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Old 02-05-2016, 09:13 AM View Post #1 (Link) Gardner's Exercises
brancook (Offline)
Novice Writer
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Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Posts: 10
Points: 5
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A professor recommended me John Gardner's "Craft of Fiction" when I was in uni and I've found it an indispensable resource ever since. The last four pages are nothing but exercises for really giving your writing a workout:

1. Write the paragraph that would appear in a piece of fiction just before the discovery of a body. You might perhaps describe the character's approach tot eh body he will find, or the location or both. Purpose: develop suspense.

2. Take a simple event: a an gets off a bus, trips, looks around in embarrassment, and sees a woman smiling. Describe this event using the same characters and elements of setting, in five completely different ways (changes of style, tone, sentence structure, voice psychic distance).

3. Write three effective long sentences: each at least one fully typed page (250 words) and each involving a different emotion (anger, pensiveness, sorrow, joy).

4a. Describe a landscape as seen by an old woman whose disgusting and detestable old husband has just died. Do not mention the husband or death.

4b. Describe a lake seen by a young man who has just committed murder. Do not mention murder.

4c. Describe a landscape as seen by a bird. Do not mention the bird.

4d. Describe a building as seen by a man whose son has just been killed in a war. Do not mention the son, war, death, or the old man doing the seeing; then describe the same building, in the same weather and at the same time of day, as seen by a happy lover. Do not mention love or the loved one.

5. Write the opening of a novel using the authorial-omniscient voice (the voice of Leo Tolstoy, "God" Voice), making the authorial omniscience clear by going into the thoughts of one or more characters after establishing the voice. As subject, use either a trip or the arrival of a stranger (a disruption).

6. Write a novel opening, on any subject, in which the point of view is third person objective (ice cold camera lens). Write a short story opening in the same way.

7. Write a monologue of at least three pages, in which the interruptions--pauses, gestures, description--all clearly and persuasively characterise, and the shifts from monologue to gesture and touches of setting all feel rhythmically right.

8. Write a dialogue in which each of the two characters has a secret.

9. Write a two page character sketch using objects, landscape, weather, etc. to intensify the reader's sense of what the character is like. Use no similes.

10. Write a two-page dramatic fragment using objects, landscape, weather, etc. to intensify two characters, as well as their relationship.

11. From exercise 10, develop the plot of a short story.

12. Describe and evoke a simple action (sharpening a pencil, carving a tombstone, shooting a rat)

13. Write a brief sketch in the essayist-omniscient voice (more personal and subjective than authorial)

14. Write three acceptable examples of purple prose--that is, highly self-conscious and arty prose made acceptable by subject, parodic intent, voice, etc.

15. Write a brief passage on some stock subject (journey, landscape, etc.) in the rhythm of a long novel, and then in the rhythm of a short story.

16. Write an honest and sensitive description or sketch of a) one of your parents, b) a mythological beast and c) a ghost

17. Describe a character in a brief passage (two pages) using mostly long vowels and soft consonants (o as in "moan" e as in "see"; l, m, n, sh, etc.); then describe the same character using mostly short vowels and hard consonants (i as in "sit"; l, t p, gg, etc.)

18. Write a prose passage that makes effective and noticeable use of rhyme

19. Write the first three pages of a tale

20. Plot each of the following: a short-short story, a yarn, a fable, a sketch, a tale, a short story, an energeic novel (beginning, middle, end), an architectonic novel ("Anna Karenina": two simultaneous stories), a novel in which episodes are not casually related (an epic, allegorical or lyrical structure), a radio play, an opera, a film that could only be a film

21. In a fully developed monologue, present a philosophical position you favour, but present it through a character and a context that modifies or undermines it

22. Write a passage using abrupt and radical--but acceptable--shifts from the authorial-omniscient point of view to the third person subjective.

23a. In high parodic form (like Shakespeare seriously parodied the revenge tragedy in Hamlet), plot one of the following: a gothic, a mystery, a sci-fi, a Western, a drug-store romance

23b. Write the first three pages of the novel plotted in 23a, using the trash form as the basis of a serious piece of fiction

24. Without an instant's lapse in taste, describe a person a) going to the bathroom, b) vomiting and c) murdering a child

25. Write a short piece of fiction in mixed prose and verse

26. Write, without irony, a character's moving defence of himself (herself)

27. Using all you know, write a short story about an animal

28. Write a short story about some well know legendary figure

29. Write a true story using anything you need

30. Write a fabulous story using anything you need
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