What If?: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers

Front Cover
Harper Collins, Nov 20, 1991 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 256 pages
What If? is the first handbook for writers based on the idea that specific exercises are one of the most useful and provocative methods for mastering the art of writing fiction. With more than twenty-five years of experience teaching creative writing between them, Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter offer more than seventy-five exercises for both beginners and more experienced writers. These exercises are designed to develop and refine two basic skills: writing like a writer and, just as important, thinking like a writer. They deal with such topics as discovering where to start and end a story; learning when to use dialogue and when to use indirect discourse; transforming real events into fiction; and finding language that both sings and communicates precisely. What If? will be an essential addition to every writer's library, a welcome and much-used companion, a book that gracefully borrows a whisper from the muse.
 

Contents

BEGINNINGS
1
The Storys History
7
Ways to Begin a Story from Robie Macauley
14
Who Are You? Somebody 7 Put Your Heart on the Page 23 21
23
Changing Your Life from Joy Nolan
30
Switching Gender 37
37
Creating a Characters Background Place
52
PERSPECTIVE AND POINT OF VIEW
59
My Pet from Alison Lurie
150
Faraway Places
152
You Had to Be There
154
The Enemys Life from Lore Segal
157
Taking Risks
160
Total Recall from Alison Lurie
161
Writing Outside the Story from Elizabeth Libbey
164
X MECHANICS
167

DIALOGUE
73
Interspersing Dialogue
80
PLOT
91
From Situation to Plot
97
What If ? How to Develop and Finish Stories
99
Magnifying Conflict from David Ray
101
The Story Machine from Perry Glasser
103
Plot Potential
106
STORY ELEMENTS AS A GIVEN
109
Discovering Emotional Triggers
111
And Not One Is a Lie
113
How Did We Get Here?
116
Creating Terror
118
Ann Landers and The National Enquirer
120
The Letter Home
123
Stranger Than Truth from Rhoda Lerman
126
Stirring Up a Fiction Stew from Sharon Sheehe Stark
128
RESOLUTION AND FINAL MEANING
131
Titles and Keys
133
With Revision Comes Final Meaning
135
It Aint Over Till Its Over
136
INVENTION AND TRANSFORMATION
137
The Inner Life of Characters
139
Sex Is Not All Its Cracked Up to BeIts More from Christopher Noel
144
Its All in Your Head
147
Identifying Story Scenes During Revision
169
Dynamic Scening from Thalia Selz
171
Handling the Problems of Time and Pace from Robie Macauley
172
The Power of Seemed and Probably
175
Bringing Abstract Ideas to Life
177
The FiveHighlighter Exercise from David Ray
180
Suit Your Sentence to Its Meaning from Thalia Selz
182
Word Packages Are Not Gifts
185
Varying Sentence Structure
186
Write a Story Using a Small Unit of Time
188
Weak Adverbs and Adjectives
190
Getting There Isnt Half the FunIts Boring
193
Practice Writing Good Clean Prose from Christopher Keane
194
Adding Texture
196
Naming the Diner Naming the Diet Naming the Dog
199
Cutting to the Bone from David Ray
203
GAMES
205
Learning to Lie
207
The Dictionary Game
209
A Variation of Dictionary
210
Places Without People
216
Sincere Flatteryand Learning
222
About the Contributors
229
Copyright

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About the author (1991)

Anne Bernays, a novelist and writing teacher, is the author of eight novels, including Professor Romeo and Growing Up Rich, as well as two works of nonfiction, including The Language of Names written with Justin Kaplan and What If? written with Pamela Painter. Her articles and essays have appeared in numerous major publications, among them The Nation, the New York Times, Town & Country, and Sports Illustrated. She lives in Cambridge and Truro, Massachusetts with her husband, Justin Kaplan. They have three daughters and six grandchildren.

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