Lit Candle

Lit Candle

I love this exercise. I was first introduced to this great meditative writing practice during an online course run by Ann Linquist. She asked us to light a candle and write one paragraph describing it, avoiding generic terms such as “dancing flame”. I found it a great descriptive exercise to hone my skills and to think outside of the box. It also had the added benefit of calming and focusing my thoughts, and providing a meditation like experience when staring into the lit candle.

The point is to show your readers what thoughts and feelings the burning candle evokes, not tell them. It is a tool to help you tap into your emotions when writing which helps to create a connection with your reader. This is the power of words aIMG_8680nd description. This is what will make your novel and writing stand out and leaves a long lasting impression on your readers.

Below is my very first attempt at this exercise. It is rough, however I have a strong attachment to it and have never been able to throw it away.

“Lighted memories.”

My candle was a gift from Secret Santa at work one year. It is in a thick glass holder, that could do someone serious damage if wielded as a weapon. It smells of Banksia and Bergamot. I stare into the flame for a while, and I start panicking as no ideas would come to me. So I take a deep breath, close my eyes and will my muscles to relax. Once I felt the tension drain away I open my eyes and stare into the flickering candle once more. Then they come to me. Faces skipping through my thoughts, like the twisting flame before me. The faces of my family; my parents, my nana and my siblings. Their features are cast by the orange glow of the campfires and candlelight of many happy memories flashing through my head, too many to describe in one small paragraph. Such strong memories and emotions to be evoked by the flickering of a fragile little flame. I am now very reluctant to blow the candle out, not wanting to lose the image of those smiling faces so far away from me over the Easter weekend. I think I will keep it burning for a bit longer. 

 I would love to see some descriptions of yours. Or if you have any other great exercises like this to help practice descriptive writing I would love to hear about them. I am always on the lookout for new writing tools, techniques and exercises.

Example of 3-Act Outline

Example of 3-Act Outline

Using the old favorite, The Wizard of Oz, here is an example of how to use the 3-act outline to form the bare bones of your story. There is a blank worksheet in Learning Tools to help you outline your story.

ACT ONE

Hook: Dorothy is running away from her Aunty and Uncles’ farm to save her dog, Toto, from mean Miss Gulch.

Backstory: Dorothy is persuaded to return home by Professor Marvel. On the way she is caught in a cyclone that transport her and the house to Munchkinland. The house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East, killing her and freeing the munchkins from her terror.

Trigger: Dorothy is forced to travel alone to find the Wizard of Oz so she can get home. This triggers her lack of self-confidence.

ACT TWO

Crisis: Dorothy is overcome by her main flaw, her lack of self-confidence. She is terrified and doesn’t know what to do.

Struggle: Dorothy has to travel down the yellow-brick road. She meets friends along the way and takes them with her on her journey to find the Wizard of Oz in the hope that he can help them all. On the way Dorothy is captured by the Wicked Witch and her friends come to her rescue. The Wicked Witch sets the scarecrow on fire.

Epiphany: Dorothy realizes her flaw, her lack of self-confidence, and that only she can overcome this by changing.

ACT THREE:

Plan: Dorothy must act fast to save Scarecrow from burning. She grabs a bucket of water and throws it on him.

Climax: Dorothy accidentally splashes the witch with water and the witch melts away. The witch’s own flaw is her undoing. She was overly confident and this brings about her demise.

Ending: Dorothy and her friends return to the Emerald City, only to discover that the wizard is a fake and cannot send Dorothy home. The Good Witch, Glenda, comes to her aid and reveals that Dorothy has had the power to solve the problem herself and return home. Then of course there is the famous scene of tapping her ruby-red heels together and chanting “There’s no place like home” until she wakes up in her own bed in Kansas.

Notes:

Keep in mind that the 3-act structure is a simple outline. You can flesh it our more when you go on to develop the story outline. But these points help to get your thoughts and ideas into a logical order and to make sure you develop a strong, solid and coherent novel.

