Short Writing Exercise For Those With Writer’s Block

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

It is morning on a Saturday and I am having trouble coming up with the right words to put on paper. They dance cheekily through the halls of my mind, but for each step I take closer they simply dart away quicker. Rather than run them down, I have decided to turn my back and woo other words instead. This is an exercise I have occasionally used to bull my way through writer’s block, and I am happy to say it has worked more often than not.

For you it might be Paul, or Joanna, or even Clarence. Any name is absolutely fine, it is meant only as a starting point. A point of focus to serve as an puzzle for more words to snap into. The name I am going with is Taenaran. What the heck? You read that right: Taenaran. This morning I am attempting to make progress on some Fantasy writing, and picking a fantastical sounding name like this will help get me there.

Really, go crazy. Begin with the physical characteristics, like the eyes, hair, build, and any distinguishing marks. Give them soulful blue eyes or foreboding black ones. Give them wisps of white hair that the breeze playfully caresses or thick green dreadlocks interwoven with charms. Make them short and delicate like a foreign dancer or tall and stout like a blacksmith. If you want you can go even farther. What is their profession? What do they like to do for fun? What are their hopes? Their fears? The possibilities extend as far as you want them to extend. The description I am going with for Taenaran this morning is a youngish deep forest elf, with a mane of mixed shades of green to blend into the wilds he calls home. A hunter by trade, he is worried his people do not have enough to make it through the coming winter.

You are almost there, just one last component and we can put all this into a scene to getting your creative writing juices flowing in the direction of progress on your work. Now, come up with a challenge or issue that needs be resolved by the character you have just created. It can be something small, like picking out a restaurant to catch up with friends, or it can be big, like picking out the successor to the Kingdom your character rules. For me, the last part of the exercise actually fed into this one. And sometimes that happens. You might be writing one part of your plot or story and some other component will spontaneously emerge. Rather than disregard it, I make sure to keep a separate piece of paper or word doc to record it for me to come back to later. So, looking up to the previous point, I see that I mentioned he was worried about providing enough food for his people to survive a harsh winter. So, building off of that, I think an appropriate challenge is going to be hunting something dangerous. Let me see…

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Green leaves had begun to turn to bright colors in the past few days. Where before Taenaran’s mane would hide him amongst the foliage, now it only seemed to bring more attention to where he stalked. He did not have a choice. Winter was coming soon, and ever since the nighttime visit of the Kutharu raiders there had not been enough food for the survivors of his clan. They would be lucky to last through the week, nevermind the cold winter of the mountainous North.

Taenaran stalked quietly down the deer track. He looked down again. The blood was still fresh. Small spatters here and there as the wounded beast stumbled along. The gouges along the trucks he passed meant he was on the trail of a buck, and the distance between the spilled blood meant a long stride. It was big, maybe even the leader of its herd.

One moment he was carefully winding his way along the track, the next he was in an open clearing, lit by the soft light of a fall moon. Though dim, it was more than bright enough for his fey eyes. He hesitated, gripping his bow tighter as he went quickly still at what he saw.

The buck was waiting for him. And it was bigger than he thought it would be.

Jagged cuts, partially clotted, stood out along the beast’s flank. It was maybe twenty strides away, staring intently at the hunter that dared to track it. He had time for one arrow only before the buck charged. A long pause. The world held its breath, waiting to see who would make a move first.

Taenaran loosed an arrow. The buck charged, only to stutter step, perhaps due to injury or maybe even over an unseen hole. It did not matter, Taenaran’s arrow missed its target. Sinking into the side instead of the broad chest, the buck only charged faster, even more intent on skewering its attacker on its horns.

Cursing, Taenaran tried to jump aside, only to partially succeed. Today truly luck had turned its gaze from him. The left horn caught him by the hip. Bright, burning agony flared as the buck half-pushed half-carried him back into the trees. Slammed back into a trunk, he felt his belt knife fall free. Even more frantic now, Taenaran struggled to get a grip on the temporarily stunned deer before it could shake itself free. He fought hard against the buck and the fear that filled him.

Not able to throw the buck off, he finally gave in to panic. Opening his mouth wide, Taenaran sank his fanged teeth into the side of the bucks throat. Shaking his head as hard as he could, he tried to open as large a wound as possible to kill the beast. In seconds his sharp mouth did its job. Sticky blood covered every in reach, but most of all his face and chest.

He laid still, buck still partially on him, before bracing himself for new pain. With a surge, he pulled the buck’s horn from his hip. Bandaging the wound as best he could, Taenaran fumbled for his knife and set to work cleaning his kill. Predators more dangerous than him called this forest home. Better to be done and head back before they stumbled across the fresh kill. Though he was injured, he would be able to get himself and the kill home due to the resiliency of his fey nature. Even if Taenaran were more gravely wounded, he still would have had no choice. His clan needed the meat to survive.

Photo by Jingda Chen on Unsplash

Now, this reads a bit rough, but it is supposed to be like this. This scene was written quickly and constitutes a first draft. A lot needs to be changed: word choice, description, even some mechanics of how the scene unfolds. But that is ok. This exercise served its primary purpose: to get my creative juices flowing

I hope this was helpful, even if just in a small way. Writer’s block can be a difficult obstacle to overcome, but using exercises like this and simply failing to give up will mean that you will eventually find the words that eluded you. For myself, this character and scene might have some potential. I could see myself using Taenaran and his hunt in some future work. Until next time, happy writing!

Charles writes on art, history, politics, travel, fantasy, science fiction, poetry. BA, MA in Political Science, Phd Pending. Inquires:

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