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By Johannes Helmold

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Hi everyone!

portrait 3 4 lightingWould you like to have fun while writing, develop your skills, and write a story at the same time? There is a exercise (one of my favorites) that incorporates all of this. I invented it for myself a couple of years ago (maybe someone else also tried it besides me, hmm), and I still use it whenever I feel stuck, bored, and so on. You should try it out as well.

It’s pretty simple. Go to any photo website you know of, like 500px, Flickr, or any other; any such website has a category titled “Portraits,” or “People,” or something like that. Browse this category, and choose up to five portraits which are, in your opinion, the most interesting, attractive, or outstanding in any other way. By the way, you can also look for such images within Google Images.

Think of what kind of personality the depicted person might have, what is this person’s name, what his or her life might be like, and what he or she usually thinks about. It doesn’t need to be 100% accurate—just a guess based on what you see, your fantasy about this person. And after you figure out for yourself what you think about the image, the actual exercise begins.

You need to compose seven short stories about this person’s week. Simply title these stories Monday, Tuesday, and so on, and describe each day of this person’s life. These stories must not be connected with the same plot (though you can mention the events from previous days); this is necessary to make your writing more diverse. Each short story should be as vivid as you can make it, but no longer than 500 words—learn to express your key points and descriptions briefly but accurately.

Why is this exercise useful? Well, there are three things you can learn from it:

  1. Character development (portraits inspire you to make up a biography and some life events of the people you see—it’s all your imagination).
  2. Conciseness.
  3. Narration and working in small forms.

With this exercise, you can write dozens of short stories from scratch. Enjoy!

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