Happy Halloween! (Writing Exercises)

Hey, all! I ended up only being able to complete the second exercise, but it turned out all right. Better to have one good exercise than two mediocre ones.


The airport was mostly vacant at such a late hour. Restaurant stalls and magazine vendors which had had lines of travelers earlier were now dark, gated and abandoned. Florescent lights flickered coldly above the gray tile flooring. The occasional footsteps would echo down the causeway, the rumbling of a wheeled-suitcase not far behind, before the sounds would be swallowed up by the carpet.

At the end of the terminal was the final boarding gate. A wall of glass stood between waiting passengers and the airfield. The black tarmac glinted in the dark, barely visible through the thick fog which pressed against the windows like some poisonous vapor. Tower lights blinked in the dark, their white and red luminescence fading into the surrounding mist. The glass offered little protection against the damp chill which invaded the boarding gate, causing the travelers to tremble under their overcoats and shawls.

A group of weary students were strewn about the floor near the windows. They slept on luggage, their faces and hands cold, pale, almost translucent. Other passengers stared out into nothingness, eyes glazed and unfocused. Aside from the rising and falling of chests with the faint breath of life, everyone was as still as a taxidermist’s project.

Little by little did movement begin. Passengers rose to board as the distorted voice of the loudspeaker summoned them. They moved without any urgency, limbs and minds both exhausted. One by one they stored their material possessions, one by one did they rest in their designated seat. After an uncertain length of time, all the strangers were lodged in their cramped plots, ready to begin their journey through the night and blackness.

If you decided to participate, share you results in the comments below! (You can either copy/paste or link to your own blog.) I look forward to reading your results!


Romantic Ending

Sorry this is in late–bunch of crazy stuff came up this weekend.  Regardless, here’s the conclusion to last week’s “Romantic Beginning.”  This exercise is another from Novakovich, but it didn’t have to have anything to do with the previous exercise.  The point of this one was to work with foreshadowing through environment, and I decided to use the same characters given the prompt for this exercise.


Rachel went to work that morning with an uneasy feeling in her stomach.  Lisa had been feeling ill herself, and stayed home that day—in fact, she hadn’t even gotten out of bed to kiss Rachel goodbye.  Rachel decided she should maybe try to take off work early, so she could get home and take care of her girlfriend.

After lunch, when the ill feeling in her gut didn’t subside, Rachel left work even earlier than she had planned to.  On her way home, she stopped off at the store for some canned soup.  Neither of them would feel like cooking tonight, and the soup would soothe Rachel’s stomach and Lisa’s cold.  Rachel thought about calling home to see if there was anything else Lisa needed, but decided against it.  If Lisa was napping, waking her up wouldn’t help her get better.

Brian’s car was parked by the curb when Rachel pulled into the driveway.  She shook her head.  Lisa had once again conned Brian into doing some favor for her—probably bringing her lunch—and had managed to trick him into some chores before he got a chance to escape.  At least Rachel managed to arrive on time and save him from doing all their housework.

She was surprised to find the front door locked.  While she was fumbling for her keys, she heard Barry White slip through the door.  Odd choice of music to play when cleaning a house . . . and why did they have it so loud?  Could Lisa rest with all that noise?

Rachel unlocked and opened the door.  Something seemed off, but she couldn’t detect what at first.  A glance downwards showed rose petals on the beige carpet, scattered in a trail leading to the bedroom.  Rachel followed the trail partway, thinking the petals were for her, when she noticed a man’s shirt on the back of the couch.  She could hear a few of Lisa’s excited squeals over the Barry White, the kind she made when she was about to . . .

Rachel had a strong urge to walk into the bedroom and catch them together.  That would be one hell of a confrontation.  But—always the rational one—she knew seeing Brian and Lisa like that would cut her deep.  It would hurt her far more than it hurt them.

So Rachel set down her things, made some tea for her stomach, and quietly sipped it at the dining room table.  Given Lisa’s decibels, they’d be done soon enough.  That’s when Rachel would send Brian on his way, and have a serious talk with her partner.

Rachel wondered at her own calm, and then had to ask herself: did she really love Lisa as much as she thought she had?  Or was she just a stupid first crush?

Voice in Dialog– Part 3

Here’s the newest exercise, prompted by Josip Novakovich.  The idea is to portray character through voice, which in turn helps one practice dialog.  The prompt for this is a police officer and a burglar who is pretending to live in the home he’s robbing.  As always, enjoy!


“‘Clear!’ . . . Sorry for startling you, sir, are you all right?”


“The silent alarm to your upstairs window was tripped . . . we came as soon as we could.  My partner’s checking the back now . . .”

