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Unblocker: Legacy Writing and the Fictional You

I’ve featured a whole series of these “unblocker” exercises here on the blog. My intention has always been to help folks who find themselves “blocked” in their writing, for whatever reason. Writing exercises are great tools to use when you seem “stuck”, but they can also be useful for finding hidden secrets of our fictional characters.

Over the last few months, I’ve also been considering ways I (a fiction writer) can help folks who are looking to write their own story. I’ve been thinking about leading some Legacy writing groups, tying my knowledge of fiction writing basics into the legacy writing efforts of folks in the local area.

As I’ve contemplated how these two separate forms of writing can be complimentary, I’ve decided to combine some legacy writing prompts (which are designed to jar memories loose) with character development prompts for fiction writers (which are supposed to help us pry loose the deepest, darkest, most interesting secrets of our characters).

Here are the Rules…

The Rules

  1. Legacy Writer: If you are using this exercise to help you with your own legacy writing, what you are looking for is a prompt to get you writing. Take the prompt below and just begin to write, free-writing style, with no concern for format or even content. All you want to do is get the pen(cil) moving. So, answer the questions below with as much detail as you can remember. If you suddenly focus on one aspect of your response, go with it. Let anything you stumble across that you find yourself writing more about just run on as far as it will go. Don’t worry. The rest of the prompt will still be here, later, if you want to come back to it. If you get to the end of your writing quickly, go back, close your eyes, try to “see” as many little details of your answer as you possibly can, and then write some more.

  2. Fiction Writer: Be your character — the one you are having the hardest time understanding — and answer these questions from that character’s point of view. Pretend you are that character and they are sitting down to do this legacy writing exercise. What would they write? When you find something new and surprising, dwell on it a bit, and see if it is something you can use in your fiction writing.

The Exercise

Move Your Feet – In this exercise, you will be writing about the music and dancing of your teen years. Here are a few specific questions to answer. You may come up with more, and you may dwell on any of these for as many words as you find will come to you.

  1. 1. What style of music was popular when you were a teen?

  2. 2. Was that “popular” style your favorite? Did you like other styles? Did you like something that your friends would have laughed about?

  3. 3. What song from your teen years can you hear playing right now?

  4. 4. What memories does that song bring back? What feelings? What locations do you remember hearing that song? Whose face do you see when you close your eyes and thing of that song?

  5. 5. Repeat 3 & 4 with several other songs that come to mind, if any.

  6. 6. Did you play an instrument? Sing in public? Sing in private? Wish you could have?

  7. 7. Did you attend dances at your school? Who did you go with? What did you do that you regret? What DIDN’T you do, that you wish you had?

  8. 8. Who did you dance with? Who do you wish you had danced with? Who do you wish you’d never met, let alone danced with?

  9. 9. Who in your family influenced your experience of music? Which friends were most influential in shaping your music tastes?

I hope this exercise has helped get some wheels turning for you. If so, I’d love to hear your story!

Happy Writing!

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