Writing Exercises

From ***Dave and Kate, a writing exercise.

The weird thing about this one is–I hate it. What [sensory experience/concept] is [typically unrelated item]? Fill in the blanks for a cheap poem…this was the kind of thing they made us do in college instead of teaching us about, um, anything useful, and they bug me now. These things are fun to do, but what do you learn?

What color is fear? White.

What sound does affection make? A pleasant one, although it may annoy with repetition.

What texture does Autumn have? It isn’t crisp. It’s dessicated.

What shape does a conversation make? Depends on the conversation.

What fabric is a kitten made of? Calico. (Couldn’t resist.)

What noise is made by curiosity? None, unless it’s more about the “being curious” than the curiosity itself. Curiosity is 1) sneaky 2) self-involved.

What is the smell of knowledge? Depends on the knowledge.

How do you punctuate life? With a knife, etc.

What does death taste like? It doesn’t. Your experience of another’s death may. Your feelings about your own probably do.

If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it, what kind of tree is it? Just a tree.

Here are a couple that we did at the seminar this past Saturday (“Scaring Your Reader”).

1) Two or more: Write down something you don’t fear. Exchange with a partner. Try to find a way to make that thing or situation scary.

2) Solo or group: Write down 8-10 elements of a charcter–name, age, race, gender, three most important relationships, occupation, etc. Use those elements to build a suspenseful situation.

I’ll try to put down our examples.

Update: I think I’m PMSing.

But having thought about it for a couple of hours, backbrain processing, I think this kind of thing annoys me because it introduces a concept–how to create a simile–without providing any help whatsoever.

What color is fear? One answer might be, “Fear is blue, because fear makes you sad, and sadness is blue.” Given the nature of the exercise, how are you supposed to tell whether you’re making an effective simile or not? What’s the point of making a simile at all? What should you, in general, avoid in making similes? When people say, “Show, don’t tell,” does that mean you should or should not use similes? When should you avoid making a simile?

Now, a writing exercise that taught you how to do that would be worth good money.

Kate–Dave–my apologies if I gave any offense.


Iron Road: Winter in Iowa City


Iowa History.


  1. ***Dave

    It was an odd exercise — and part of me sort of rebelled against it (“If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?”). But, I figured, what the heck.

    I guess the idea is to come up with unconventional ways to describe something conventional. “What does death taste like” might be an interesting thing to pass on (so to speak) when describing a character’s death.

    Or, alternately, it might come across as unbearably artsy-fartsy.

  2. Boulder Dude


    Purrrrrfect. 😉

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