U3 More Writing Practice

Use the exercises below to practice writing your own short stories. 

Exercise 3.58

Brainstorm ideas for an inciting incident for each of the story situations below. Think of 2 possible inciting incidents for each story. Then put a star next to your favorite inciting incident idea. 

1. The main character is an elementary school child. The child needs to solve a problem with a friend at school. 

Idea 1: _______________________________________________________________________________

Idea 2: _______________________________________________________________________________

2. The main character is the leader of a country. The leader needs is traveling to meet with a leader of another country. 

Idea 1: _______________________________________________________________________________

Idea 2: _______________________________________________________________________________

3. A group of friends are trying to save a space station. 

Idea 1: _______________________________________________________________________________

Idea 2: _______________________________________________________________________________

4. A tree is growing in a forest. Then the tree goes on a journey. 

Idea 1: _______________________________________________________________________________

Idea 2: _______________________________________________________________________________

Exercise 3.59

Part A: Create a series of events for the rising action of the story below. Work in a group of 3-4 people to brainstorm possible setbacks (challenges) the main character is faced with. Use the outline to list some of your favorite ideas. 

Characters: Two children and their dog

Setting: A large park

Inciting Incident: A loud noise scares the dog. The dog runs away. The children are worried about their dog.
Rising Action:

What do the characters try to do? ________________________________________________

What setback happens when they try to do it? ___________________________________________

What do the characters try to do next? ________________________________________________

What setback happens when they try to do it? ___________________________________________

What do the characters try to do next? ________________________________________________

What setback happens when they try to do it? ___________________________________________

Climax: The children are lost and scared. The dog suddenly finds them. 
Falling Action: The children feel better. The dog helps the children find their way home. 
Resolution: The children and the dog arrive home. Everyone is happy. 

Part B: Write a 2-3 paragraph draft of the rising action part of the short story you outline with your group. Write your draft independently. Each member of the group should write their own draft on their own. 

Part C: Read your draft to your group members and listen to their drafts. How are the drafts that everyone created different? Are there any parts from your groupmates' drafts that you like better? Are there any parts from your draft that are really good?

Part D: Use the ideas from the 3-4 different drafts you all wrote individually in part B to create one final version of your short story rising action. As a group write one final draft for the whole group. 

Exercise 3.60

Part A:  Brainstorm ideas for the climax of each story situation. 

1. A warrior is fighting in a war against an enemy group. The start of the battle was the inciting incident. The action rose as the warrior ran into battle, fought a few minor characters, and avoided being killed by enemies. The climax happens. The warrior wins and goes back to camp. He is tired. What could you write for the climax of this story? 


2. A cat is at home while its owner is gone. The inciting incident is that the owner leaves and it starts to rain. The cat does not like the rain so it doesn't go outside. It does many different things like looking out the window, playing with toys, climbing on furniture and curtains, and chasing a mouse as part of the rising action. The climax happens. The cat's owner comes home and solves the problem from the climax. The story resolves with the cat relaxing with its owner. What could you write for the climax of this story? 


Part B:  Write each climax out in 1-2 paragraphs. 

1. The Warrior Story Climax

2. The Cat Story Climax


Write 1-2 sentences that you could use toward the start of these short stories as a foreshadowing of what will happen in the climax. 

Exercise 3.61

What would happen after these climaxes? Write 1-2 sentences to describe the falling action of these stories. 

1. A person is on vacation and falls in love. In the climax, the main character has a misunderstanding with romantic interest and travels home suddenly. 

2. A group of people robs a bank. In the climax, the characters escape the bank with millions in a dramatic car chase. 

3. A person studies cooking and enters a cooking competition. In the climax, the person has made it to the final round and competes against just one other person. There are challenges in making the last dish, but the person finishes it just in time. 

4. A family goes to visit a zoo. In the climax, the lion escapes its habitat and wanders around the zoo. The family manages to get to safety.

5. A student studies to pass a big exam. In the climax, the student has to answer a question about something they always struggled with while studying. The student panics and can't remember the answer. The test is about to end when the student remembers the answer. 

