Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 4, 2010

Improve Your Writing Exercise

Thought I would share a writing exercise from STEERING THE CRAFT by Ursula K. LeGuin.

Think up a situation for a narrative sketch of 200 – 350 words.  It can be anything you like, but should involve several (more than two) people doing something.  It doesn’t have to be big, important event, though it can be; but something shoulkd happen, even if only a cart-tangle at the supermarket.

Please use little or no dialogue in these exercises.  While the characters talk, their voices cover the POV, and so you’re not exploring that voice, which is the point of the exercise.

Part One:  Two voices

First:  Tell your little story from a single POV — that of a participant in the event.  Use limited third person.

Second:Retell the same story from the POV of one of the other people involved.  Agsin use limited third person.

Part Two:  Detached Narrator

Tell the same story using the detached author or “fly on the wall” POV.

Part Three:  Observer-Narrator

If there wasn’t a character in the original version who was there but was not a participant, only an outlooker, add such a character now.  Tell the same story in that characters voice, in first person or third person.

Part Four:  Involved Author

Tell the same or new story using the involved author POV.

Part four may require you to expand the whole thing, up to two or three pages.  You may find you need to give it context, find out what led up to it, or follow it further.  The detached author takes up as little room as possible , but the involved author needs a fair amount of time and space to move around.

If your first story doesn’t lend itself to this voice, find a story you want to tell that you can be emotionally and morally involved in.

Hope you have time to try it.  I know everyone wants to improve their writing craft.



  1. I LOVE Ursula Le Guin!!!! And I’ve never heard of that book. Now I want it! (Can you hear the whine in that?) Thanks for sharing this. (Wonder if Borders has this? Hmmmm.)


    • Susan,

      Thanks for visiting. I hope you will stop back and thanks for tweeting.



    • Yousei,

      I got mine at Amazon, but I am sure Borders would have it. Agent Scott Triemel
      raves about her book.



  2. Ditto Yousei. Le Guin is simply awesome. Thanks for this post. I’m going to tweet it (@susiebj)


  3. Susan,

    I hope you see my reply, even though I put it under Yousei spot. I guess I have been on the computer too long.



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