Writing Exercise of the Week: Character Choices

One of the fun parts of writing is experimenting with characters and their myriad choices.  A character can be anywhere, do anything, and has millions of options in what they do and how they act.  As their creator, you are given total control over what they do, when they do it, and the consequences of those actions.

In keeping with the spirit of this concept, I thought we’d have some fun using one of your fictional characters.  

Let’s get started!

Choose a fictional character you have created.  It should be one you have used in a story before or have fleshed out enough to use in a future story.  

The Best of Times

Using your chosen character, how would they react in the following scenarios (you can write a paragraph or a 500-word story for each but from the POV of the character):

  • Winning the Lottery
  • Buying a New Home
  • Having a Baby
  • Completing a Passion Project
  • Taking a Dream Vacation
  • Buying Their Dream Car

The Worst of Times

  • Getting a Divorce/Breakup
  • Arrested for a Crime They Didn’t Commit
  • Jury Duty
  • Getting Evicted
  • Ending Up Homeless
  • Overcome By Addiction
  • Car Accident
  • Natural Disaster/Animal Attack

Making a Change

Pick one from each category and expand upon it.  How can the good or bad situation help your character grow and change?  How might they overcome a negative situation or how could a good situation turn bad?  

What’s the Point?

Characters are usually explored through the prism of the story they are a part of.  By expanding their worldview and the situations they find themselves in, you, as the writer, can create more well-rounded and dimensional characters.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Exercise of the Week:  Playing with Paragraphs

I thought we’d explore the exciting world of re-writing in this week’s exercise.

Pick a Paragraph

Find a paragraph from something you’ve written – either in the past or your current WIP – and either copy and paste it into a separate document on your computer.  If it’s handwritten, you can type it into a new document.

If you don’t have anything, pick a paragraph from a book you’ve read.  

This paragraph should be five or more sentences.

Make it Brief

Read through the paragraph.  What’s the main point of the information presented?  How can that information be conveyed in fewer sentences or fewer words?

Does the information presented in the original paragraph still come across in the new, shorter version?  How could the information presented in the original paragraph be cut down to one sentence?  

Expand, Expand, Expand

Using the original paragraph, how can you expand upon the information provided and turn the paragraph’s content into a page-long paragraph?  Could you add details, more flowery language, or expand upon the information provided without obscuring the meaning of the original paragraph?

Does the longer paragraph still convey the original’s meaning, or is it somehow lost in the expanded translation?

Square One

Start over.  Re-write the original paragraph to communicate the same information in the same amount of space, but create a whole new paragraph. 

How does the rewritten one differ from the original?  What did you add or remove that gave the paragraph greater clarity or might cause confusion?

Why Am I Doing This?

When it comes to writing, editing is part of the process.  Sometimes we might come across a paragraph or section of our story that needs further information or detail to give information to the audience.

Other times we might have to cut down a paragraph to its bare bones but still need to convey the same information.  This skill will be helpful if you’re dealing with a required word count.


An author who is excellent at communicating a lot of info in a short space is James Patterson.

On the flip side, George R.R. Martin is an author who can expand a small idea into a long-form paragraph. 

I recommend reading or skimming their works for examples of long and short paragraphs.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

The Self-Aware Writer – Self-Awareness Writing Prompts

We’ve covered many topics regarding what it means to be a self-aware writer, so I felt in today’s post, we’d look at some writing prompts you can use to help yourself on your self-awareness journey.  You can add these as part of your morning pages, as part of a writing warm-up, or even to start a writer’s journal.

Let’s get started.

Prompt #1 – What Are My Strengths as a Writer?

Take the time to examine your writing skills and the areas where you excel.  It can be one or a handful of things, but write each down and explain why you feel these are your strengths.

Prompt #2 – What Are My Weaknesses as a Writer?

This requires honesty and humility, but it’s important to tune into these areas and know what you can improve upon as a writer.  We all have one or two pieces of the writing puzzle that we aren’t as strong in, and it is valuable insight to be aware of them.

Prompt #3 – How Can I Improve My Weaknesses as a Writer?

