Welcome to my little scratch of virtual land. Here you'll find essays about the writing craft; writing exercises, tips, games, and lessons; word-nerd humor; and other writer-oriented content.

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Writing Exercise: A Letter to Your Muse

I started TA work on Tuesday for an Honors Intro to Creative Writing course with Dr Laura Hamblin. In the two class periods that have taken place so far, I already have about five items I want to port over as blog entries. We’ll start with this exercise, where you will write a letter to your muse.

Muse letter exercise.

A Letter to Your Muse

Bare-bones description: In this exercise, you will write a letter where you ask for your muse’s help and make commitments on what you will do to earn your muse’s favor.

What this exercise accomplishes: The goal of this exercise is to help writers identify what makes them feel creatively in-tune, approach their creative resources proactively, and to accomplish these goals in a creative framework.

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Metaphor Lesson Series

Metaphors Be With You

This hub page will direct you to the lessons, exercises, and games in my metaphor lesson series. For more detailed descriptions of the exercises below, check out the metaphor exercise page.

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Five Sentence Story: Flawed

The following story comes from a prompt by Lillie McFerrin. The basic concept is simple: You are given a one-word prompt and then write a five-sentence story based on that prompt. Lillie’s site offers new prompts regularly, and writers post links to their stories in the comments on her blog.

Cool stuff, Lillie. I’m a fan. Now, on to the story!

Freshly tilled graves.

Image courtesy of FreedomHouse2


Fifteen years ago, my father brought me to the fields for the first time. “When your fingers dig into the dirt and mulch, tilling the land and making a home for these tiny seeds, you feel connected,” he said, his low, rich voice graveling over the words.

The papers for signing over the deed are crisp white, made by the same sort of flawless machines that complete a farmer’s chores in a tenth the time. As I sign, I can almost feel my father’s dirt-stained hand gripping my shoulder.

The only thing I can think of is that the earth over a freshly dug grave looks, really, just like seed dirt.

The Literally Game (a Metaphor Exercise)

Metaphor Lesson Series

Metaphor Exercise 2: The Literally Game

Not ready yet? Go back to basics.
Want to step back to the previous entry in the series? Go to figurative vs literal language.

So, you’ve learned the difference between literal and figurative language. It’s obvious to you, you say. You could tell the difference between a metaphor and a literal description even if you were five miles away and being stabbed in the kidney by a herd of hungry pygmy cannibals.

Well, okay. But let’s put your knowledge into action and have some fun while we’re doing it. This simple, social game lets you ingrain the concept of literal and figurative language while practicing metaphor creation.

The Rules

If you’ve ever played the storytelling game “popcorn,” you have the basic idea for how the literally game works. The objective is to tell a story as a group, where each participant takes a turn in biulding the story in interesting ways. Here’s the difference: Rather than calling out “popcorn” and picking a player, you pass along the story by using a metaphor.

So player one may say, “Jim was excited to see her again. He had always carried a torch for her.”

The player to player one’s left would then continue the story by saying, “Literally.” Player two then continues the story in a way that explains how the metaphor is a literal description. In this case, player two could say, “Literally. The two of them spent a lot of time exploring caves, and he always had to carry the torch.” Player two would then have to continue the story and  reach a new metaphor. For example, “Jim wondered if she would want to go exploring caves that night, but mostly he felt concerned. She had broken his heart before.

Here’s an extended example of play.

Player 1: ”Jim was excited to see her again. He’d always carried a torch for her.”
Player 2: ”Literally. They spent a lot of time exploring caves, and he always had to carry the torch. He wondered if she would want to go exploring caves that night, but mostly he felt concerned. She had broken his heart before.”
Player 3: “Literally. She had electrocuted him by accident when they were playing with electronics, and it damaged his heart so bad that he had to get a transplant. He was still mad at her. She was a fat old cow.
Player 4: “Literally. I … guess I should have mentioned, but she was a fat, old cow that Jim had raised on the family farm. He hated his family, though, and it had been years since he’d seen anyone from his childhood. His fear of seeing Annabelle made his mind burst into flames.”

While you can set up rules for “winning,” the main point is just to have fun.

So let’s play!

I’m going to start our blog-based literally game in the comments, below. Pick up and keep the story moving! I’ll even sweeten the deal. Literally. I’m going to buy cookies for ten randomly selected participants. Check out the rules here.

Move forward to lesson three.
(Coming on 11/2!)

9 Metaphor Exercises to Empower Your Writing

Metaphors Be With You

As you probably know, I’m in the process of creating a series of lessons and exercises that help you improve your ability to work with metaphors. Here are the nine exercises, which I’ll be discussing in greater detail later on.

1: Metaphor Madlibs

What it’s for: Helping people recognize and understand metaphors.

How it works: These three “madlibs” have players supply the objects and verbs. The random selections are then put into famous metaphor-based sayings, a metaphor-rich story, and other metaphor frameworks. Players are able to dissect what makes a metaphor in a simple and enjoyable way.

The full entry can be found here.

2: A Little S&M

What it’s for: Helping people differentiate metaphors from other types of language (including simile, hyberbole, literal descriptions, and euphemisms).

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A Poem for a Stranger: A Poetry Exercise

“Why?” her eyes were placid sapphires, dim in their glimmering reflection of the night sky.

I leaned in and whispered, “Because you are the sort of girl they write poetry for.”

Girl in Silhouette - on the beach

Image courtesy of Flickr by Chris. P

I was right. This was the sort of girl whose smile shone bright, showing you something you’d been missing without even realizing it. The best part was, she didn’t even know she was that girl. It was heartbreaking, in a way, knowing that the substance of this connection—this finally tangible reaching—would vanish just as quickly as it was found. But that which we can’t capture in life, we capture in words.

Here’s an exercise to add a bit of romance in your life, along with an example from my world-wandering travels.

A Poem for a Stranger

What this exercise does: Participants write a poem about an experience, person, place, or object they have lost.

What this exercise is for: This exercise helps poets recognize how experience can be integrated with poetic expression, giving a hands-on experience of using concrete details to empower poetry and showing how poems can capture a sense of loss, transience, or nostalgia.

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Metaphor Exercise 1: Metaphor Madlibs

Exercise 1: Metaphor Madlibs

Go back to Metaphor Lesson #1: Metaphor Basics

After reviewing the basics of metaphors, it’s useful to practice the art of metaphor-making. Luckily, madlibs can help us. Enjoy the following metaphor-based madlibs as you ingrain the definition of metaphor into your mind.

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