Category Archives: Writing Exercises

The Flash Fiction Challenge: 3 More Short Stories…From Joe

In my last post, I revealed a Flash Fiction Challenge my coworker and I underwent. We created a 350-word (or less) story per day based off of’s Word of the Day. The word had to either be mentioned in the story somewhere or the story could be centered around the word.

I’ve shared three of my stories. Here are three of his.

a brown, black, and white dog lying in the grass
Joe’s dog, Bassi, because cute animals

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The Flash Fiction Challenge: Three of My Shortest Short Stories

Do you receive’s Word of the Day? I do, and I’ve thought for awhile now that it would be really awesome to do a flash fiction story with the Word of the Day.

I recently convinced my fellow writer friend/coworker Joe to embark on a 10 Days of Flash Fiction Challenge with me, so I thought I would share a few of our favorites. I’m including three of my stories here, and three of his in the next blog post.

a pen writing the words once upon a time

And, bonus: For one of mine, I’m also going to share my brainstorming thoughts on how I came up with the idea in hopes of motivating other writers out there; I’ll share a tiny bit of background info for the other two.

Coming up with new ideas can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be if you keep your mind open and continue asking questions.

Disclaimer: I swear.

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Creating a Character’s Background, Place, Setting, and Milieu (writing exercise #15)

Happy National Novel Writing Month! Who’s writing?? I am!

I have been working on a new novel for a month or so. It’s going…slowly. I’m not hammering out hours on it every day as would be ideal. But I’m doing what I can, and doing a little bit (almost) every day.

If you’re writing too, join me in these writing exercises, straight from What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers.

Side note: I can’t recommend The 90 Day Novel enough, if you haven’t picked that up as well. There are also writing exercises in that book, although much simpler. (As in, write for five minutes as your main character starting with, “My idea of a perfect day is…”)

This exercise is a little bit like the Props one – we’re taking a look at settings and objects that can really define who a person is. If someone broke into your house and went through your stuff, they’d have a pretty good idea about your personality, right? Let’s pretend we’re about to rob our protagonist’s home.


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Making heroes flawed (writing exercise #14)

A little catch up before we begin for regular readers…if you’re just here for the writing exercise, go ahead and jump to that.

I’m back from a month-long hiatus from the blog, in lieu of some Big Life Changes going on.  You’ll probably notice some changes with the blog as well.

I’ve already announced a break from my most popular category I wrote about the most, the Difference Betweens.

You might have also noticed a few categories that didn’t really take off – Tara’s Tutorials With Baking, which was great in theory but time consuming and now I’m going to be moving, and won’t be just down the street from my baking expert sister-in-law.

Then there was Operation Declutter, which is actually still an ongoing process in real life, as it has died on the blog. As I got into it, I realized there were uh, things I was getting rid of that I didn’t really want to broadcast on the internet. I still very, very much believe in decluttering and having less Stuff around, but this has turned into more of a private process.

As I’ve started a new, full time writing job, I’ve stopped my main freelancing gigs, so I’m not writing as much at home anymore. Although I took a break from as I got settled into my new, awesome job, oddly enough, I’m actually going to have more time to blog than I did before.

And the whole not freelancing thing also leaves room for another passion of mine: fiction writing.

I wrote a novel a couple years ago, Sober in Connecticut. The whole thing. About 96,000 words. I put it out there to publishers and didn’t get a bite. That will probably be revisited at some point.

Over the course of several months, several months ago, I wrote roughly half of the most difficult short story I’ve ever worked on – about 10,000 words – and had to stop. I hope to revisit this one as well. We’ll call it “The Animal Story” (a working/terrible title).

As I jump back into fiction, I wanted to start fresh with a new story.

I know, I know. It’s classic to start stories and not finish them, and I swear I don’t normally do that and “The Animal Story” is a fluke.

But a story idea just came along recently, like they often do, and I’ve been plotting it out and doing some character development before I dive in…


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What do your characters want? (writing exercise #13)

As with a couple other writing exercises we’ve done, this one does not create a new story, but is working with one you already have.

Typically I use my novel that has been in the works for a long time now, but recently I have taken a much needed break from that and am concentrating on short stories.

I’m currently working on a scary short story (I like to do them around Halloween time) and I’ve also been revisiting my novella to submit somewhere – it’s my novella I’ll use for this one.

Characters want something – this is a fundamental fact of fiction. If they don’t, they’re probably nothing more than a prop.

Behind the more specific wants – I want to dump my boyfriend and get out of this dead end relationship – are the more general, abstract wants that most folks can identify with: love, individuality, security, etc.

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Props (writing exercise #12)

Continuing on with the characterization section of writing exercises, this activity emphasizes the literal surroundings of our characters as they exist in a setting.

This reminds me a lot of my play writing class I took last year. If you ever go to plays (I recently saw Phantom of the Opera with my mom – it was fantastic) try paying close attention to the props on stage. They’re likely telling you additional things about the characters, that you can’t get from action and dialogue alone.

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What do you know about your characters? (writing exercise #11)

As with the last writing exercise, this one is working with characters in a story you’ve already created.

Once again, I am going with my yet-to-be-published novel. In my story, I have a multiple protagonist situation going on, but there is still one primary character. Unfortunately, she is less interesting and likeable than some of the other characters, is what I’ve gotten from feedback. 

Hence, I’ve chose her for this exercise, in hopes of getting to know her better.

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