Now that you’ve identified your writing weaknesses, look for ways to improve.  Can you practice those areas each day?  Are there articles, books, videos, or online classes that can help you improve?  Being proactive and working to improve will enhance your skills in these weaker areas and make you a stronger writer overall.

Prompt #4 – What Am I Currently Working on, and What are My Plans to Complete It?

Have you started a novel or screenplay?  Outlines a short story?  It’s time to sit down and map out how you’ll complete this project – rough draft or finished – within a specific time frame.  Give yourself daily or weekly writing goals and a final deadline to have completed the project.  

Having your plan written down allows you to hold yourself accountable for your goals and objectives.  Part of being a self-aware writer is creating strategies and schedules to get the work done.  This also allows you to reflect and change if you cannot meet your initial goals.  It doesn’t mean you’ve failed; you may have to give yourself more time or break the work into smaller chunks to accomplish your goal.

Prompt #5 – What Does Success as a Writer Mean to Me?

This question may seem easy on the surface, but take the time to think about this one.  Success means different things to different people, and while some may want fame and fortune, others may just want their self-help eBook available on Amazon.  Whatever it means to you, writing it down and seeing it on the page is important.  Is your definition attainable?  Is it out of reach?

This leads to our final prompt…

Prompt #6 – What’s My Plan to Achieve Success as a Writer?

Much like having the plan to write your novel or screenplay, a writer must have self-awareness when planning out their pathway to success, whatever their definition may be.

You can write down a list of steps.  You can create a vision board.  You can make a plan with an accountability partner.  You can write down several ways of approaching success and decide which you’ll try first.  

Whatever you decide, take the time to really think about ways you can achieve your goals of writing success.

Next Time…

We’ve come to the end of our self-aware writer series.  A thank you is coming next.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

The Self-Aware Writer – Self-Awareness & Ideas

You are an endless supply of ideas and stories.  You’ve lived life, have had good and bad experiences, and have grown from those situations.  How you interpret what’s happened to you can influence how you react in future situations, and this self-awareness and hindsight can help you create and develop stories.

Creating grounded characters and situations that others can relate to is a way to utilize self-awareness as a writer.  This is where your internal self-awareness comes into play by exploring and analyzing real-world events and emotions from your own life.  You can discover relatable moments that readers can connect to that will keep them glued to the page. 

The key phrase here is connection.  You aim to create characters that allow the audience to empathize and sympathize with them and their struggles or triumphs.  Even in fantasy stories, we are drawn to characters who have relatable emotions, goals, and setbacks.  While we all may not go on a journey like Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, our Hobbit hero’s emotional arc allows us humans to relate and connect with him.

This week, take the time to sit and write down five or six events from your life that could be the inciting incident of a new story.  Take yourself back to those moments.  What was going through your mind at the time?  Feelings?  Thoughts?  What was your emotional journey through each of your chosen events?

These don’t have to be tragic; you can also utilize positive moments.  The key is to explore the realness of each situation.  How can those emotional beats be part of your protagonist’s larger character arc?  How would an audience empathize or sympathize with your character?

Only some ideas will hit, and only some life events are worthy of being committed to paper.  As you develop a keener self-awareness as a writer, you’ll gain perspective on when an idea isn’t worth pursuing over one that is.  

It’s all part of the creative process, the ability to prioritize ideas worth your time, effort, and energy over those that aren’t right now.

By digging into your life and past, you can mine stories that aren’t carbon copies of the latest bestseller or Hollywood blockbuster.

Once your story idea and characters are locked in, you can take the following steps: development and drafting.  We’ll talk about those in the next post.

Happy Creating, and I’ll see you next time!