Random Word Link Example

Random Word Link Example

I pulled out these three words from my word jar for a random word link example:

  • Porridge

  • Shark

  • Thunder

I was in a gloomy mood the day I wrote this blog and example so the paragraph I came up with reflects this. However, it did serve to help overcome a writers block I was having in regards to a scene in my current novel.

Thunder boomed from the heavy ominous clouds as I ate my porridge looking out the kitchen window. My thoughts strayed to the teen boy who had been attacked by a shark the day before. I had been the scrub nurse on duty during his long operation to repair the damage to his legs. The surgeon was not confident that he would ever recover the full use of his legs.
 

Directed Free Writing Example

Directed Free Writing Example

I pulled a word out of my word jar for this directed free writing example – Octopus. You don’t have to use your word jar if you don’t want to. Look around you for inspiration! Once again, I set my timer to 5 minutes. I would usually go for 10, but as this is just an example 5 minutes will be sufficient.

Octupus, regretting this is the word i pulled out as it is hard to write down fast and keep my hands moving. once again the point of this eercise is to get the thoughts and words flowing, but in a more directed appriach. The first thing that comes to mind whn i think of octups is my old nightmare i use to have swimming at the beach of an giant ocutpus pulling me under. i have no idea why i was so frightedn of this i dont remember seeing any horror movies or antyhing tlike that where there was a giant killer orctups, but ther you have it. I y=used to trick mysefl that i could feel a giant thick slimiy tentacle wrap around my lef and i woul dstart swimming like mad for the jetty to get out of the water before i would be pulled under. Ofc ourse nothing like taht ever did e=happen. it is giving my goosebymps now just thinking about it, so oibsiouly the fear is still there. dunny how childhood fears can still effect you long into adulthood. i have a freind who was once trapped in an outdoor toilet for a few hours overnight, and no one could here her obsviously coz it was night time thery were all inside lseeping. she has a fear of dark enclosed spaces still. in her case atleast she has a basis for the fear, i hav enever been attacked by a giant octups. i think it comes from not being able to see what is underneath you when seimming at the beach. there is a whole unseen world going on under neath your feet, unles you scubu dive or snorkely of course! but those practicalities just ruin the imagination! so my octupus is giant and red (why red??) with big big tentacles with giant sucker things on them. It apparenly likes to grab little cigls and drwon them for its own amusement. This is

I let my hands and thoughts keep moving for the full 5 minutes. You don’t have to type on your computer, you can hand write if that is what you would prefer. The whole point is to just keep your hands moving and the words flowing.

 

Free Writing Example

Free Writing Example

I set my timer to 5 minutes for this example and just let my thoughts and words loose!

 

5 minutes is on the clock to free write what ever thoughts flow through my head. No editing, correcting, formating or deleting as you go! Make sure you keep yout hands moving, moving, moving. Always moving. If you can’t think of anything to write, then write that over and over again until uanother thougt pops into your head. The point is to get your brain firing, to get the words flowing so ehwn you sit down to write or plan your current project your brain is firing all synapses. The words will flow and the creative process will be that much easier. I can smell spring in the air, fresh cut grass and flowers. THeres a warm breeze and the sun is shining. Its hard to believe just yesterday the city was bombarded with artic breezes and heavy rains. I remember when my hubby and I went away for a 6 week camping trip last year we went up to the blue mountaings I was so excited to hike them and see all the different rock formations. Its stormed the whole time we were there! The wind was so strong our tent kept bowing inwards. I had to get up and go to the toiket at about 3am, bedraggled people were cralwing out of collapsed tents and sheltering in their cars. IT was insane! We hope to go back at some point and visit when it isn’t such bad weather. IT did make for a very interesting camping trupthough! The mountains, from what we could see peaking under the heavy cloud vover were beautiful. Camping is not

The timer went off before I could finish that last sentence. I didn’t come up with any best-selling ideas, however it has definitely loosened my creative muscles so I am ready to tackle my next blog! I highly recommend using this warm-up exercise before sitting down to write your project. It is also useful if you are ever suffering from the dreaded writers block. Sit back, take a breath, and do some free writing! It really does help to get the words flowing again and to clear your mind so you can return to your project fresh and inspired.