After the initial idea for a story is grounded, but before there’s enough material for real revisions and edits, writers are somehow expected to get words on the page. This is intimidating! Here a couple of exercises I give writing students or use myself to keep momentum, or to help unstick a project.
- Monologues. Write a page or two in the voice of your main characters. Have them tell an unusual story, describe their morning, complain about something, and so on. You probably won’t use the monologue in your story/chapter, but you might learn something about the character.
- Dismantle a scene. Make a list of all the actions in your scene—what is each character (or tree, animal, wind, etc) doing physically? Describe the actions from the point of view of each character in the scene. Try describing the actions from an additional perspective. For example, if you have two people building a worm compost in the backyard, try a draft from the point of view of a neighbour watching.
- Open a door. Describe the door. What surrounds the door, is it outside or inside? Think about who is looking at the door, and if it was found intentionally or not. What do they think could be on the other side of the door that’s expected? Unexpected? Is it something dreaded or hoped for? What happens when the doorknob is turned, the handle pulled, the fridge opened, when a character yanks the chain or lowers the plank?
- Find what’s working. If you’re frustrated with your project, what do you still like about it? Circle those parts and try a draft where they lead to something new.
- Take a break. Get away from the page. Clean something, go for a walk, meet with a friend.
It might take longer than planned, but trust that your story will puzzle itself out.
The ocean is cold, and I'm still thinking about writing, but summer walks in Victoria are great!
The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.
Erin Frances Fisher (MFA UVic, AVCM pedagogy/performance) is a writer and musician in Victoria, BC. Her short story collection THAT TINY LIFE was published by House of Anansi Press, March 2018, was a finalist for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize at the 2019 BC Book Prizes, and runner-up for the 2018 Danuta Gleed Literary Award. Her stories have appeared in Granta, The Malahat Review, PRISM international, Riddle Fence, and Little Fiction. She is the 2014 RBC Writer’s Trust Bronwen Wallace Emerging Writers recipient. Erin teaches piano at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, and is a sometimes sessional writing instructor at the University of Victoria.