Antagonist April: Links & References

Below, you will find links for the 12 blog posts from Antagonist April:

Week #1

Antagonist April: Week #1 – What is an Antagonist? – Part One

Antagonist April: Week #1 – What is an Antagonist? – Part Two

Antagonist April: Week #1 – What is an Antagonist? – Part Three

Week #2

Antagonist April: Week #2 – Developing An Antagonist – Part One

Antagonist April: Week #2 – Developing An Antagonist – Part Two

Antagonist April: Week #2 – Developing An Antagonist – Part Three

Week #3

Antagonist April: Week #3 – Antagonist Case Study #1, Veronica Corningstone (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy)

Antagonist April: Week #3 – Antagonist Case Study #2, Paul Dreyfus (Dante’s Peak)

Antagonist April: Week #3 – Antagonist Case Study #3, Colm Doherty (The Banshees of Inisherin)

Week #4

Antagonist April: Week #4 – Antagonist Writing Exercise: Do Your Own Case Study

Antagonist April: Week #4 – Antagonist Writing Exercises, Part One

Antagonist April: Week #4 – Antagonist Writing Exercises, Part Two

In several posts, I referenced a variety of sources when discussing antagonists. Below is a list of those books:

  • Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms.  Harcourt Brace, 1999.
  • Dancyger, Ken & Jeff Rush. Alternative Scriptwriting. Focal Press, 2007.
  • Edson, Eric. The Story Solution. Michael Wiese Productions, 2011.
  • Egri, Lajos. The Art of Dramatic Writing. Simon & Schuster, 2004.
  • McKee, Robert. Story. Harper Collins, 1997.
  • Truby, John. The Anatomy of Story. Faber and Faber, 2007.
  • Vogler, Christopher. The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Michael Wiese Productions, 1998.

I hope you enjoyed this adventure into antagonists as much as I did. Happy Writing, and I’ll see you in June!

Antagonist April: Week #4 – Antagonist Writing Exercises, Part Two

It’s Antagonist April, and all this month, I’ll be doing a deep dive into those characters that give our heroes and main characters opposition to their goals.  This week, I’ll provide three days of writing exercises to explore antagonists further.

Let’s continue!

Exercise #4 – Elevating Your Antagonist

  • What makes your antagonist unique?
  • Do they have any hobbies?
  • Do they collect anything interesting?
  • Do they like music?  What kind?
  • Do they have any quirks that make them more relatable to an audience?
  • What do they do for fun?
  • When they’re not being antagonistic, what do they do in their private time alone from the world?

Humanizing your antagonist is a great way to make them relatable and real to your audience.  While we explored some of these items in the previous post’s exercises, here’s your opportunity to examine and find aspects of this important character that bring them out of the realm of cliché and sculpt them into a flesh-and-blood individual.

While you may not utilize everything you think of, these elements can be dropped in from time to time in your story to give the audience a little insight into who this person is when they’re not being oppositional.

Exercise #5 – Your Antagonist’s Opposition

  • Who is your antagonist opposing?
  • Why are they trying to prevent them from achieving their goal?
  • What is their relationship to the antagonist?
  • Why does the hero feel compelled to fight against the antagonist and win?
  • What would happen if the antagonist won?

While the protagonist of your story is the most important character, the antagonist must be a formidable foe there to try and stop them from reaching their goals.  As you develop your main character, think about ways your antagonist can make their lives miserable throughout the story.

Too many times, new writers are afraid to make their main characters suffer, go through trials and tribulations, and have to work to get what they want.  I used to have this mindset, but it changed when I realized something important about fictional characters: THEY AREN’T REAL!  So go for it!  Make them suffer.  Make them fight back, dig in their heels, face horrible moments of doubt and pain, wanting to quit when things seem to be at their worst.

And who can dish out and inflict all those things on your main character?  Your friend, the antagonist.

These two characters need each other.  The story can lose its impact, conflict, and dramatic effect if no one is present, throwing opposition in their way.  

Depending on the type of story, these oppositional forces can be literal or figurative.  Still, they need to exist on some level for your hero to have something to fight against and through to get to the end.  

And it’s your job to give them an antagonist that enhances the story and helps drive the action forward as events unfold and your hero battles through to the end.

Week #4 Wrap-Up

We’ve covered a lot over the past month, all culminating in this final week of exercises you can use to create a strong, effective, and interesting antagonist for your story.  

As you take the time to create and craft the Opposition, never forget to have fun and enjoy the experience.  If you have fun, your audience will as well.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next week!

Antagonist April: Week #4 – Antagonist Writing Exercises, Part One

It’s Antagonist April, and all this month, I’ll be doing a deep dive into those characters that give our heroes and main characters opposition to their goals.  This week, I’ll provide three days of writing exercises to explore antagonists further.

