Restaurant Review

A Pen In Each Hand

By Collage

Take your writing skills out to dinner—go to a new restaurant. Bring your notepad—you’re on a newspaper assignment writing a restaurant review. Let your review go beyond the meat and potatoes, or tofu and eggplant; engage the reader with all the senses. Expand the five senses and include time and space. Show the totality of your dining experience. Post your review on What I Tell You Three Times Is True.


A Pen In Each Hand

By Billiard

Clear your writing space, clear your mind, and sit down and write whatever comes into your head for ten minutes. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling or punctuation. Don’t worry about what’s coming out…just write. At the end of ten minutes, go back and read what you’ve written. Find something on the page that’s worth keeping, one line or paragraph, and write a scene or story based on it.

Find Your Writing Style

A Pen In Each Hand

By Beaver

What fires you up? What stops you cold? List three strengths and three weaknesses. Then, read “Mirror, Mirror” at Absolute Blank and find out what writing style (or styles) most closely matches your own. Once you’ve pinpointed your style, give the advice a try. Hey, it can’t hurt! While you’re at it, share your findings at Chasms & Crags—you never know, you could receive a fabulous tip from a fellow writer who’s “been there”. Maybe you’ll even find a kindred spirit!

A Private Moment + Make a Collage

A Pen In Each Hand

By Boots

A Private Moment: Take fifteen minutes (or more) and write in your personal journal. Remember that the only person who is going to see it is you. When you finish, put it somewhere secure and private.

Make a Collage: Look around online for pictures and headlines that express how you feel. Make a collage of those pictures, and paste it to your home page or email it to your friends, or add it to your journal. The bonus for both of these is to share these with the Toasted Cheese community on your favorite board. This is completely voluntary, as are all the Toasted Cheese exercises.

Look Who’s Talking 1 + 2

A Pen In Each Hand

By Baker

  1. Write a scene using only dialogue. No description. No speech tags.
  2. Watch “Politically Incorrect” (weeknights on ABC) or any similar debate roundtable show to eavesdrop safely on real conversations. How is the group drawn off topic? How do they come back on topic? Are they really listening to each other or are they making different points? Are there people who fight each other (or agree) on every topic? What kinds of words do they use?

What’s In A Name? +
A Rose By Any Other Name…

A Pen In Each Hand

By Beaver

What’s In A Name? Imagine four couples who all live in the same city. Each woman has the given name Elizabeth and each man has the given name William. One couple uses their full names, Elizabeth and William. Another prefers Liz and Will. The third goes by Beth and Liam. The last are called Betsy and Billy. Describe each couple. Now imagine that all four couples show up at the same party. What happens?

A Rose By Any Other Name… On the TV show “Sex and the City”, there’s a character known as Mr. Big, or simply Big. (If you haven’t seen the show, he’s the on-again off-again forty-ish boyfriend of Carrie, the 35-ish narrator. They live in Manhattan; she’s a writer, he’s… hmm. Well, it’s all very mysterious, but he has a car & driver and he’s usually seen wearing a suit. We think he owns a company.) Choose a first, middle and last name for this character. Explain how and why you chose the names.

Handling Critique

A Pen In Each Hand

By Butcher

Using a NPC critique that you’ve received in the past, write two responses to it. With the first, be negative and vent. Act defensive. Argue all the statements as if they are either unwarranted or inaccurate. With the second, be positive and gracious. Thank your critiquer. Ask questions for clarification. Form a dignified response. Study the two and ask yourself, as a writer, which you would rather receive as a critiquer. If you haven’t already thanked this person for their critique, perhaps take the opportunity now to do so.

Break the Rules!

A Pen In Each Hand

By Barrister

Knowing grammar rules and style suggestions is important—especially so you can break the rules when it’s necessary. The key to breaking the rules is knowing why they work and why breaking them might be necessary. For example, as pointed out in this month’s Absolute Blank article, passive sentences are a no-no because they utilize weak verbs and they mask the subject of the sentence. But, what if you want to shroud the subject in mystery for the moment? A passive sentence might be the right tool in that case. You can check out Absolute Blank for an example of this technique and for one involving sentence length. The Exercise: Write a short scene in which you break one or more style suggestions or grammar rules in order to enhance the story. You can use a carefully placed passive sentence or a series of short sentences, as above, or you might consider testing the waters with sentence fragments, one-word paragraphs, or run-on sentences. It’s up to you. After your scene, point out what style points you have ignored or grammar rules you have broken and why. You can post your exercise to the TC board where you feel most comfortable.