Creative writing exercises

Warm up

Flick through dictionary/ thesaurus until you find a word which you don’t know but which you like the sound of. Now have a go at writing a few lines of verse or some prose with that word in it.

Playing with voice

Think of someone famous from history (e.g. Mary Queen of Scots, Florence Nightingale, Amy Johnson, Marie Antoinette, Martin Luther King, Samuel Pepys – anyone you like)

In their voice, either write a letter to a friend or write a page of his/her diary.


Think of two fictional and/or historical characters. For example: Alice and the White Rabbit, Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett, Aslan and one of the Pevensy children, Robin Hood and Maid Marian.

Write some dialogue between these two characters using texts, emails, post its, or in some form of dialect.

Playing with voice

Get hold of a newspaper or magazine which you hate. For instance tabloids, celebrity mags, the National Enquirer – anything where the writing and/or content is really bad in your opinion! Have a look through it and see which stories jump out at you. (a highlighter pen or some post its might be useful)

Is there a particular theme that jumps out – Sex? Murder? Terrible families?

Take that item and use it as the basis for a fictional story.

Writing as fast as you can, create a make-believe story for that publication. Make up characters, incidents, quotes. Be outrageous.


Dickens created 989 characters, all of whom had very memorable names. Choose someone in the public eye and imagine what sort of character Dickens would have created for someone with that name ( Ed Balls, Boris Johnson, Paris Hilton). Write a two sentence biography.

Exercise to discover show not tell

Choose a landscape to describe. It can be any kind of landscape, but try something non-traditional – a junkyard or an empty parking lot. An uninviting place. Then write a description of this place that uses the following elements:  something huge in the picture if you are outdoors (eg the sky, or a mountain). If you are indoors, the largest thing within that room. Also include something tiny or minute and something odd or uncanny or strange. Write no more than a couple of paragraphs.

Next put your favourite character in that place; this could be a fictional character you are working with right now, or a character that you like: Jane Eyre, Mr Darcy – whoever you choose. Write some inner monologue in their voice about the place in which they unexpectedly find themselves.

On reading the two pieces, you will hopefully find that in the second piece you are showing us the place more effectively than you were first time round.

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