Exercise 3.62

The story below is missing falling action and a resolution. Revise the story so that it has falling action and a resolution. 

Before Midnight

     On a cold December evening, George was toasty warm, typing away at a paper in the college library. The paper had been assigned earlier that month, on a Tuesday probably. It was for a Tuesday/Thursday class after all. So the teacher probably gave the assignment on a Tuesday, 'cause that's how teachers like to start their weeks. If it had been a Monday/Wednesday/Friday class, the teacher probably would have given two papers and a presentation to really start off the week right, George figured. Monday's were such evil days on campus. Thank goodness, he had chosen the Tuesday/Thursday section to join instead. He only had to do the one paper. 

     He had been in the library all day, and the wrappers of his vending machine sustenance surrounded his laptop like a graveyard of carbohydrates. He might have eaten a protein bar for lunch though that wrapper had disappeared somewhere. It was important to have a balanced meal after all. It seemed like the best option for lunch at the time. Normally, he might run to a nearby fast food place for lunch, but that would require leaving the library. He couldn't do that. Not if he was going to finish the paper by midnight. 

     The clock tower on campus rang out the hour. It was six o'clock. George stood and stretched. His back popped. He'd take a break. Just a quick break and then back to the paper. The brain needs a break every now and then after all. He packed away his laptop and swept away the wrappers. A quick walk was what he needed. Maybe he would walk up to the Humanities section or down to the Sciences. He wouldn't leave the library, just switch locations. That's what he would do. 

     At seven o'clock, George sat down at a new table. It was near a window, not that he could see much outside the window. The sun set so early these days. George was jealous. The sun had gone to sleep, but he couldn't, not yet. The paper wouldn't finish itself. He took out his laptop and started typing again.

     A little after eight o'clock, a friend of George's stopped by. You never know who you will run into at the library. A college library is the hub of campus after all. George couldn't be rude to his friend. They hadn't seen each other in a week. A quick chat and then he'd go back to that paper. Just a quick chat, he thought. His friend was taking a course George had taken the semester before and had a question about one of the chapters from the textbook. George remembered it mostly, so he naturally helped his friend. It was only half past eight when his friend left. Plenty of time to finish the paper. 

     For an hour, George worked diligently. He typed and researched and revised and edited. The paper was coming along. It really was. Just this morning it had only been a few sentences saved in a dusty file on his desktop. Now it was nearly two pages long. Yes, the professor had said five pages, but two pages was almost halfway. He was making progress. He'd just take a quick break. Maybe he would play a game on his phone. Just a quick game. To rest his eyes from looking at the computer screen. Blue light from a computer screen is bad for your eyes, you know. He'd just take a quick break. He wouldn't leave the library though. 

     About 10 o'cock, George settled in for the last stretch. He'd taken his breaks for the day. Just two more hours before the due date. He could finish his paper in two hours. He only had three pages to go anyways. That would be three divided by two. He'd have 1.5 hours to do each page. George smiled and reopened the essay file. No, he thought with a frown. It's two divided by three. That's .66 of an hour. What was .66 of an hour? He did quick calculations on his computer. He had 36 minutes per page. He could type 40 words per minute. 40 x 36. That was over a thousand words. George sighed in relief. He could do it. The paper was double-spaced, so he only needed to type 250 words in 36 minutes. He could do this. 

     As 11 o'clock rolled around, George could be found hunched over his laptop at his original table. The table by the window had been too cold. It was December after all. He couldn't keep typing in the cold. His fingers would freeze. His brain would freeze. His original table was much better. He only had a page and a half to go. Maybe three paragraphs. He could do this. He could. 

     By 11:30, George's fingers were flying. He had never been more in the zone. He was no longer sure if what he was typing made sense, but words were being typed. The pages were filling up. He was on the last one. He would finish in time. He knew he would. He couldn't not finish in time. This paper was the final paper. If he didn't finish his whole semester would have been wasted. He saved the file, so he wouldn't lose it. Always save as you go. He had learned that the hard way in other classes. He wouldn't make the same mistake in this class. He saved the file. He would finish. He had to after all. 

