Monday, November 23, 2015

Giant Golden Buddha and 364 More Free 5 Minute Writing Exercises

Waaaay back in 2006, as a kind of Ur-blog, for 365 consecutive days I posted a 5 minute writing exercise on my website both for my writing workshop students and for myself for I was then in the midst of a multi-year marathon in writing my epic novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire.

Five minutes? Well, that was doable.

Anyway, "Giant Golden Buddha" and 364 more free 5 minute writing exercises are still there, right where they have always been, at this link. What prompts me to post about them today is that at the literary translators conference I attended recently a couple of people told me they loved the exercises but thought they were no longer on-line! I suspect that a few pathways got lost in the massive bramble in there when I redesigned the webpage last year. (Now the exercises are parked inside the new "For Creative Writers" pages).

I have reestablished a prominent link to "Giant Golden Buddha" from my website's homepage, and I hope that does the trick of making the 5 minute exercises easier-than-la-de-da to find. By the way, most but not all of the exercises are mine. To boogy things up, I asked several writer and poet friends to contribute an exercise, and many generously did (you will find their names and websites on the relevant pages). 


November 23 "Mpreg Story"
Today's exercise is courtesy of 
Liz Henry, a poet, writer, translator and blogger who lives in Redwood City, California.Pick a pop culture male character, someone you think of as quintessentially masculine, like Han Solo, Sherlock Holmes, Superman, Aragorn, or Kermit the Frog. Write what he writes in his diary when he first realizes he's pregnant. How does he feel? What does he worry about? What does he do about it? Who will he tell? How will it affect his career? Is the (other) father his lover, his friend, or his worst enemy? Or, write a diary entry from a few months later, after the pregnancy starts to show and the baby or babies start to kick. Now you have the core of a strange mpreg story; mpreg, "male pregnancy" is a sub-genre of fan fiction. Whatever your own gender, this exercise will challenge your ideas about narration and gender normativity, and perhaps about canonical "ownership" of fictional characters.

November 24 "Moo-moo Stuffing"
In your novel, a character named Susie has concocted something for Thanksgiving which she calls "Moo-moo stuffing." What are the ingredients? (What are the ingredients according to Susie?) What does it taste like? Does anyone want to eat it? Does anyone eat it? What happens?

November 25 "Turkey Soup"
Apropos of Thanksgiving left-overs, here is an exercise in generating specific sensory detail and also in using interesting verbs: write in scene in which your character makes turkey soup.

November 26 "Interesting Red"
(Note: This is a variation on the exercise for October 10, "Interesting Pink".) There are are endless "browns", e.g., coffee, chocolate, rust-brown, tocacco-spit-brown, umber, amber, cumin, walnut, hazelnut, toast, fawn, cardboard-brown, ditchwater-brown, polluted-sky-brown, auburn, mahogany, liver, chestnut, roan, sepia, goat's-eye-brown, slime-brown, tawny, potato-brown, bronze, slug-brown, russet, caramel, rotting pumpkin, pot-roast, velvety-brown & etc.
So: make a list of reds. Whatever occurs to you. Really dig around in there. (Feel free to check the Thesaurus if you need a jump-start.)

November 27 "Dog"
Using detail that appeals to all your senses, describe one dog. Be sure to also describe the way it moves. And what can you say about its personality?

November 28 "Show Don't Tell: Crowded Shopping Mall"
Using specific, vivid detail that appeals to the senses, how might you show that the shopping mall is crowded? (Do not use the words "shopping mall" or "crowded.")

November 29 "Living Room"
Quickly, without a lot of thought, list at least 8 but no more than 12 pieces of furniture that might go into a fictional living room. Then choose five.
Now, assign each of the 5: a color; a texture: a size; one other attritubute (can be anything). Now, give each of these 5 pieces a position: for example, is the sofa facing the window? Is the coffee table on top of the bearskin rug? Or is the cabinet in the corner next to the potted palm? Bonus exercise (beyond the 5 minutes): in 3- 4 sentences, describe the owner coming into this living room.

November 30 "Funny Expressions"
Whenever it was time to go somewhere, my grandma used to say, "We're off, the captain shouted." I knew someone else who used to say, "it's all gone to hell in a handbasket." And lots of kids say, "Cool." The exercise is this: imagine an older character, and jot down 3 of his or her characteristic expressions. Do the same for a younger character, and then for a middle-aged character. Feel free to use expressions you've actually heard, or to make them up.

> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.