6 Writing Exercises You Can Do in Sixty Seconds or Less

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by John Bucher (@johnkbucher)

Time – It is the most feared enemy of the writer. If time was not an issue, many of us would have churned out thousands of scripts and novels by now. Time keeps us from regular writing habits. It suffocates the moments we actually do spend writing. And perhaps most importantly, it assures that we never ever actually practice our craft.

We cannot imagine a musician who never practices scales. We would never expect a painter who never practices to one day become Picasso. So why do we assume the next cinematic masterpiece will one day just pour from our keyboard without practice? We don’t practice because we simply don’t have the time.

Here are six writing exercises, named after the characters that inspired them, that you can squeeze into your schedule in sixty seconds or less.

The Negan or The Walking Dead

What is your character’s biggest secret? Who knows and who doesn’t? Perhaps it is only a secret to the audience, such as who Negan killed on The Walking Dead. Write for one minute on a juicy secret a character could have.

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The Hannibal Lector

Spend sixty seconds coming up with as many adjectives for an antagonist as you can. Don’t think too hard about any single word, just let as many flow out as possible.

The Erin Brockovich

Decide on two (or three if you have time) “ghosts” or wounds from a potential character’s backstory that would inform their life.

D1MGKE Schokolade Zum Fruehstueck Bridget Jones's Diary Renee Zellweger Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) wacht am Neujahrs Morgen auf

The Bridget Jones

Come up with one difficult decision that would force a character to choose between two amazing options or two horrible options.

The Marty McFly

Spend sixty seconds writing about how your character gets around from place to place and what that says about them. HINT: For Marty McFly in Back to the Future, it was a skateboard.

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The Juno MacGuff

Write about a type of character whose story you have never seen on screen before. If you have time, describe why they are difficult to execute.

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John Bucher is a writer, speaker, and story consultant based out of Los Angeles. He is the author of several books including The Inside Out Story and Master of the Cinematic Universe: The Secret Code to Writing in the New World of Media. He has written for entities ranging from HBO to U.S.  Ambassadors. He teaches at The LA Film Studies Center and has conducted story seminars on five continents. He can be reached on Twitter @johnkbucher and through his site, tellingabetterstory.com.

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