Creative Writing Exercises for Beginners

Instructor: Nicky Davis
Creative writing exercises are a great way to practice and refine writing skills. Read on for some great exercises to help you get started as a creative writer, and for resources to learn more about the craft of writing.

Creative Writing Exercises for Beginners

Getting started on a creative writing project can be tricky. Below are exercises to help writers starting out in different genres, as well as some exercises to help hone certain skills that are essential parts of creative writing in any genre.

Getting Started Exercises

These prompts are designed to kick start your imagination. Divided up by genre, these exercises are perfect for beginners who aren't sure where or how to start.

Exercises for Beginning Fiction Writers

  • Finish the Story: Use the following as a prompt, and write the rest of this story. It was then that she realized the truth. She bolted out the door and drove straight to the…
  • No Rules: Pick a rule/law/norm of society that we take for granted, and write about a world where that rule didn't exist.
  • Holiday Collapse: Write a short story that takes place on your favorite holiday, where nothing goes according to plan.

Learn more about writing prose fiction, from short stories to novels, through lessons in character, setting, plot and theme.

Exercises for Beginning Creative Non-Fiction Writers

  • I Remember…: Start writing with the phrase, 'I remember…' and just free write about whatever memory comes to you first.
  • Firsts: Write about your first time at something. It can be a first kiss, first birthday, first fight, first day of school or work, whatever 'first' interests you most.
  • Have Faith: Write about faith, yours or someone else's, and what it means to you to be 'faithful'.

Explore the craft of prose non-fiction, and learn more about reading and writing memoirs, essays, biographies and autobiographies.

Exercises for Beginning Poetry Writers

  • 13x13x13: Choose the 13th book on your bookshelf, open to page 13, find the 13th sentence, and use it in a poem about luck that is 13 lines long.
  • Scrabble Grab: Use scrabble tiles or other alphabet tiles, and draw 15. Write down a word that begins with each letter. Then write a 15-line poem, including one of your 15 words in each line.
  • Musical Poem: Find a piece of music without words, and listen to it as you write to inspire your poem. Let breaks or shifts in the music inform your line breaks, and punctuation.

Discover more about poetry writing through lessons in poetic forms such as verse, caesura, sonnets, odes and more.

Exercises for Beginning Playwriting & Screenwriting Writers

  • Talking Portrait: Begin with an image of someone you don't know. It can be a portrait in a gallery, a photo from a magazine, or a random photo on the Internet. Create a character based on this image, and write a monologue for this character.
  • Objectives and Tactics: Write a scene where one character very clearly wants something from another character, who does not want to give it to them. See how many tactics you can come up for each character to try and get what they want.
  • Today's the Day: Write a scene where 3 of the following 5 things take place: someone dies; someone gets married; someone has a birthday; someone reveals their true identity; someone wins the lottery.

Find out more about drama and the art of dramatic writing with lessons on character, plot and dramatic structure.

Craft-building Exercises for Beginning Writers

The exercises below are designed to help beginning writers with specific essential story elements, such as character development, plot, and description. These prompts are excellent for fiction writers, playwrights, or screenwriters, and can be modified for poets or non-fiction writers as well.

Exercises for Character Development

  • Character Questionnaire: Answer the following questions as your character, to help you get to know them better. Add more questions to the questionnaire, as you like!
    • What's your worst fear?
    • Describe the best day of your life
    • What's your earliest memory?
    • Which of your parents do you think you're more like? How do you feel about that?
    • What do you daydream about?
    • If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  • Frankenstein Character: Do some people watching. Take note of small attributes of different people, such as the way they walk, the way they gesture with their hands, the way they talk, which filler words they use, etc. Combine several observed traits, habits and mannerisms into one character. Write a monologue for, or story about this person.

Learn about developing dynamic characters and creating clear character motivation to enhance your storytelling.

Exercises for Plot Development

  • Plots and Subplots: Think about the overarching plot of your story. Who are your main characters? Then think about any other smaller, secondary characters that might be involved in a story like this. What contrasting subplots might be happening for these characters? For example, in a story about a wedding, the main characters are the bride and groom. But what might be happening to the maid of honor, the caterers, or the wedding photographer? See how many subplots you can come up with for your story, and write scenes for some of them.
  • Raise the Stakes: The most captivating stories have high stakes. Imagine that whatever your character wants most in your story is a matter of life or death, maybe just in their mind, or even in reality. What are they willing to give up to get what they want? What are they willing to do? How do these higher stakes change the course of the story?

Delve into the inner workings of plot and learn how to recognize common story elements and structures.

Exercises for Writing Description

  • Tour Guide: Pick a room or other specific place you know well and describe it in detail so a reader feels as though they're in the room. Include the experiences for each of the five senses in this space.
  • Emotion Map: How do you describe emotions without using clichés or obvious language? Create a grid map of as many emotions as you'd like, and write down where you feel that feeling in your body, and what the sensation feels like for you. Come up with as many adjectives as you can to describe each specific feeling. Keep this as a reference for writing about the emotions of your characters, so you can build on your specific and unique descriptions.

Expand your knowledge about descriptive writing to further hone your creative writing skills.

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