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Creative Writing: 7 Exercises To Generate Ideas For Your Next Story

teacher avatar Skill Collective, a Collective offering skills

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Lesson 01: Introduction


    • 2.

      Lesson 02: Idea Bible


    • 3.

      Lesson 03: 10 Minute Free Writing


    • 4.

      Lesson 04: Photo Exercise


    • 5.

      Lesson 05: Column Exercise


    • 6.

      Lesson 06: End Of A Story Becomes A New Story


    • 7.

      Lesson 07: Use Existing Stories - Make Up Characters


    • 8.

      Lesson 08: Steal A Conversation


    • 9.

      Lesson 09: Use Your Own Life


    • 10.

      Lesson 10: Thank You For Watching


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About This Class

Creative Writing: 7 Exercises To Generate Ideas For Your Next Story

There are a lot of information and online courses about structuring and plotting your story, character sketches, writing dialogue etc. But there is little on HOW TO ACTUALLY GENERATE IDEAS for stories. This is probably the most frustrating part of writing - especially if you have an idea for a story but need to add flesh to the bones. It is because of said frustration that most books, manuscripts and other written-work never see the light.

This course consists of a few practical “Getting Ideas” exercises that you can do at home or at work or anywhere else:

• Free Writing
• Photo Exercise 

• Column Exercise
• End becomes Beginning
• History Exercise
• Conversation Exercise
• Steal From Yourself

You will also learn about the importance of an Idea Bible, the Five Ws, and a Character’s Circle of Life - all great tools to help you expand (and store) your current ideas or concepts. 

All writers have different approaches to their writing, so work through the lessons, push yourself to try all the exercises, and continue with the ones you feel help the most. 

All of the best on your writing-journey.