     At 11:50, George was on the last page. He just had one more paragraph to go. The conclusion. It's just a summary mostly, maybe a catchy last line. He could type a summary, no problem. He had ten minutes. He could do this. George was surviving on pure adrenaline at this point. His hands were shaking which made the typing hard. If only his hands would stop shaking. He could finish the last paragraph. He could turn it in on time. He would do it. He saved his essay file one more time, just in case. 

     At 11:55, George waved the white flag. He had to turn in something. There was a restated thesis and a sentence of summary. It wasn't much of a conclusion, but it was something. It would have to do. He'd upload it, and if he had extra time he might add a sentence or two more and upload it again. Maybe go back and fix some of the other paragraphs. Do a quick edit. Grammar-checking programs don't catch everything after all. He'd just upload it quick once before though. 

     At 11:56, George opened to the assignment page online. He saved his essay file one last time. He clicked "start assignment" and "upload file". He searched for the file in his folders. 11:57. He clicked his last saved draft. Clicked "open". 11:58. He clicked "submit assignment". He breathed a sigh of relief, but wait. It was buffering. Frozen in the limbo of turned in, but not turned in. No, he thought. No, no, no. Please, computer, he begged. 11:59. It was submitted. His paper had escaped the purgatory of buffering just in time. 11:59. Submitted. 

Exercise 3.63

Use the outline below to plan a short story about a time someone found a surprising, lost item. 



Inciting Incident: 
Rising Action:

What does the character(s) try to do? ________________________________________________

What setback happens when the character(s) try to do it?____________________________________

What does the character(s) try to do? ________________________________________________

What setback happens when the character(s) try to do it?____________________________________

What does the character(s) try to do? ________________________________________________

What setback happens when the character(s) try to do it?____________________________________

Falling Action: 


Optional: Use the outline to write a 1-2 page short story. 

Exercise 3.64

Part A

Use 3 of the following literary devices in a 1-page story about an animal. 

  • flashback
  • foreshadowing
  • motif
  • paradox
  • allusion

Part B

1. Exchange your short story with a partner. Write comments or notes on their story to give them feedback. Use the questions below to guide you in reading their story to give feedback.

  • Is the story a 1-page story about an animal?
  • Is the character, setting, and problem the character needs to overcome clear?
  • Which 3 literary devices did they use?
  • Did they use the literary devices purposefully?
  • Are any parts of the story confusing?
  • What is your favorite part of the story?

2. Read your partner's short story again. Peer-proof their story. Underline any grammar mistakes in the short story. Then return the story to your partner. 

3. Based on the peer feedback and proofing notes, revise and edit your story.

Exercise 3.65

Write a short autobiographical story that uses purposeful time frames. Autobiographical means that it is a story based on your own life experiences. Your short story should be about 2 pages double spaced. 

After you have written a draft of your short story, use colored highlights to mark the types of time frames you use. 

past (simple, progressive, perfect, perfect progressive)

present (simple, progressive, perfect, perfect progressive)

future (simple, progressive, perfect, perfect progressive)

Exercise 3.66

Part A

Write a one-page fictional story based on an experience that you have had, a semi-autobiographical short story. Use at least one literary device in your short story. 

Part B

 Use the questions below to reflect on your thinking. Write the answers to the questions as complete sentences. 

1. How did you use the writing process when creating the short story for part A. 

2. Which parts of the writing process did you find more difficult?

3. Which parts of the writing process did you find easier?

4. Which of the strategies that you used while writing was the most effective and efficient for you?

5. Is there anything you would change about how you approach writing plays based on your answers to questions 1-4?

Note about Transferability:

Skills used for one thing may also be used for another thing. Consider the questions below:

  • Has the experience in this exercise highlighted any skills that you could use in other types of writing?
  • How could that skill or those skills be useful in other types of writing?

Try using that skill or those skills in other types of writing. 

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