05 Aug

Famous Last Words – Follow Up

Posted in Blogfest, Writing Exercises


Hello all,

I got some comments asking where the different lines came from (and some guesses too!) so I thought I’d do a little follow-up post today to let you all know.  Here goes:



  • No one has claimed them yet.
    From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. Konigsburg
  • “Let me tell you about it.”
    Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Everything must go.
    Feed by M.T. Anderson
  • “Make me pretty.”
    Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
    (Yay Charmaine and Margo for guessing right!)
  • …and it was still hot.
    Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • It is not often that someone comes along who i s a true friend and a good writer.  [She] was both.
    Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
    (Double woot to Margo for getting this one as well!)


My personal favorite is the line from Where the Wild Things Are because it can be interpreted in SO many different ways.  So now, I’d love to know: if you did the exercise, how did it go for you?  Did you come up with something that you weren’t expecting?

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01 Aug

Imagination Sparks Blogfest – Famous Last Words

Posted in Word Games, Writing, Writing Exercises

Today’s post is part of the Imagination Sparks Blogfest over at Charmaine Clancy’s blog Wagging Tales.  The idea of this blogfest is for everyone to share their favorite writing prompt or exercise, then visit other blogs and try out new and different exercises.  Well, as you already know, here at iggi&gabi we have no shortage of writing prompts and exercises, but today I’ll share with you one of my favorites called Famous Last Words.

I originally introduced this exercise in this post.  This exercise is of my own creation (with the help of the writers who provide the last words, of course) and I love it because it makes you think about your story in a new way.  Most writing prompts start you off at the beginning of a story and you have to write from there.  In this exercise, you get the last line (usually a last line of a famous novel or story), and you have to write to it, ending with that line.  Here are some Famous Last Words to help you spark your story.

Instructions: Choose one of these lines and write a story or scene in which that line comes at the very end.

  • No one has claimed them yet.
  • “Let me tell you about it.”
  • Everything must go.
  • “Make me pretty.”
  • …and it was still hot.
  • It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.  [She] was both.

Extra credit: Can you guess which novels I took these lines from?  Bonus points to anyone who can!  Here’s a hint: they’re all from books I love to read (so either children’s or teen literature).

For more awesome exercises, visit Charmaine’s blog and check out some of the other people doing the blogfest.  And most importantly, have fun!


26 Apr

Setting Limits

Posted in Creativity, DIY MFA, Prompt, Writing Exercises

Limitations can be liberating.  I know it sounds like a contradiction, but hear me out.  Sometimes having too many choices can be paralyzing and the best thing we can do for our writing is to set some limits.  To that end, here are a few exercises that help me keep those pesky choices in check.

Minus an “E”:  Inspired by Ernest Vincent Wright’s Gadsby: A Story of Over 50,000 Words Without Using the Letter “E” in this exercise I challenge you to write for 15 minutes and the only limitation is you cannot use the letter “E.”  For variations on this assignment, choose a different vowel (no fair choosing “Y”) and write for 15 minutes without that vowel instead.

The idea here is that by limiting which vowels you can use, you have to stop and really think about each word you choose.  It exercises your brain in a way that regular writing doesn’t.  Sure, you might not produce a work of genius with this exercise, but it trains you to think about word choice and you’ll start seeing the results in your writing in general.

Single Syllables:  Another exercise I learned from a favorite writing teacher is to write for 15 minutes using only one-syllable words.  Not only does it make you stop and choose your words carefully, but by using only one-syllable words you’ll infuse your work with energy and punch that you don’t get from words with multiple syllables.

Sometimes when I feel like a piece I’m writing needs more punch, I’ll go back and rewrite a section, trying to use more one-syllable words.  The change in the energy never fails to amaze me.

What do you think?  Do you think you need to set some limits in your writing?  If so, what tricks have you used that work?


24 Apr

Words, Glorious Words!

Posted in Creativity, DIY MFA, Process, Word Games, Writing Exercises

All writers–whether they write lofty literary fiction or spunky sparkly vampire stories–have one thing in common: an intrinsic love of words.  We can’t get enough of words.  We’re like Oliver, lifting up his bowl and saying: “Please, sir, I’d like some more.”

Today’s post is about glorious words that enrich our love of language.  One tool I’ve developed that helps me rekindle my love of words is the Word Box. 

The concept is simple, really; you just cut up a sheet of paper into lots of little slips and write a random word on each slip.  They can be words you love or hate, words that sound funny or that are fun to say aloud.  The point is that the words be random.  Once you’re done, put your word slips in a container (an envelope, bag, small box.  The only requirement is that it should be easy for you to reach in and pull out a few words at random.

How to Use the Word Box: Pull out 3-7 words at random.  Write for 15 minutes and use all the words.  Note: No fair using a random word in a way that doesn’t make sense or feels forced.  All the words have to feel like they belong in the piece.   Tips: (1) Start with with 3 words and work your way up to 7 with practice.  (2) Keep adding new words to your Word Box over time, to keep things fresh.

Homework: Start a Word Box of your own.  With a little help from friends, the task of finding random words can be easy.  Share some of your own word finds in the comments and borrow suggestions from each other!

Here are 20 words from my Word Box to get you started:

galaxy, gamble, fissure, scamper, flutter, flash, troll, manipulate, secret, nefarious, snarl, flinch, croak, glitz, arabesque, pirate, swirl, windswept, totem, no.

A note about DIY MFA Chat today, (5pm ET) I know it’s Easter so I wasn’t sure if any of you were still up for a chat.  Please tweet or comment if you’re still up for chatting and I’ll be there.  If enough people respond saying “yes I’ll be there” then we’ll proceed as always.  Watch the #diymfa thread for a twitter update on the status of the chat.  I’ll a couple of hours before and let you all know if the chat’s still on or if we’re taking the holiday off.  Sound good?


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