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1. Lesson 01: Introduction: Hi, I'm Martin Fainter, and I'm an actor, Carson, director and writer from South Africa. My writing background includes writing for stage full and radio. If you would like to know more about my writing background, you're more than welcome to visit my website martin fainter dot com. But apart from all of the above, sometimes way a creative writing nature had to. Now they are a lot of information and online courses about structuring and floating character sketches, writing dialogue, etcetera, a lot of information. But the one thing I don't see a lot of is how to actually get ideas for stories. This is the one thing my students struggle with most not the execution of the ideas, but they're getting off ideas. And I'm sure that you will agree with me that it is probably the most frustrating part of writing, especially if you have an idea for a story. But I need to add flesh to the bones. It is because of said frustration that most books, manuscripts and other written work never see the light. Therefore, I have compiled a few practical exercises that you can do at home or at work, or any whale's these exercises worked for me in the past, and I still use them every other day. What I've noticed when sharing these with my students in the past is that all students preferred different exercisers and sometimes a combination of a few, so work through the lessons, push yourself to try all the exercises and continue with the ones you feel helps you most. These exercises are devised to unlock your creativity, help you to realize that we are surrounded by stories. Stories are everywhere, and it is your job as a writer to gather these stories and creative Wilson Business said. If you steal from one author, it's plagiarism. If you steal from many, its research also know that USAID writer has the sole responsibility off creating a world and deciding what happens within that world writing as you'll notice you're in this workshop. It's sometimes more decision making than being created. No one can make the decision for you, and usually it's place to go with your gut, a little imagination for in the blanks. I truly hope that you find these exercises helpful. I'm looking forward to hearing from you 2. Lesson 02: Idea Bible: Before we jump into the exercises, make sure that you have something I call the idea Bible or more commonly known as a notebook. This will be your idea shade, where you store all of your observations and ideas. One of the most powerful tools is a writer comes in the form of an idea Bible. It is basically a book that I can go to whenever I feel stuck, or when I want to start writing on a new project. I always have one with me because you never know when you might see, hear, feel, think or smell something you want to remember all store for future use. You will basically be using this book to ride down anything and everything you can steal with your ears and eyes on from your own imagination. You might see a lady across the street with a puppy, and you find the way she walks. Interesting Or you might like the way she shouted at a car that didn't stop for her at the pedestrian crossing. Write it down. Any great story starts with an idea, and initially it doesn't have to be the best idea in the world, but it might lead to other ideas. I have countless notebooks filled with one liners or names I think would be grateful characters or some funny story I heard someone tell you will also be needing an idea Bible during this course, as we will be exploring different ways of generating ideas. And you might just want to write your newly found ideas or thoughts down for future use. Remember, as writers, our biggest job is not only tell stories that touches someone on job, Mr Create worlds that did not exist before. And for this we need a law, the assistance we can get and sometimes a little bit of wine to start to religiously right down in your idea Bible. This will not only help you with writer's block like it helped me many times before, but it will also add quality or characters and their lives. In a nutshell. The idea Bible is a place where you will hold all of your ideas or things you want to use for the future. You never know when you might need to add something to your idea Bible, so make sure you take it with you wherever you go. Get into the habit off writing things down in your idea, Bible. And if you don't have it with you in that moment, make a note on your cell phone and copy it over later. Now would be a great time to grab your idea Bible as we will be jumping into our first exercise. 3. Lesson 03: 10 Minute Free Writing: this exercise is not the easiest off exercises. To be honest, not all of my students actually like it because it takes a lot of discipline and a strong hand. But it is a great exercise to open your mind and get some words and phrases for your idea viable. Some of you might actually know this one. It's called the 10 minute free writing Exercise. For this example, we will use the sentence. I am happy win but changing up the next time you go at this one. The sentence you start with usually sets the tone for the rest to follow interesting sentences to give Ago all when I opened the door, I saw my neighbor is she closed her eyes and mumbled, I am happy or sad. Win the best thing about cats all one day I will. Today I am. Here is what you'll need. A quiet place, a time, a set of 10 minutes yourself in its fine pen and paper. And, of course, your idea. Bible. When you have all of the above, go to your quiet place and write any sentence at the top off. The page, for this example will use the sentence. I am happy. Win now start the countdown and do not stop writing for 10 minutes. Your pain is not allowed to stop at all. It should just continue writing non stop. You should also focus on not overthinking it. Force yourself to not think ahead. Don't think just right. The idea is not to ride beautifully. No one will read this except you. The idea is just to write for 10 minutes you will notice that if you do this correctly, your mind will start to wonder. And you might not even know what you are writing anymore. This is what should happen only when your time runs out. Are you allowed to put down your pain? The fun part about this is that you will be reading things you wrote without knowing you wrote them. But believe it or not, those words and phrases came from somewhere in your subconscious. On Did you access them unknowingly Now? The next step would be to read what you wrote. Don't be too harsh on yourself. Merciful will probably not make sense and will sound horrible. This is OK. Like I said previously, no one will read it. Except you and the purpose off it is to not make art. The purpose is to find different colors of pain to help you make art. After you read what you wrote, start to underline all the interesting phrases or words. Maybe it's a piece of dialogue. Or