Eight Layers

A Pen In Each HandBy Baker

Exercise 1 | Symbolism

Choose one of the following and write for 15 minutes, using your choice as a symbol:

  • Moon
  • Jawbone
  • Umbrella
  • Yellow
  • Bottle

Exercise 2 | Symbolism

Reread an old story or fragment and find recurring images (shapes, colors, times of day, etc.). How would your story improve if you used these symbolically? Rewrite with deliberate symbolism in mind.

Exercise 3 | Atmosphere & Tone

Have a piece that just went nowhere but you couldn’t bear to chuck it? Pull it out and change the atmosphere and/or tone. Go very serious or very comic. Make things tense from the opening paragraph.

Exercise 4 | Tone

Write something new for this one. Imagine a narrator with a point of view different from your own. Think politics, religion, morality, professional, etc. What story does this narrator have to tell? How does your opposing viewpoint change the tone of your writing?

Exercise 5 | Characterization

For twenty minutes, write an extraneous scene for the piece you’ve actively worked on most recently. Take one of your main characters and put him/her in a cafe or restaurant, alone (maybe waiting for someone). S/he eavesdrops on the other patrons:

  • a couple breaking up
  • a mother with a fussy child
  • a businessman on a loud cellphone call

Once you’ve finished your scene, go back and read it objectively. What do the reactions to these flat characters reveal about your narrator?

Exercise 6 | Conflict

Take a piece you’re working on or stuck on and add a new villain or antagonist. Does your new character work with the old antagonist or bring something fresh to the mix?

Exercise 7 | Conflict

Find a story idea that never worked out for you. What would be at stake in the story? If you’re not sure, write for ten minutes and get to know the main character. What’s the worst thing that could happen to him/her? Make it happen in the next ten minutes. Keep writing or put in your idea folder for next time.

Exercise 8 | Theme

As suggested in the article, write a statement you’d like to make with a short story, novel or poem. Incorporate your theme into an existing piece or write something fresh with your theme in mind.