Thursday, October 3, 2013

FunFamily TIPS: Writing Exercises for Family Entertainment

Joyce T. Strand, Author
Jillian Hillcrest Mysteries
If you follow this blog, you are familiar with my FunFamily writing exercises based on the theory that writing can be fun and even therapeutic.  To top that—you can have fun with the family doing brief exercises that will also help you develop some writing skills. 

Following is a consolidated list of NEW and previously published suggested writing exercises. Enjoy – and if you have suggestions for other exercises, please add them in the comments.

·      NEW! Write a paragraph about a birthday, anniversary, or other celebration describing activities you enjoyed. What did you like the most about it? See if your family can identify the event.

·      You are on vacation with some down time between events—and some bored kids who believe they should be constantly on the move. Ask each family member to write a paragraph describing a favorite smell so far on vacation—without naming it. Other family members are to identify it. You can substitute favorite noise, sight, person, animal, parent, child, etc. Give a prize—an extra dessert at dinner, for example—for the one who correctly identifies the most subjects.

·      Each member of the family is to write a paragraph describing what you do when you return from school, work, the supermarket, or wherever. Do you have a ritual? Do you throw your backpack on the floor? Do you get something to eat? Do you change your clothes? Then everyone is to print out your paragraph – assuming you’ve written it on your computer – and put it into a pile and choose an alternative to read aloud to the entire family. If you’ve handwritten it, be sure it’s legible. See if your family can guess which is yours. You might be surprised at their reactions!

·      Write a paragraph about what happens in the morning getting ready for work (that includes homemakers) or school or writing a book etc. How many bathrooms do you have? Do you get up immediately when the alarm or mom calls? Do you run late? Read your paragraph aloud to the family. Be kind to your siblings!

·      Describe what happens at your house when you get an unexpected call that some friends are planning to drop by. As a family, do you quickly scurry to pick up? Or, is your house always neat, but you wanted to finish just one more chore? Does everyone help? What do you do? Be sure to share your description with the family to see if they concur with your account.

·      Write a paragraph about how you wake up in the morning. Does Mom have to shake you? Do you need to push the alarm multiple times on Snooze? Do you wake up before everyone else? If so, what do you do? If you have siblings, do you help get them up? Do you like waking up? How do you feel when you wake up.

   Each member of the family – except the cook – is to write a paragraph about how the cook makes dinner.  Describe the cook – is he/she in a hurry; enjoying the task; dressed in work clothes; etc. Then use at least 3 action verbs to tell us how the cook prepares dinner. Does he/she slide a pan onto the stove?  Attack the microwave door to insert a frozen dinner? Pierce the cellophane package?  Pounce on the potatoes? Finally describe the result – and be kind to the cook.

·      NEW! Listen to two or more toddlers talk to each other and then write a page or two of their dialogue. Family members should read it aloud. 

·      NEW! Write a dialogue between you at your current age and you when you were a child or teenager. What would you tell yourself? And what would your younger self remind you about?

·      Write a page or more of dialogue based on your family at dinner. Read it aloud at the next family dinner exchanging roles, i.e., Dad should read Mom; Brother should read Sister. Take turns. It might be interesting to see if your conversations improve or decline.

·      Write a page or two of dialogue spoken by your favorite action heroes without telling who they are. Family members are to identify them.

·      Each member of the family is to write a page or two of dialogue of a conversation that you imagine two or more strangers are saying at a restaurant where you are enjoying a meal. The family should choose the people –discreetly, of course – even if it’s at McDonald’s. To make it more interesting, choose a genre, i.e., the dialogue is to tell a mystery, create a fantasy, deal with aliens, relate a romance, scare some zombies, or solve a life problem. Assign roles and then read the dialogues aloud.

   Write a page or two of dialogue that occurred between you and one other person during your day--at school, at softball practice, at work, in the store, on the street, or while taking your driver's test. As you write the dialogue identify what started the conversation and what was your reaction to it: were you annoyed? Did you feel like someone punched you in the stomach? Were you short of breath? Elated? Concerned?