maybe it's just the way you structured a sentence. What any feel is interesting and what you would like to keep. Rewrite it in your idea Bible. This exercise might feel tedious and make your hand and hate hurt, but I would highly recommend doing it a few times a week. Sometimes you might do it and find nothing salvageable, and this is okay as well. At least it got your creative juices flowing and you managed to fool a few pages. They are some writers who do. This exercise is right before every writing session, not necessary to full the idea Bible. But to overcome self criticism, I sometimes do it just to get the nonsense words out on. Sometimes I find some usable dreams between the ramblings, and those goes straight to my idea. Bible 4. Lesson 04: Photo Exercise: The photo exercise is probably one of my personal favorite exercises, and it is usually the foundation of my lectures on creating a story from scratch. Here is what you'll need for the photo exercise, a photograph, a pen and paper and your idea Bible. The idea behind this exercise is to take something like a photo and create a character setting scenario and almost a complete story from just analyzing it. It usually works best if you use a photo off someone you don't know. That way, they are no knowledge of the situation or people surrounding the photo. Every now and again, I buy some vintage voters that I'm drawn to from secondhand stores or thrift stores and used these on a regular basis. A picture is worth 1000 words, and that rings true. You're also more than welcome to use photos from the Internet. It is best use photos that you are drawn to a photo you find fascinating or interesting. This will make the getting ideas part off the exercise a lot easier, but for this example, will use this photo. So once you have decided on a photo, look at it for a while. and analyze it. Look at what the people are wearing, what what they're doing, what they gestures and expressions are where they are and what their body language is towards other people. Make sure your eyes miss nothing on the photo. The next step would be to answer the following questions, also known as the five and W's. Where is the photo taken? When is the photo taken? Which year and time of day? Who is in the photo? What are they doing and why are they doing it? No, remember, they are no right and wrong on system. These questions only strong and weak attempts. Answering the five W's is partially imagination and partially just making a decision. Make a call on the questions, and if the answer doesn't feel usable, change it. If you're happy with this scary Turnley sitting, any scenario jotted over to your idea Bible for future use, make sure you take all potential usable infer from the photo and write it down. Now you are ready to take it to the next step. If you wish to expand on that character and his or her story, most stories can easily be broken up into eight pieces. When you focus on the character's journey, this is called a character's circle of life. It consists off a character in a comfort zone, but they want something else. So they into an unfamiliar situation and adapt to it. They get what they wanted but pays a heavy price for it. So the return to the familiar environment having changed just for interest sake, take the characters circle of Life and see if you can take all eight boxes. When you think about your favorite story or character from a book or movie, chances are that you will be able to. Most stories are put together with those eight steps. Anyway, let's take the character from your photo exercise and apply the eight steps to him decide what is the comfort zone he's finding himself in. What is it that it once and what unfamiliar situation we need to go into to get this thing ? What is the price that he needs to pay to get it? And how will this change of character when he returns to his familiar situation on Before you know it, you have a story well, kind of play around with this for a bit. This is essentially the first few steps in creating an entire story from scratch and ones you happy with your characters. Circle of life, right it in paragraph form in your idea, Bible. 5. Lesson 05: Column Exercise: the column. Exercise is a great way to take a different approach to your writing. Add some flesh the bones, and it will help you to create something from scratch and create someone Linus for future use. The first step would be to draw three columns on a piece of paper, then arrived three words at the top off every column would. One should be a color. The second word should be a verb, and the third column should be an emotion. For this example, we will use green think and anger now in each column, right? Five words related to the wood at the top. It can be any word you make a connection with, or a word that explains the top word better. The next step would be to create sentences with all the words you wrote down. You will end up with five sentences. What you need to do is to write a single sentence, using all three words listed first, then write a sentence containing all the words list of their second and then a sentence with all the words list of s third and so forth. The sentences do not have to follow the next but you're more than welcome to try it. If you're brave enough, the idea behind this is to create sentences from scratch. And what you'll notice when reading the sentences again is that you kind of created an entire scene using three words. Some sentences might be bad, didn't don't worry about this. It's bound to happen. Let's quickly take a look at my example. Sentences even in his dreams, he shouted with envy. She stopped when she reached the trees, wondering if it was worth the fight. They were aware off the danger, even when they paused to hand over the money to release the birds, was clever and eco friendly. This sentence I know right off the bat, is not something worth exploring. He stepped onto the moss with caution as there were traces off raid drops. Okay, so now you have your totally random sentences and you might feel that this exercise is equally as random. But the next step is where it will all make sense. Pick one of your sentences and apply the five W's to it. Let's use my last sentence. He stepped onto the most with caution, as they were already traces off red drops. Now we start to apply the five W's. Where is this taking place? Let's say it's in a secluded forest. When is a taking place at dawn. Who are we talking about? Someone running for his life. And what is he running from? Labored. Why is he trying to run from a leopard? Because he and his friends were camping and got attacked, and he's the only one who survived on. Will he stay alive? This is a silly example, but it's an example. Nontheless. As you can see, I've created an entire idea worth exploring by starting out with three columns on three random words at the top of each column, then turning those words into sentences and then