to some unique ways of approaching the topic. Most people who try this exercise find using their non-dominant hand somehow makes their writing more intuitive and insightful. This may be caused by slowing down and concentrating on the physical aspect of forming letters carefully or because the non-dominant hand may relate to the creative side of the brain. Studies show that the latter has some scientific truth.
    STUDENT EXAMPLE: Once upon a time, there was a princess who lived in a castle. She was lonely so she sent for the wizard who told her, “Be calm, my child, for you are the one—the light and the love of the world.” “But, I need people,” she cried. “Your need is satisfied if you bring it to be.”And lo and behold, the prince, who had been sleeping, awoke to her need.
    Left Hand Freedom often betrays truths we’ve even been hiding from ourselves. Sometimes people recognize that when reading the exercises, but sometimes, listeners tell them—like with the woman who wrote the example!
     Have fun! If you send 250 words or less of your homework, you might get published in Writing Corner or Sharing Stories.  Send to Northwest Prime Time or  

    A reader’s lefthand freedom exercise from the second session of Creative Writing Lab:
Once upon a time, there was a princess who lived in a castle. Her privilege was great, her treasures many, but still she was lonely.
    She wandered the castle halls looking for somebody who'd like her for who she was instead of the crown she wore. The princess found herself in the dungeon where she heard sad moaning and wailing coming from all but one chamber. 
    Through the bars in its heavy door, she saw a dirty young prisoner singing happily. She thought him addled until he spoke.
    "Fair princess, what brings you here? Aren't you afraid I might steal the jewels from your innocent brow?"
    His impertinence caught her imagination, and for a moment, she held hope that here was the one she sought. Then the reality of his position fueled her words.
    "How dare you speak to me thusly?" Even though the princess had regained her royal posture, her heart fluttered madly as she awaited his answer.
    "My lady," he mockingly began. "Come morning, your father's men will take my life, yet they'll never have my freedom. But you—you're forever imprisoned by the blood coursing through your veins." Jeri Haubiel: Thank you for the challenge; I truly enjoyed it.
 Ariele Huff is doing a new Write about Your Life group at Shoreline/Lake Forest Park Senior Center. It meets on Tuesdays from 10/4 to 12/6 at 10am to noon. Hope to meet you there! Contact me at or call the center 206-365-1536.

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