The All Time Best Writing Exercise Dreamed Up By a Nun by Stephanie Queen

MadamX-FluffyNunLets pretend you asked me where I come up with my stories. You’ll never believe it, but some people actually do ask authors this question. Even Myren my chauffeur asked me this once a long time ago before he knew me very well. He regretted it immediately was fascinated with my answer. I wouldn’t have much of an answer for that question except this one time in school, my nun came up with the most inventive way to get a story going ever.

Sister Joseph—a young nun with a quick smile dreamed up one of my all time favorite writing exercises. She started with three shoe boxes and a wad of paper ripped up into squares. She handed out three of the small slips of paper—the size of a standard yellow sticky although they hadn’t been invented yet–to each of us in the room.  And since this was catholic school and no government regulations applied—there were about 50 of us in the class.

She told us to write two names on the first piece of paper—character names. Just the names—nothing else.  

On the second slip of paper she said to write a place for the setting—anything from New York city to a corner store would do—no other details needed.

The third slip was trickier. She said to write an incident or event—for a plot.

She collected the slips putting them in their appropriate boxes for Character, Setting and Plot and mixed them around. Then we each picked one slip of paper from each of the three boxes.

Up to that point we—or rather I—had no idea where she was going by this and my curiosity was killing me.

“Now using the three elements on your slips of paper, write a story!” Sister Joseph said with her smile wide.

I still remember to this day what I pulled from the box, Madame X, Fluffy, penthouse and murder.  I had such great fun filling in all the details and inventing a story around those crumbs.

 Of course it was a murder, without much mystery, that took place in a penthouse committed by a glamorous woman named Madame X who owned a fancy dog named fluffy. I don’t remember why, but she murdered a guy by kissing him to death—with poison lipstick. I still had a lot to learn about plotting, but that was my first real attempt at a short story. 

Even if Myren doesn’t agree, I’ve come a long way since then, mostly writing novels. But I went back to writing short with my recent novella for our Weddings on Main Street boxed set. It’s called Small Town Glamour Girl Wedding—Myren says the title is longer than the story, but he exaggerates. It’s like saying his hat is taller than he is. Whatever. Chauffeurs can be exasperating especially pretend ones.

There’s still time—all summer long—to get a copy of Weddings on Main Street, a boxed set of 11 novellas, for only $.99.

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10 Responses to The All Time Best Writing Exercise Dreamed Up By a Nun by Stephanie Queen

  1. Reblogged this on Kelly Rae & Jocelyn Bell Books and commented:

    Who knew a nun could inspire the romance writer of today, lol. Check out Stephanie Queen, her post and her wonderful stories!


  2. If Sister Joseph only knew what you have done with her idea, why I bet she would blush! LOL Loved this post Stephanie, thanks for the smile!


  3. E. Ayers says:

    I think I have those boxes in my head except I have one for the females and one for the male characters. I’m always sorting through the boxes looking for the right ones to put together. Oh, I have one for names. But I have a thing for names. I’ll hear a name and think oh that’s such a great name so I’ll write it down. Six months later… I’ll find a piece of paper with a name on the bottom and wonder who and what. 🙂

    Tell Myren to pull his hat over his ears and just drive.


  4. monarisk says:

    Your Madame X killed a man with her poisonous lipstick by kissing him? Did Sister Joseph grounded you for you naughty ideas? In my Catholic School, you’d have been suspended Ms Queen. No wonder you’re a successful author.


  5. susanrhughes says:

    I have such a hard time answering that question. I can never remember where my ideas came from.


  6. LOL…that was a fun post. I wish more teachers were this creative. Thanks Stephanie!


  7. Carol says:

    Inspiring lesson from the Nun! Love the idea. I have all those, but are either in my head or jotted in a Word document. Great post, Stephanie.


  8. leighmorgan1 says:

    What a great exercise! I think I’m going to try this by adding names, settings, plots at least weekly and then pull random ones…there’s gotta be a novella in there somewhere! Very entertaining post, Stephanie.


  9. Jill James says:

    That is an excellent writing exercise. We used to do fun stuff like that in my RWA chapter. Also at a writers retreat once.


  10. Joan Reeves says:

    Stephanie, I have to laugh at you and your nun stories. *g* Good post.


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