Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 17, 2015

Don’t Bore Your Reader – Two Writing Exercises

27 Writing fiction blundersJames Scott Bell says, “Pause every now and then and think about your plot. Ask yourself what would the reader expect to happen next? What are the stereo typical tropes that spring to mind? Maybe you have already mapped out your plot and it seems a little predictable.

“All you have to do is take the most obvious turns and do something different, something opposite. You can try this with characters, too. Have a character do something opposite of what you and the readers would expect. Go crazy with this. Try things. And when something hits you that’s pleasing, justify it. Let the thing happen then justify it later.

“When writing a scene try to put in something unexpected. This can be big like bringing in a new character or it can be small, with a line of dialogue that is so unexpected it would cause the reader to sit up and take notice.”

Here is a fun exercise that James Scott Bell does. He grabs a novel off the shelf, opens it up randomly and find the first line of dialogue on the page. Then he sticks in the line, right in the middle of the scene. Sometimes the line will suggest another line. It will make him think that the character says something so strange but he’ll think about it, justify it, and put it in.

He also does the dictionary game, too. He carries a little pocket dictionary when he goes somewhere to write. Every so often he’ll stop in a scene and pop open the dictionary at random. He puts his finger on a page and then scan for the first noun he sees. Then he lets the nous suggest something for his writing.

Sounds like fun. Why don’t you give it a try.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Great tips. I’m going to use both of these. Thanks for sharing.


  2. I wrote a book about WHAT’S ON MY MIND AND MY HEART it’s about everything that I’m dealing with out there like all over Africa, because I’m also traveling. so it’s a first time I wrote this book and it’s almost done yet and I need all help I can get about it, because I think is a wonderful book it’s just that I need the ways to publish it.


  3. Surprise cannot exist for the sake of surprise. Yes, it if gets justified by the author, then it makes sense.


  4. Thanks for sharing these, Kathy. Great ideas. Here’s another one. I was driving on the interstate tonight in the rain and passed a woman with her car window open. I wrote the lines “window wide open” into the document I had open. Not sure if it’ll develop into anything–but just the thought of putting random ideas/experiences into your ms might produce interesting results!


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