A Writing Exercise
Guest Blog by Jamie Sutliff
In a single sentence, create a story idea with a beginning, middle and end. Examples:
Beginning – John goes to the bakery on the corner and encounters a friend from high school.
Middle – They have a conversation and reminisce the past.
End – Dramatic- She is the fatal instinct type and decides to kill him – or – he harbors old grudges and decides to kill her.
Romantic – they find in only a few short minutes that they were meant for each other, decide to divorce their present spouses and run away to join a circus or be the first couple married on the moon.
1. Invent your characters in one sentence as John walks to the bakery. He was overweight, short and balding but lovable like a bathtub squeaky toy.
He was tall, athletic and worked out – he’s going to the bakery to buy spinach blintzes damn it!
He is a professor of English Lit at Vassar and buys croissants for his ten-dollar latte.
2. Invent the dialogue. They argue over insults from the past.
She is witty and urbane – he is surly and dull or vise-versa.
They talk of good times from the past, smile and laugh a lot.
They discuss people they hated from the past and decide to become serial killers and take out the entire class.
3. Action/dialogue. Dialogue can be action if the descriptive narrative punches up the story.
Her sleepy green eyes found his through the candlelight as her dark auburn hair swirled over her bare shoulders when she turned her head. She purred, “I think we should disembowel them with a rusty can opener.”
His deep throaty laugh whispered an odor of mint julep. “I love it when you get kinky.”
Never forget that a sense of humor even with the darkest plots will catch the reader’s attention. Try to describe your characters in short punchy dialogue scenes. This will set your readers up for movie-type sequencing. Keep the reader glued to short beautiful narratives: From my story “Yah-Ko,” based on Native American shape-shifters:
“As if the mountain’s peak had pierced the sun, the glow spilled out like warm honey in golden ribbons over the lakes in the deep valleys. The osprey appeared as a silhouette against the sunset, a perfect curve in the wingtips teased the wind for more lift.”
I want you to write a short story under 1000 words using the formula above. I find short stories much easier to write and my novels are all based on short stories. It is great fun to open a finished short story and expand it to your heart’s delight – it can begin as a quick salad good for your brain and become a gourmet literary meal with seven courses of satisfying reading.
About Jamie Sutliff:
Jamie Sutliff is an artist/sculptor/author living in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. He specializes in life-sized wildlife sculpture for museums and private collections, including 2 Museums of Natural History. His work has appeared in over a dozen national magazines, most recently, The Smithsonian, Oct 2004. His research on early northeastern Native American tribes has led to the writing of three novels on the subject. Two of these novels in a three book series, “The Elves of Owl’s Head Mountain” and “The Land of the Nen-Us-Yok” were published in 2007 (regional small press) and awarded four star reviews from Foreword magazine for the learning curve offered to young adults with lessons in Native American languages, math, global warming and modern day issues woven through fast-paced fantasy plots. First Edition Design Publishing published these three illustrated books as a trilogy in May 2012 and the edition is available on eBook venues world-wide. Sutliff has written six novels (two premises for graphic novels) and a short story collection. He has five novels available in trade paperback.
Sutliff has critiqued aspiring writer’s work for various groups and workshops. Visit him at www.jamiesutliff.com
About First Edition Design Publishing:
First Edition Design Publishing is the world’s largest eBook and POD (Print On Demand) book distributor. Ranked first in the industry, First Edition Design Publishing converts and formats manuscripts for every type of platform (e-reader). They submit Fiction, Non-Fiction, Academic and Children’s Books to Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Google, Kobo, Diesel, 3M, Ingram, Baker and Taylor, Nielsen, EBSCO, and over 100,000 additional on-line locations including retailers, libraries, schools, colleges and universities. The company’s POD division creates printed books and makes them available worldwide through their distribution network. First Edition Design Publishing is a licensed and approved Aggregator and holds licenses with Apple and Microsoft.