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January 30, 2013 / Bika

Writing Exercise: Person & Place

I have a shitton* of homework to do, so it’s time for some good ol’ procrastinatory** blogging. Tuesday’s class focused on using randomly assigned elements written by other students to make flash fiction. You can do a similar exercise by yourself.

Step 1: Place

Write or steal (from a handy book, perhaps, or flip through Pinterest) a detailed setting with usable objects lying about. It’s important to do this part first, since it’s the least random-friendly of the two elements. Write a paragraph or two to set the scene: how does this location look/smell/feel? What’s in it, how is it arranged, what’s the lighting situation? Air quality? Give the location an atmosphere and include at least three items that can be used as inventory. DON’T include any people.

Step 2: Person

Use a name generator. I like this one because it’s adjustable for country & includes lots of utterly unnecessary detail. Love me some of that superfluous shit.

Now give this person a description. Some elements may be really hokey or clash with your generated name. It’s not a big deal. Work with what you get, or cycle through and pick whatever the hell you like. Rocket science, this is not.

For shits and giggles, you can add a mood/trait or a bogus alignment. (I came up as “Freaky Evil.” Who’s surprised? No one? ALL RIGHT THEN.)

Again, write a paragraph or two about the character as a person. Where are they from? How were they raised? What are their fears and motivations? What’s their dearest wish?

It’s worth noting that these two basic elements–character and place–should be at least somewhat randomly selected. You need them to be random for the exercise to hold. If you just pick a place where you think your new character SHOULD be, or vice versa, you’re not really stretching yourself.


Now that you’ve got a fictional character and a setting, it’s time to write. You might tell how this character came to be in this place, or what they’re doing there. Consider the character’s motivations and fears. This story can be as short or long as you like, but I recommend no more than a half-hour or 500 words’ worth of work. Writing quickly is a challenge, but the more you practice doing so, the easier it will be. Get more words for your writing buck, man. It’s good for you.

SO. Go forth and write, if you’re of a mind. I’d love to see what comes of it, so do please post or link your results in the comments. Sharing is caring!

(*I like the “shitton” spelling because it’s Frenchy-looking and makes a very satisfying sound when you pronounce it as such. Shee-TOHN!)

(**Word fact: “procrastinatory” is actually a word, according to the interwebs. Cool.)


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