Fiction Exercise: Part 5

The fiction-writing exercise described in the posts of February 2713, and 16 was the first assignment of a class in which the students would later write essays on assigned subjects, using works of fiction and poetry as sources.  The goal was to provide the students with some insight into what it takes to write fiction. (Poetry writing was addressed in another exercise). The greater goal was to engender a keener appreciation of fiction.

One set of exercises in the class concerned word use. We did some semantic warm-ups in class.

Exercise: Describe the difference between hounds and terriers, lemons and limes, and New York City (or the nearest big city) and your home town.  After the students have taken 5-10 minutes on these comparisons, ask which one was easiest. With great confidence, I can predict they said the New York and your home town comparison was easiest, because there was the clearest distinction between the two entities.  Things which are most alike are hardest to compare.

Exercise:  Introduce Wordle (, which analyzes a given passage for frequency of usage, portraying the most frequently used words in the largest type.  Discuss the “so what” of this exercise in class — if one word is outsized, it is probably being used too much and the student should look for synonyms and substitutes.

Exercise:  This exercise, called “99 Ways to Love a Child” is taken from here.

Start them out with “love,” and “nurture.” They will get through the obvious ones quickly, but the pace of the answers comes slower and slower and finally peters out. I go around the class so that each student is forced to contribute. Don’t rush. Let them think deeply. Here is the list of verbs presented at the above link.

Accept Admire Adore Advise Advocate Aid Allow Amaze Answer Applaud Appreciate Approve Ask Assist Assure Attend Believe Care Carry Celebrate Challenge Champion Charm Cheer Cherish Comfort Commit Compliment Confide Consider Console Defend Devote Discipline Discover Educate Empathize Empower Encourage Endorse Enlighten Excite Explain Guide Hear Hold Honor Hope Hug Imagine Influence Inspire Involve Join Kiss Know Laugh Learn Like Limit Listen Marvel Motivate Need Notice Nourish Nurture Observe Offer Participate Play Please Praise Protect Provide Recognize Regard Respect Respond Show Smile Speak Squeeze Stimulate Suggest Supervise Support Surprise Talk Teach Train Treasure Trust Understand Value Watch Wish Wonder.

This list doesn’t contain any words beginning with “f,” “q,” “x,” “y,” or “z.” See if the students can think of any verbs beginning with those letters.

Exercise: We acted out some of the scenes from the students’ stories. In one story, for example, a girl patted her date on the head. I asked a female student to pat the head of the young man sitting next to her, and asked the class to describe this action, and reaction. They all saw the pat on the head as patronizing and demeaning, and thus inappropriate for the story. In another story, two cops are working together when one of them, an Iraq War veteran, suffers a flashback when a heavy door closes loudly. In the story, the student had written that the veteran “was surprised and suffered a flashback,” and I opined that this was not a colorful enough description. Through two volunteer students, we worked through the drama of how both men would behave, and then described it.   This exercise is great fun and also challenges their descriptive abilities and improved their essays.

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