Let’s continue!

Exercise #1 – Your Antagonist’s Backstory

  • Who is your antagonist?  
  • What were they doing before your story began?  
  • What major life events led them to the point where they enter your story as the primary Opposition to your protagonist?

Write a short biography or autobiography that gives you an idea of who this person is and what caused them to be antagonistic to those they encounter.  You can write it in paragraph form or bullet points, and it is for you to reference and have in mind as you write your story.  

It’s important to have an idea of who this character is so they have a past, are dimensional, and feel real within the story’s context.  You don’t want to create a one-dimensional by-the-number villain.  You want them to have successes, failures, fears, likes, dislikes, etc., as they enter your story’s world.

Exercise #2 – What’s Their Motivation?

  • What drives your antagonist?  
  • What makes them want to win?  
  • What has motivated them in the past?  
  • What do they fear most when it comes to losing against your protagonist in the present? 
  • If they do win against your protagonist, what is their next move in life?

What could motivate your character to oppose what your hero has set out to accomplish?  Remember, the antagonist doesn’t have to be a Bond-level villain.  It could be a parent, a friend, or the main character’s boss.  Their motivation to prevent the hero from achieving their goal could be selfless and positive in their eyes.  

Having a strong motivation for your antagonist can help the reader or viewer connect, empathize, sympathize, and relate to your antagonist on some level.  Even if they don’t 100% agree with their tactics to stop the protagonist, having the audience understand the adversary’s POV is important.

Exercise #3 – The Arc of Your Antagonist

Last week, we looked in detail at the arcs of three antagonists in different films.  We explored how these characters entered the story and their final fate by the story’s end.

This exercise is much more intensive than the previous two since you will explore your antagonist’s role as the opposing force to your hero throughout your story.

If you are developing an outline for your manuscript or screenplay, take some time to jot down a basic arc for your villain.  Or, if you are just in the early phases of creating a story, you can brainstorm these concepts as well:

  • How does the antagonist enter the storyline?  
  • What is their initial relationship to the main character and their goal?  
  • At what points does the antagonist pop up to cause trouble or create roadblocks for the hero?  
  • What is their overall motivation for doing this?  Are there moments when they appear to have won?  
  • How does the antagonist’s arc conclude? 
  • What happens during the final showdown between protagonist and antagonist?  
  • Is the antagonist defeated?  
  • Do they come to an understanding?  

As your story evolves, these aspects of your antagonist and their role will also evolve.  It’s important, however, to have the basics down to reference when needed so you at least have a strong starting point once you dive into the drafting phase.

There’s more to come!  Antagonist April continues on Friday.  See you then!

Writing Exercise of the Week: Let’s Talk About Sports!

Hello, sports fans and non-sports fans!  This week, I thought we’d dive into more description exercises using sports as our topic.  Baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, badminton, horse racing, the list goes on and on.  No matter who you are, you can find some sport or game that piques your interest, and that is what this week’s exercise is all about.

Let’s get started!

Exercise #1

Pick a sport.  Go on YouTube and find a short clip of that sport being played with the sound off.  It can be a greatest moment highlight or a blooper, doesn’t matter.

As you watch, jot down notes on the following:

  • What’s the sport?  Is the clip professional or amateur?
  • What happens in the clip?  Jot down the beginning, middle, and end of the clip.  Does it have a narrative arc?  
  • What’s the general tone of the clip?  Are fans and players excited?  Disappointed?  Angry?
  • What sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations are related to the game and clip?
  • How would you describe the location where the game is being played?  
  • How would you describe the uniforms?
  • Are there any fans that stand out in the crowd?  Why?

Write a detailed descriptive narrative (500 words) about the clip.  You can have it on hand for reference.  Paint a picture with words and describe the scene as it unfolds.  Make readers feel like they are at the game, taking in all the sights, sounds, and smells around them.

Exercise #2

In the same clip, choose a player.  Any player. 

  • Describe their uniform, the colors, the team they play for, and if they have a name and jersey number.
  • What are they doing?
  • What’s their body language telling you?
  • What do you think they are thinking during this moment?
  • Where do they start the clip, and where do they end it?