“Silent alarm?”

“‘Roberts, I’ve got the resident right here.  Do you need back up?  Over.’”

“So, may I just ask . . . ?”

“‘Copy, Roberts, I’ll stay with the resident.’  Sorry, sir.  Did you hear anything suspicious while at home this evening?”

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Slapstick Social Customs–Part 3

Here’s another piece from The Fiction Writer’s Workshop, by Novakovich.  The idea behind this one is to practice humor through the use of over-exaggeration, caricature, and slapstick.  Novakovich suggested trying this with familiar social customs.  Here’s the final part in this three part exercise.

The young couple was determined to show their devotion, and they were never so determined as when they were out in public.  In the fall, when they first began to date, they would romp through the leaves together, and dare anyone to tell them they were going too far.  When they received no reprimand for romping, they would collapse into them and begin to kiss, even though the leaves would tickle uncomfortably on their ears and necks.

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Slapstick Social Customs–Part 2

Here’s another piece from The Fiction Writer’s Workshop, by Novakovich.  The idea behind this one is to practice humor through the use of over-exaggeration, caricature, and slapstick.  Novakovich suggested trying this with familiar social customs.  Here’s the second part in this three part exercise.

The man was walking about five paces ahead of the woman in the parking lot.  It was a very hot day, and he could feel the heat rise up from the black-top and permeate his dress pants and button-down shirt.  In the reflection of the dark window of the grocery store he was walking towards, he was able to see the woman behind him, and instantly fell in love with her.  She wore cowboy boots, short shorts, a loose tank-top and sunglasses; and while his parents or anyone else might have disagreed, he knew this was the kind of woman he needed in his life.

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Slapstick Social Customs–Part 1

Here’s another piece from The Fiction Writer’s Workshop, by Novakovich.  The idea behind this one is to practice humor through the use of over-exaggeration, caricature, and slapstick.  Novakovich suggested trying this with familiar social customs.  Here’s the first part in this three part exercise.

Mr. Porter grasped the hand of his new employee so firmly when they were introduced, that the thin bones of her hand were forced to contract together like the ribs of a fold-up fan.

“It is so good to have you in the company, Ms. Sparrow.”  Mr. Porter’s shake was forceful enough for Ms. Sparrow to feel her arm wriggle in its socket.  Not wanting to appear feeble, Ms. Sparrow attempted to return the pressure of the handshake as best she could with her compressed hand.  She was barely able to bend her fingers around Mr. Porter’s hand, which was akin to a stress-ball in that it looked soft and rubbery but was actually quite firm if not inflexible.  Still, Ms. Sparrow forced all her upper-body strength into returning the warm pressure of her new boss.

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Foreshadow with Setting–Part 2

Here’s another exercise from The Fiction Writer’s Workshop, by Josip Novakovich.  The point is to utilize two different view points, and the setting, to create expectation and suspense.  This is part 2.

She had to be some hipster trust-fund kid with a rich mommy and daddy, she had to be someone who’d never worked a day in her life.  That’s what I keep telling myself, but my gut feels just as tense.  I hurry to catch up to her, the gun digging into my lower back.  I know the safety is on, I know there’s no other place to hide it—especially in the summer—but I always feel like I’m about to shoot my own ass off.

I know I shouldn’t be doing this.  It’s one thing to talk about holding up some rich spoiled punk to get the money you need, but it’s another thing to actually try.  If I get caught, if her parents are rich, they have a good lawyer and then I’m fucked.  I mean, they might even add some shit to armed robbery, accuse me of attempted murder or something.  I might rob someone of money, but I ain’t about to rob them of their life—not unless they’re trying to rob mine, or my little girl’s.

The hipster hugs herself.  She’s probably lost.  I run across the street and jog so I can go back in front of her.  I see her trip from the other side of the street.  She must be lost, walking on this side of town with the money she has.  She probably is looking for one of those underground clubs or something, probably to meet some other rich asshole who treats her like crap.

I cross back so I can cut her off.  She’s struggling with some branches.  I pull out my gun, and then realize I’m an idiot.  I’ve got no mask.  She turns and she sees me.  Her face pales, and I know I have to do this.  It’s dark.  She might be too scared to remember my face.  I sound confident when I talk: “Give me your purse, bitch.”

Then she looks relieved, like all the danger’s gone.  Like it’s a relief I just want money—well, she’s probably got plenty to spare.

“Sure thing,” she says.  She slides off her purse and hands it to me.  “’Fraid I don’t have much.”

Yeah, right.  I grab her purse and run.  I did it.  I finally did it.  We’re going to be okay now, at least for a little while.  Finally, we’re going to be okay.