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All Life is an Experiment…

…According to famous American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. In fact, to quote him fully, “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” I’m not quite sure when he said this, but it is fittingly inspirational – especially for us writers who slog daily to put pen to paper, ever sure that our writing will never live up to expectations; even if only our own.

I got to thinking about experimenting with writing this week because while I was flipping through my, well, Flipboard, I stumbled across a blog post by Mia Botha at Writers Write; a presumably South African blog dedicated to the craft of writing. Now I say presumably South African, because a.) Ms. Mia’s last name is Botha, and from what I understand it’s a bit like Smith or Jones over there, and b.) I wasn’t curious enough to confirm same through a quick Google search; shame on me. Yet, I digress.

In her blog she makes an excellent suggesting for changing things up a bit as a fiction writer, and trying to work out those writing muscles in a new and inventive way to shock them out of complacency, and I kind of like it! Now, I will say her challenge certainly works best on a short story, but will work on a chapter of a longer length work, and although it may at first seem a tad cliched, (I know – you’re not taking a creative writing class at the local library – I get it). There really is some benefit to be found in working your plot in different formats. Her suggestions include:

  • Changing the viewpoint of your story. If you tend to write in the first person, change it up and write in the third person. If you have a short story already written, try rewriting it from a different viewpoint. Is the main character as fascinating seen through another person’s eyes? Is his character now unrealistic?

  • Rewrite your story from the perspective of the antagonist. If you write from the anti-hero’s perspective, write it from the good guy’s perspective. It’s a lot more difficult than it sounds!

  • Use a new device to tell your story. Tell your story through a series of speeches, or email correspondence, or diary entries. Get really creative and tell the story through the lyrics of songs, or as Mia suggests, even recipes!

Not all of the end results will be your best work, but that’s okay. If you know dialogue is a weakness, make a point of selecting this as your challenge. I love to try and move a story along using nothing but dialogue as it REALLY flushes out what’s important and what might just be fluff.

Regardless of how you change things up, trying something new on for size is better than not going into the dressing room at all. It’s so easy to shrug your shoulders and say you’re not feeling particularly inspired tonight. Before you get comfy on the couch in front of The Voice, go and try one of these exercises for 30 minutes or so. You may just surprise yourself!

Pen On!

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