Write a first-person narrative and have this player tell us what’s going on from their perspective.  Give us their emotions, actions, and reactions to the events unfolding during the game.

Exercise #3

Find a clip of a sport or game you know little about.  Don’t look up anything about the sport or game; just watch a few times without sound and answer these questions:

  • Write down your first impressions.
  • What do you think the basic rules are?
  • How do you think the game is played?
  • What are the players wearing?
  • What are the fans doing during the game?
  • What is the general mood at the game during the clip?

You’re a reporter who has to fake their way through writing about this game, but you have to do all you can to make yourself seem like you know what you’re talking about.  Can you write about this sport or game, then hand what you wrote to someone else and be confident they’ll know what you’re talking about?

Why Am I Doing This?

Often when we write, we like to write about things familiar to us.  But sometimes, we have to step outside the box and write about something new and different that we may not understand but need to describe in a way that makes us seem knowledgeable.

This is especially true regarding locations we write about but have never traveled to or objects we’ve seen in pictures but never encountered.  It’s our job as writers to paint a picture with words that place the reader in that location, even if we’ve never been there ourselves.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Exercise of the Week: Examining Your Subplots

This week, we explored the characteristics of subplots and how they can be character- or story-driven.  If you are working on a writing project or outlining one, you probably have ideas for subplots bouncing around in your head.

As you develop or revise, take some time to ask yourself some questions that can help you make them stronger and more effective.

  • Does each subplot tie into the main story through related characters or events?
  • Do the subplots serve a purpose?
  • Do the subplots enhance the main story?
  • Does each subplot have its own story arc?
  • Does each subplot have a clear ending?
  • Which characters are central to each subplot?  Does one of the characters have some relationship to the main character or primary storyline?
  • Is each subplot vital?  Would it impact the main story if you removed one or two of them?
  • Is one or more of the subplots overtaking the main story in terms of being more interesting or compelling?  Could this subplot be its own story?

These are just a few questions to mull over as you delve into creating subplots for your story.  Making sure each subplot matters and helps move the main story along.  I also think it’s important that at least one subplot helps give us further insight into the main character’s development and growth as a person throughout the story.

I hope you enjoyed this look into subplots.  

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Exercise of the Week:  What’s Going On Here?

Is it a picnic, and no one brought food? Or are they concerned the bird is headed for their clean cars?

As the old cliché states, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  For some reason, this statement popped into my head today and gave me an idea for today’s writing exercise.

Let’s get started!

Search the Classics

Use Google or Bing and search for “classic paintings.”  Feel free to add descriptors like “classic African American paintings” or “classic Latin American paintings.”  You’re looking for paintings that present a scene with people in a location doing things.

What Do You See?

Once you’ve found a painting to use, scrutinize it, asking yourself questions as you do:

•          What happened before this scene took place?  What led to these events?

•          Who are these people?  What are their relationships with each other?

•          Where are they?  Why are these people gathered in this location?

•          What is each person thinking about during the events depicted in the scene?

•          What is the significance of the events or actions displayed in the scene?

•          How do you think the scene ends based on what is shown in the painting?

•          Why are these events in the painting taking place?  Why are these people present?

All of the answers – and any responses to questions you come up with on your own – should be from your imagination.  Don’t research the painting or the artist or go down the rabbit hole of art historian interpretations.  This should be from your creative mindset and viewpoint.

Tell the Tale

Using your imaginative answers, write a 1,000-word story about the scene portrayed in the painting.  Utilize the visuals to describe clothing, characters, location, and other details.  You want to flesh out all the different story elements from your creativity.

You can make the tone funny, tragic, heroic, terrifying, mysterious, erotic, etc.  Whatever you decide, it’s all based on your personal creative interpretation of the painting.

Repeat the Process

Find another painting and do the exercise again.

You could also use the same painting and create a completely different story.  How might you interpret the images in a way that’s the opposite of what you initially came up with?

Why Am I Doing This?

Much like an artist uses paint to create vivid images and scenes, as authors, it’s our job to create them through words.  By utilizing the power of words to interpret a painting, we can elevate it further by adding a new creative context and additional meaning based on our own imagination and creativity.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!