·      NEW! write a paragraph describing an animated character. What kind of eyes, nose, ears does the character have? Does the character move quickly? How does it approach others? Is it friendly? Do you like this character? Why? Family to identify.

·      Write a paragraph describing your favorite Super Hero without naming him. All family members to put their paragraphs into a pile. Draw one out that’s not yours and read it aloud. See if family can guess who it is.  (Do not read your own, because your family will most likely know who your favorite hero is.)

·      Each family member is to write a paragraph describing a character in a book—preferably one you’ve read. Try to incorporate how the character appears, smells, talks, walks, listens, rather than use words such as hero or villain. The other members are to identify the character.  This exercise can be repeated with other characters in other books. 

·      Write a paragraph describing the happiest moment you ever experienced, such as, the first day of school (just kidding), meeting a best friend, getting new pet, greeting a family member whose been gone for an extended period of time, opening a special gift. Tell why it made you happy. Read your paragraph to your family. You might be surprised at their reactions.

·      Write a paragraph describing how it feels to have the wind blow against your face; or the sun to shine on it; or bitter cold hit it; or rain. Remember to include each part of your face—your nose, eyes, mouth, cheeks, forehead, hair. And remember to include all the senses—smell, sound, sight, touch. Reward the author of the paragraph who includes the most senses and parts of the face.

·      Write a paragraph describing a relative outside of your immediate family. Remember to recall more than just physical attributes: does he/she talk slowly or in staccato? Walk fast, talk with a mouth full of food, arch an eyebrow, laugh with a snort? Read your paragraph to the family to see if they can identify the person. Oh, and don’t be too negative!

·      NEW! Write a paragraph about your favorite famous building or other landmark without identifying its
location. Offer a physical description as well as an emotional one—why is it your favorite? Would you recommend others go see it? Why? Family to identify the site.

·      Write a paragraph describing a restaurant and what you ordered—without identifying either the restaurant or the food. Tell how the restaurant and your food smelled (pungent), appeared (filled the plate), sounded (sizzling), and tasted (spicy, sweet). See if your family can guess which restaurant and what food you ordered.

·      Write a paragraph describing a store where you bought something. Be sure to mention how the store smelled, what kind of sounds you heard, along with a physical description of the building. Tell why you bought the item. Read aloud your description to see if your family can guess which store – or type of store—you’re describing.

·      Describe a new place you recently visited for the first time. Start with your first impressions of the place. Were you surprised at its appearance? Did it make you remember a forgotten experience? Were you afraid, intimidated, excited? Next describe the physical attributes of the location as an explanation of why you felt the way you did. Conclude with an explanation of how you felt when you departed the location. Were you still afraid, intimidated, excited? When you complete this description, read it to the family to see if they can guess the location.

·      Write about: A boy enters a room with his sister. Assign a paragraph to each family member. Do not share your paragraphs until everyone is finished. Then read them in the following order:
o   Write a paragraph to describe the room: is it a jail, a hotel, exercise room, bedroom? Small? Large? Does it smell fragrant or pungent? What kind of furniture does it have? Is it a restaurant? Bar? Is it humid or dry?
o   A second family member to write a paragraph to describe the boy: physical description, clothes, approximate age. Is he lean, sweaty, out of breath? Is he wearing shoes or is he barefoot?
o   A third family member to describe the sister. Is she taller than her brother? What color is her hair? Does she look like a sister? Is she dressed stylishly? Is she sweaty and out-of-breath?
o   A fourth family member describes the action of entering the room: did the two run into the room? Did they appear frightened, worried, secretive, happy?  Did they both appear the same as they entered the room?
o   If there are still other family members, write dialogue between the brother and sister. The brother wants to do something. The sister disagrees. The brother convinces her. They do the task and leave.
o   Additional family members can choose any of the above to write.
o   When you have all finished your paragraphs, read them aloud to the entire family in order. It should be an interesting story.

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