into paragraphs. Now try to apply the five W's to each of your other sentences. If the sentences are not worth expanding like my eco friendly one, scratch them and dirge. Waste your time at all. You can either stop at the five W's and writer lines or ideas with using into your idea Bible, or you can expand them even more. I briefly touched on the character circle of life earlier, but let's quickly full out the eight steps using my silly leopard example. Let's fill in what we already have. We know we have a character running from a leopard after his campsite was attacked. Let's put that under number six. Pay a heavy price for it. You can either work it back or try to full in as you please. Remember, I said earlier that being a writer is all about making decisions, calling the shot. So just make a bold decision and see where it leads you. Okay, so number five get what he wanted. What is it that he wanted? Was it something to do with the camping or with the forest? And why the forest? Okay, so let's say he wanted to break free from his boring life to leave the city behind and get his joy back, and the forest might offer this. Now we can already take a few extra boxes. They number one comfort zone. He's living in the city, stuck behind a desk, living a boring life. He's actually depressed. Number two. He wants to be the person who we used to be and become the person who we always wanted to sow. Number three. He decided to quit his job and go volunteer in some forest to help preserve wildlife. Number four. He meets new people and slowly but surely get used to living with minimal number five. He finally feels free from his past life and falls in love with one of the conservationists . But number six his campsite is attacked by a leopard one morning, and he runs in the forest trying to escape. The leopard causes a few casualties, and while he is hiding in the forest, he stumbles upon his love interest that also got injured. They work together and get out of the forest alive. Number seven. He returns to the city with his conservationist lover. He's back in his old environment, but number eight, he is forever changed, knowing that excitement and change doesn't always lead to happiness. And they all lived happily able after, was that it's a dramatic sure is the award winning? No, But is it something I might want to ride down in my idea Bible and work on in the future? Maybe. Anyway, give the column exercise a few tries every now and again. Personally, I enjoy this exercise because it feels more like a game a puzzle of sorts. Seeing how these random words scan leader stories, it feels more like fund and work. So give it a go and let me know if it helped you as much as it helped me and my students in the Boston. 6. Lesson 06: End Of A Story Becomes A New Story: speaking off, and they all lived happily ever after. This next exercise is about exactly that, figuring out what happened during the living happily ever after part. Most stories we read in watching television somehow ends with us feeling that it came full circle and that the circle is now complete. To a certain extent, that is true. But I strongly believe that the end of the story becomes a new story. Let's take Cinderella's an example. We know that she used to do all the housework for a mean family and that she was locked in a basement, only owning the old clothes on her back. But she wanted more for herself. So with the help of speaking mice, pumpkin and a fairy, she ended up marrying a prince who searched for her by matching her shoe size with shoe that she lost that a party hosted. Okay, somehow my lipid story doesn't sound that bad anymore. Also, you might have picked up how the characters circle of life applies a Cinderella story. Anyway, Cinderella got what she wanted. She was freed from a family and she married a prince, and the story ends with, and they lived happily ever after. But aren't you curious to know what happened after the honeymoon? Did Cinderella adapt easily to her new, lavish life that the prince become worried about his new bride talking to mice that they have Children? How did the princes life changed by marrying a commoner? Surely she didn't know anything about eating with knives and forks, right? What I'm trying to say is used the end off stories as a base for your own story. I'm not saying that you should commit plagiarism. I'm saying that you could use existing stories as inspiration for your own by filling in there, and they lived happily ever after. Blacks write the sequel You've always wanted to read by sitting down and deciding what will happen to the characters. After the story end, you could write your own story. Once a character circle of life steps are completed, chances are that they will be starting at the first step again sooner or later. Cinderella's comfort zone, step after marrying the prince, could be that she found the royal life rather boring and wanted something else or something more. Figure the rest off the eight steps out on before you know it. You'll have a story about a rebel princess who should choose between her freedom and the person she loves. But please do not name this rebel Princess Cinderella. You will get sued. So for this exercise Big One of your favorite movies or books and write the sequel for it by filling out the five W's as well as a circle of life. Give the protagonist new challenges and different antagonists and see where it takes you. And if you think you have an idea that you want to use in the future right down in your idea Bible. 7. Lesson 07: Use Existing Stories - Make Up Characters: just like the previous exercise. This exercise involves stealing and making it your own. This time we'll use real life as inspiration, history or, more specifically, historic events. We see this happening all the time. People are producing $1,000,000 movies by stealing from history and creating their own characters. Titanic would be a great example of this. The form is based on a real passenger ship with fictional characters on it, and how the ship's demise impacted the fictional characters lives. We see this all the time with films about world wars, the Holocaust, monarchies and historical events of people that shaped the world. The great thing about this is that you already have guidelines that you can use and create Within. These guidelines are sitting stony events that you cannot change, but you can add to you already have an existing world at your disposal. Take Titanic again as an example, James Cameron had a lot to work with before creating the world of Jack and Rose. He knew that the passenger ship was famous for the biggest up until that time had many famous or influential people on board, and it eventually hit an iceberg, taking more than 1000 500 lives with it. He had dates, he had images and blueprints of the ship, and it reports off the survivors. He had a lot to work with. And with all of us in mind, he created a new world, one of the