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Arvon Friends Writing Tips and Exercises

Find writing tips and exercises from our Arvon tutors here, to develop your craft and inspire your imagination. Each writing tip comes with a related writing exercise, and a new tip and exercise are added every fortnight.

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Writing Exercises

Taking a character for a walk

Genre: Fiction & Writing for Children & YA

Begin by inventing ten or twelve separate characters, all different from each other. For each one, choose five adjectives that will bring that character back into your mind. For example: Vagrant, stubborn, anti-social, dirty and claustrophobic Elegant, self-c...

Gillian Cross

Writing Tips

Seeing the world through different eyes

Genre: Fiction & Writing for Children & YA

When I was young, I read pretty much all the time. Most of what I read was fiction and I was a fast and careless reader. I always skipped long descriptions, especially when it was places that were being described, because I saw passages like that as tedious bi...

Gillian Cross

Writing Tips

Freedom in Fabrication

Genre: Comedy, Fiction, Film & TV, Poetry, Radio, Science Fiction, Short Story, Speculative, Theatre & Writing for Children & YA

The Japanese writer Tanizaki complained that he could not read his contemporaries. Every time he picked up a novel and read the first page he thought, ‘But this is just about him!’ (It usually was a him). This is an interesting complaint, particula...

Andrew Miller

Writing Exercises

Radical Reinvention

Genre: Comedy, Fiction, Film & TV, Poetry, Radio, Science Fiction, Short Story & Theatre

One way to think about writing is as a tool of curiosity. A way of finding out about the world rather than (or as well as) a way of saying what you have found out. You become a traveller, an adventurer, rather than a surveyor of the familiar, the already posse...

Andrew Miller

Writing Tips

Writing in a Spoken Voice

Genre: Fiction

If you find the point of view in your stories tends to wander around the place (sometimes very informal and close to the character, sometimes quite formal and distant) write in a more spoken voice. Choose a voice you can hear in your head, perhaps even one bel...

Toby Litt

Writing Exercises

The Gap Between

Genre: Comedy, Fiction, Short Story, Speculative & Theatre

I’d like you to do something very simple. Sit back, close your eyes, and try to remember an entire conversation you’ve heard or been part of in, say, the last year. By this I mean, remember in detail exactly what A said to begin with and exactly what B rep...

Toby Litt

Writing Exercises

Exploring different third person points of view

Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction, Short Story, Theatre & Writing for Children & YA

Write part of a story in the form of a scene from a play, beginning with a description of the setting and then using dialogue and stage directions to show what happens and how the characters feel about it. Make sure you have at least three characters and bring...

Gillian Cross

Writing Tips

Subjective third person narrative

Genre: Comedy, Fiction, Science Fiction, Short Story & Writing for Children & YA

When I was a child, like most young readers I wanted to identify with the characters in books. I didn’t have the life experience, or the inclination, to keep my distance and think in a detached way about David Balfour, in Kidnapped, or Mary Lennox, in The Se...

Gillian Cross

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