Tag Archives: practical prompts

Practical Prompt 7-19-21

To make your writing clearer and give it punch, avoid overusing vague words in your prose. Words and phrases such as feel, seem or looked like can often be omitted or replaced with specific details that will root your readers in the world you’ve created, as well as allow them to understand your intent. Consider this sentence:

She stepped on the gas and the car seemed to shudder.

The word “seemed” isn’t needed in the above example.

She stepped on the gas and the car shuddered.

In addition to the above examples, here are some other common culprits: many, most, few, soon, early, late, good, great, very, a lot, things, stuff and the list goes on. Search your work-in-progress for overused vague words. Then re-read the sentences where they appear to see if you can remove or replace them with descriptive words that help your readers experience the scene right along with your characters.

Practical Prompt 6-28-2021

In our last installment of How to Get Inside Your Character’s Head for More Authentic Writing, we offered strategies to help you figure out how your character would act and react to the circumstances of a scene. This week, re-read the scene and ask yourself whether the character’s actions and thoughts are simply convenient to your plot or a true reflection of his/her heart and soul. If it reads genuine, congratulate yourself on a job well done. If it still feels like it’s falling flat, try this exercise to add more depth. Ask yourself:

How does my character’s _________ influence the way he/she acts and reacts in this scene?

  • Age
  • Family circumstances
  • Economic circumstances
  • Education level
  • Personality
  • Belief system
  • Birth order
  • Gender
  • Race or Ethnicity
  • Temperament
  • Period of history in which he/she lives

Taking the time to answer each of these questions will help you get a better handle on who your protagonist is so that your readers will care about what happens to them throughout your story.

Practical Prompt 6-21-2021

Last week, we encouraged you to do a pre-writing exercise of visualizing a scene before you wrote it. If you had trouble, it might mean that you don’t know your protagonist as well as you think you do. Here is an exercise you can try to help you get a better sense of the central figure to your story.

Consider the following scenario: The coach for your 6th grade PE class has just appointed the two best basketball players in the school to pick teams for a class scrimmage. What would your character think, see, hear and feel if:

  • He/She missed the shot at the last game that cost them a win.
  • She/He has a massive crush on one of the captains picking the teams.
  • He’s/She’s known more for skills with a video game controller than athleticism on the court.
  • She’s/He’s been practicing all summer and knows he’s/she’s going to own the court this season.

Jot down your ideas for each character. Then, apply the same exercise for the protagonist of your story. Consider how the character’s life experiences (or lack thereof) would affect everything he or she notices and feels in the circumstances of the scene.

Practical Prompt 6-14-2021

Before you start a writing session, eliminate distractions, close your eyes and picture the setting your protagonist is in. Visualize the play-by-play action and what the character would see, hear, smell and feel. If you want, set a timer during this exercise. Think about what your character would notice and how he or she would react to the events happening. Then, when you have a good sense of the scene, start writing.

Practical Prompt 3-8-2021

As writers, we’re well versed at reading and re-reading our words before we ever let anyone else see them. But proofreading our work is a vital step in the writing process, especially if you’re submitting your manuscript. Today, for National Proofreading Day, we offer these tips to make the proofreading process more effective. Printing your pages in a different font or format is one visual way to spot mistakes you may have missed while drafting. Reading your work aloud also provides a quick way to hear an error you may have previously overlooked. This technique is especially helpful for spotting repetitive wording. Finally, keep track of errors you commonly make. Knowing your bad habits gives you a starting point for fixing misspelled words, incorrect contractions, grammar errors and whatever else you know you consistently do wrong.