most tragic love stories to ever hit the cinema. The world off, Jack and Rose. And nothing is stopping you from doing the same to create a world within a world that already existed. But the downside of this exercise is that a lot of the times people get the details surrounding the stork event. Rome diatonic is no exception. It happens in many forms. Sometimes the change these events slightly for dramatic effect or for storytelling purpose . Nothing is worse than being called out for getting history wrong. So even though you have sitting stone guidelines, make sure you research the historic event as much as possible before putting your hand to paper. The more you know about this event, the more you have to work with. Maybe there is some historic period we've seen that you really know well, so sit for a bit and think about what story you would write until within this event, maybe you already have an idea for a story or character in your idea Bible. So browse through it and see if any of your stored information and ideas could potentially fit within this event. Our history is full off stories, stories that are waiting to be told, and nothing is stopping you from using these events and using some artistic license. 8. Lesson 08: Steal A Conversation: when I just started out as a writer, War started exploring the possibility. I read up on other writers steps for young writers. One of these articles was on writing dialogue on what they suggested lay to so much more than just being able to write dialogue. I discovered stories while following their advice. One person said that the best way to ride dialogue is to steal conversations. The article said something in the lines off, The best way to write dialogue is to use dialogue used by real people. So I would, at least once a week go to a cafe, a coffee shop and instead off sitting us far away from other people. It's possible I would go sit right next to table with an old couple or a table with a few friends around it, and I would go and sit there alone, order a coffee and rightly conversations down. Obviously, I had no idea who they were talking about, but I would just copy over what they said without them knowing it. Sometimes the conversations were fairly boring and somewhat unusable, but other times I would walk out of the coffee shop with so much to work with, especially if it was a gossip session or a couple who is trying to move past conflict on What I do is I go home and rewrite the dialogue neatly and store it on for a long time. I never really knew what to do with the dialogue because the article that gave the advice never really said what I should do with it except store it. So I ended up having quite a number of notebooks filled with random conversations, and for a while there it felt like a waste of time. Until one day, while really through some of the dialogue, I realized that there is so much more on paper than just someone else's dialogue. They are stories in lays some way. These people were talking about other people and how they made him feel. I heard stories about breakups, cheating spouses, cake recipes and diets. I heard stories about someone's grandfather was in the army. Someone's dog died. Someone finding love. I was there when two people have the first date and I copied a conversation between a mother and a teenager having a fight, I don't know these people and I will never see them again. Yet they left me with so much more than just stolen dialogue. They left me with ideas for stories, characters and scenarios. And when I do decide to take my character or story from idea Bible, I already have some authentic dialogue to go with it. When you have the dialogue and a potential story to expand on, it comes down to one thing again to make a decision. The five Ow exercise is the easiest way off, asking yourself the right questions and making decisions about who they are and where they are heading. But don't worry too much about trying to turn every piece of dialogue into a concept or story. Stall the dialogue. You never know when you will need it. 9. Lesson 09: Use Your Own Life: a lot of writers feel it, but haven't lived a dog or tortured enough life to be able to write good stories. Yes, you need to live life to write about life, but I believe that having a dark past doesn't necessarily make you a better writer. So for this exercise and the final exercise of the Siri's, we will be taking your life to get ideas from it, basically steal from your own life and create characters and stories from it. The first thing you should always do is listen carefully to your friends and family the moment they say something. You think it's funny or interesting? Write it in your idea. Bible for future use. My idea Bible is filled with one liners by friends and family, but if the story is quite personal to your friend or family member, it is based on ask the permission first before using it. Don't be that person. The next leg of the exercise would be to reflect on your past. I'm going to give you a list of questions to answer and to think about in a moment. But before I do that, it is worth mentioning that it is crucial that you're absolutely honest when answering all of these questions. Last thing before I give you the list of things. Try to when thinking about each answer. Do not only right when falling down the stays as your most embarrassing moment. Rather think and write about the moments leading up to it. How you fell, how you felt after falling, whose sword and how they reacted. The more you expand on your own experience, the more you have to work with in the future. Add meat to the bones. Here is the list of things I would suggest you answer. You're obviously more than welcome to add your own questions, too. Your most embarrassing moment. Your earliest childhood memory. Your happiest moment when you had your heart broken for the first time. Your first kiss, the moment you felt most alive, what is the one thing you will do again? If you could. Did you like school? Why, Why not? What was your favorite childhood toy? If he could be anyone who would it be and why? Once you have ons it, all of the above and some of your own, revisit them and the ones you feel might be worth retailing and add them to your idea. Bible 10. Lesson 10: Thank You For Watching: that brings me to the end of my workshop. I truly hope that some of these exercises will help you as much as it helped me in my students in the past. Revisit these exercises on a regular basis to keep adding to your idea. Bible. You're more than welcome to make me know which exercises worked for you and which did it. I would love to hear from you. Please be so kind to rate review and share this course of filler writers as it helps us to create more content for you in the future. Thanks for watching and remember. Keep your idea Bible close at all times and make sure to steal as much from your surroundings. It's possible more you gather, the more you have.