5 Writing Exercises to Get You Out of Your Comfort Zone

This week’s blog tour focus is Carnival Hearts, the second story in the new edition of Short Story Collection vol. 1. Since Carnival Hearts was really a writing exercise that went well, I figured it would be fun to share a handful of writing exercises you can try to get out of your writing comfort zone! I don’t know about you, but my best writing tends to happen when I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone; and even when the end result isn’t great, the process of doing an exercise is almost always a ton of fun.

Cut out a certain story element

My primary challenge with Carnival Hearts was using as little dialogue as possible and communicating through description, action, and internal monologue instead. I write a lot of dialogue in most of my stories, so I wanted to push myself, and Carnival Hearts was the result. If there’s a story element you find yourself using too much, try using as little of it as possible in a short story (or maybe even a scene of your WIP) and strengthening the other elements.

Use only a certain element

Is there a writing element you know you need practice with? Try writing a story using only that element to practice. It could be a fun challenge, for instance, to make two characters starkly recognizable through only their dialogue. Or to communicate the entire history of a place through only the way you describe its appearance.

Write a story based on a song

This was another challenge that went into making Carnival Hearts what it is. I don’t remember how I came across Kayla Diamond’s song “Carnival Hearts,” but I immediately fell in love with it, and it provided a framework for me to use with my dialogue-light exercise. (I highly recommend giving the song a listen; it’s a super cool song.) Since music is such a huge part of my life, this exercise is a personal favorite of mine, and I may or may not have an idea simmering on the back burner of building a full novel series that includes elements from every song on my “Writing Inspiration” playlist…

Start with a writing prompt

Bonus points if it’s a prompt outside of your normal genre. There are so many things you can do with a writing prompt, from using it straight to totally subverting it, from writing it in the genre you’d expect to twisting it to fit a different genre… Writing prompts can be super fun, and writing prompts have inspired so many of my stories (especially short stories).

Write a story based on an image

Pinterest is great for this. Look up “visual writing inspiration” and see what comes up. Then pick an image and have a heyday! Look at all the little details of the image, analyze the mood; if there are characters, decide what they’re thinking and feeling. You can use any portion of the image to go off of, or the whole thing, or just the emotion it evokes… There’s really no limit to the possibilities. A picture really is worth a thousand words.

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