This weekend I received the September issue of Writer's Digest magazine in my mailbox, and while I don't generally post anyone else's writing exercise, I saw a couple of irresistibly good ones to share.
There are actually several prompts on the WD website if you're trolling for ideas. Of course, I encourage you to bounce around my blog first, but hey, you never can have too many ideas, right?
This comes from an article called "10 Ways to Improve Your Writing by Thinking Like a Comedy Writer" by Leigh Anne Jasheway, under technique #9: Keep Them on Their Toes. She's referring to misleading your reader by throwing twists and turns into an otherwise straightforward story. Her words are italicized in quotations:
"One of my favorite exercises for generating misdirected ideas is called Illogical Ways. First, choose a problem you'd like to resolve with misdirection. For example, let's say you're writing a novel and your main character needs to have a broken leg. Your goal is to find illogical ways for that to happen. Starting at the end of the alphabet (because it makes your brain work differently), list one illogical way for each letter. For example:
- in a Zebra stampede
- slipping on nonfat Yogurt
- a Xylophone accident
- Wearing pantyhose too tight, causing her to trip
You can use this exercise to push even the most benign details of your stories beyond the obvious, keeping your readers enthralled along the way."
Although I love the broken leg idea, I'll change the topic to put a slightly different spin on things. You might need to pull out a dictionary for this one!
writing exercise: Using the Illogical Ways exercise from Z to A, explain why your character had a car accident.
In case you need help reversing the alphabet - here you go. ZYXWVUTSRQPONMLKJIHGFEDBCA
Click "read more" for writercizer sample response, beginning with runaway zamboni.
Z to A - Illogical Ways to get in a Car Accident
- a runaway ZAMBONI careened off the nearby frozen pond while prepping it for hockey practice
- she was mesmerized by her YO-YO hanging in the rear view mirror
- she ducked in fear when a XYPHOID branch dropped on her window (xyphoid = sword shaped)
- the traffic fairy on the corner meant to cast a spell with her magic WAND to slow down all the cars, but it backfired
- world's loudest VIOLIN music on the radio startled her
- she had a wedgie in her UNDERWEAR that she just had to pick at
- a THIMBLE in the road poked a hole in her tire
- attacked by a mad SWARM of SQUIRRELS
- the end of a RAINBOW landed in her lap
- she thought she saw the QUEEN hitch-hiking and did a double-take
- she had one PINT of ice cream too many, and the sugar rush impaired her concentration
- she got OATMEAL stuck on her windshield, and when she went to wash it, it became paste
- along the driver's side window, the annual NAKED 5k runners passed by
- a MOUSE ran under her shoe
- she was cramming LITTLE WOMEN for the English final
- a wanted KILLER jumped in the backseat and gave her a KISS
- giant JUMPING spiders dropped from the sky
- her IMAGINARY friend was the one giving directions
- HELIUM filled her car and her head floated away
- she blamed it on the GORILLA that was driving
- a FROG jumped down her throat
- the car was EATEN by a ravenous dinosaur
- Ford mistook her for a crash test DUMMY
- the entire CAST of Glee showed up for an impromptu street number
- the truck in front was losing BALES of hay
- windshield turned into an ABACUS and she couldn't count high enough to clear her vision
Yep, pretty strange exercise and some of these are a stretch. But quite enjoyable, I have to say.