Writing: Exercise in Style, Voice and Pacing

Writers and wannabe-writers of the world, throw yourselves out there, test your limits. Here’s a great exercise to improve your writing in terms of style, voice and pacing.

I’m currently taking a Gotham Writers Workshop on Speculative Fiction. I think that the recipe for becoming a better writer is to actually exercise writing – and this has to happen a lot. I guess one way to find your niche is at times to go out of one’s comfort zone to see the forest for the trees.

Okay, here’s the deal.

First: Write about members of specific interest groups (e.g. dog shows, garden clubs, quilting circles, Dungeons & Dragons cabals, food decorating contests, etc.) jockeying for supremacy shortly before a major competition or exhibit.

Second: Pick a style from the first list below, and a character from the second, then apply them to the aforementioned subject matter. Mix and match, have fun.

Give three separate short pieces of no more than 500 words total about those members of those specific interest groups as they jockey for supremacy before the major competition, etc.

simple declarative sentences
purple prose
high fantasy (ceremonial)
a Dickens pastiche
a style aimed at young children
a style aimed at young adults
a rhyming style
absolutely deadpan
broad slapstick
a horror story
just plain strange
your own preference

an old person of wealth
a young punk
a mentally challenged person
a two-year-old child
someone infatuated with someone else
a harried businessperson
someone about to end a love relationship
an alien (extraterrestrial, not extra-national)
a bag lady
a small, neurotic dog
a romantic Victorian (person, not building)
a psychopath”

Source: J.S. Breukelaar, Gotham Writers

And remember, don’t take it too seriously, do something out of the ordinary, enjoy! Below is what I came up with.

  1. Style: Stream of consciousness
    Character: A mentally challenged person

Sixteen channels to browse through I still have three minutes time to the start must concentrate before they enter the room try stealing the remote it’s mine today and only mine who do they think they are those frackers I say it’s Monday Monday Monday my turn my hands sweaty hard to hold the remote must not let it slip they take it show is gone

Hannah is at the doorway enters the room the bitch looks vicious she has eyes on my remote clock on the wall says one minute to start the pointers tick tock tick tock long minute Hannah comes hands first tries to grab the remote I push her back she now crawling on the floor she whimpers like a dog she crazy total whack-job my show my show my tv

Time is up remote is mine and still mine Hannah looses I win – music blares show starts I sigh
< 154 words >

2. Style: Simple declarative sentences
Character: An alien (extraterrestrial, not extra-national)

It was two in the afternoon according to Inter-Galactic Standard Time. I was well rested, had my breakfast and enjoyed my morning run on the treadmill at the hotel. Afterwards, I calibrated the chip in my temple. I also checked the connection to my Statistical Device. The High Council will demand facts, my word will not be enough.

I settled into the cockpit and tested the navigation functions. My biggest rival, Heikki Haemaelaeinen from the Milky Way section of the galaxy, gave me a serious glare as he settled into his own Hyperspeedicle. He did a gesture I did not recognize. He first pointed his index and middle fingers towards his own eyes without coming in contact with his face, and then towards me. There was a challenge in his constitution.

I remained calm. His challenge would not affect my racing abilities.
< 142 words >

3. Style: Just plain strange
Character: Someone infatuated with someone else

Flowers keep making my head spin. It smelled like roses, now it’s acid. I can’t decide which ones to buy. My eyes smart, I squint them – it still hurts.

Someone is cutting in.
Jumping the queue.

Bastards know the way in all the millions of ways and words. Just like all the names for roses.

D-a-i-s-y. Deizi.  

Choose choose, love must not hide, you have to work for it. But the colors keep changing. What was blue is now pink, yellow turns into green. Glowing waves of sound, I search for my wallet – not in my back pocket. Maybe the line cutter stole my wallet – they called those portemonnaie. French, French, French. Geldbörse in German. Jawohl, ich will Rosen für meine Liebe.

Seventy-five dwarfs walked into a saloon… How many gallons of beer? Yeehaw. Passengers are requested to mind the gap.

Blue it is. I want a dozen blue roses, I shout out loud. Cashier should hear and serve me, before the bastard cutting in on my cue. If they steal wallets, what else can they take?

My love, mon amour, meine Geliebte. Where are you, do you like blue roses?
< 194 words >

Pictures: CC0 / rawpixel, Pixabay / Canva

Author: fictivestina

Hey, I'm a native Helsinkian but a cosmopolitan at heart :) Outdoors, reading, writing and cultural attractions are my passion. Hiking in Lapland cannot be competed with!

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