Tag Archives: writing exercises

Exercises in Conflict

13 Questions/Thoughts/Exercises to Help the Conflict in your Novel

  1. What IS the conflict in your novel?
  2. What does your main character want?
  3. What five ways do you keep your character from getting what he wants?
  4. Do you start the story in the right place? Is it the day something new happens? Is a conflict hinted at on page one? Is the major conflict revealed as the main character moves forward into the beginning of the middle of the novel?
  5. What is the part of your story that creates the most tension? Why?
  6. Write your main plot as a yes or no question. In film, this is the major dramatic question (MDQ).
  7. What is the definition of “inciting incident?” Joseph Campbell says it’s a call to action for the main character. What does this mean?
  8. What is the inciting incident, or that first point of no return, for your main character?
  9. Write the inciting incident from several (at least three) points of view. How does each character view this event? Is your main character the most interesting?
  10. Remember these? What is your book and why?
    1. Man against man
    2. Man against society
    3. Man against self
    4. Man again nature
    5. Man against technology
  11. Make sure you have only ONE main plot or you will wrestle trying to control and write plots of equal weight. While you should have subplots, none should be more important than that problem you reveal in the MDQ.
  12. I think some of the best conflicts result from relationships. What are you finding in your book?
  13. Our good friend Richard Peck said, “You are no better than your first line.” And that’s the truth with everything. Make sure each thing you write, is your best. Always.

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Freaky Friday

I love that book, Freaky Friday. I’ve loved it every time I’ve read it.

Anyway–Five Character Writing Exercises for next week. One for each work day.


1. I have some odd behaviors. If people knew them, they’d be like, “Why do you do that?” Truth is, I’m not sure. I think some of the things I do are carried over from my childhood as they happen as I get ready to go to sleep. What are three odd behaviors your character has? Ones they want to keep secret. In fact, what are three odd behaviors for ALL your characters? And it’s okay to not know why, but you’ll learn more about these people if you DO.

2. Interview several strangers. Have questions to ask them. Things like, “If you could change one thing about an event in your life, what would it be?” Not just, “What’s your favorite color?” Watch how they react as they talk. As you talk. What are their expressions? Nervous habits? Tics? What’s charming about them? Frightening?

3. If you’re not used to it, ride the bus for a few hours–preferably when you’re not alone. Write a quick 50 words (or less) description about each person who comes on the bus. Or sit in a restaurant, right in the middle, so you can see who’s there. Think outside the box for each person. No stereotypes. Find the odd and the pleasant about each individual.

4. Your character keeps two journals. One is for normal use. The one that can be found. Can be read by others. The other is secrets your character may be trying to even keep from herself. Write several entries for both. Think of everything when you do this–Like, does she use two different pens? Burn incense when she writes in one log and not the other? Does she go somewhere else to write? Where does she hide the books?

5. And now a Freaky Friday question–if your character did change lives with someone–who might they choose to change lives with? Why? What if YOU made them change lives with someone? Then who would it be? Why? Write out a couple of days in that new life.


PS–Oh! I just came up with an idea for a new book writing these suggestions. It’s scary. Cool!

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Free Friday!

Seven Writing Exercises

Let each of the following inform you as a writer.

1. Write your character’s horoscope. In fact, write two or three characters’ horoscopes. Have your MC get a fortune cookie with an odd fortune. What would it say? If each chapter heading was an odd fortune, what would they say?

2. Have your character write her own obituary.

3. Have your character write a letter for you, talking about herself and her situation and trying to convince your potential agent or editor to take this book on.

4. Imitating Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood, take a look at religion and its importance in your work, even if it never shows up in your book. Write a scene where this belief system is shown. No preaching.

5. GROUP WORK. Each writer will need a completed novel and a detailed synopsis. Planning for several hours, go to the library with four of five other writers. If you want to hear from each person on your novel, divide time evenly. Each person gets one book to critique that is not her own. Read and critique. At the appointed time, switch novels AFTER the critiquer has written–in 25 words or less–what has happened up to  this point. When you pass off the books, the new critiquer reads the synopsis (not to edit but to inform her) and the 25 word note then continues critique where the previous reader stopped. Read until time is called. If you have five books and six hours, every person gets 72 minutes with each novel.

6. Getting to know the plot and subplots of your book, write each as news articles,  journal entries,  headlines, from the voice of a local newscaster, as an announcement over the intercom at school etc. Make them as detailed as needed.

7. Okay, this one isn’t that unusual, but going through your book cut every ‘ly’ adverb you can–cut every well, that, very, started, began you can–change every was-ing word into one word (I was running becomes I ran)–make sure every pronoun works and isn’t confusing–replace all weak verbs with strong verbs–get rid of as many adjectives as you can–and cut all cliches. Take one day to do this work (it will take at least that long). Don’t read for anything but these seven things. Set the book aside for a week. Now read again. How does it sound?


This, Friends, is gonna be fun.

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Happy Friday-Before-Memorial-Day! by Debbie Nance

Monday is Memorial Day. Our family has a tradition of visiting the nearby graves of deceased relatives. We usually take flowers and sometimes flags. We always take photos. Now that our children are older, they bring their children along, and we caravan together to meet at the cemeteries. Then we have lunch and retell stories of our loved ones. It is a great day of remembrance.

One of our aunts never married. She is getting older and picked out her own headstone. It has a design that includes musical notes and a softball and bat, showing two of her favorite hobbies. She had the stone placed on her plot a few years ago so when she passes, relatives will only have to have the death date added. Her headstone is near her parents so she sees her own memorial each year. I’d say that is a little quirky, but one thing for sure, she’s prepared.

Think about your latest WIP. What traditions does your MC have? What quirks does she/he have?

Write a scene that shows the uniqueness of your MC and then enjoy the holiday!

And remember there are only 24 days until WIFYR so sign up before it’s too late. Hope to see you there!

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