Dual Writing Exercise

21 Apr

My regular writer’s group decided on an interesting writing exercise. Each of us is to prepare a ~250 word opening scene to a story. the next time we meet the scenes will be shuffled and handed out so that no writer gets their own story. The task will be to continue the story. Whether you finish the story or not is your choice. We will then critique each “Complete” story. What follows is my entry to the opening scenes. I hope to share both the final version of this story and the story that I complete. We’ll see if the other writers are willing to share.

The stench of stale beer and bad cigar smoke burned my nose and stung my eyes as I entered waterfront dive called the Broken Tankard. Tears filled my eyes from the smokey irritation. I blinked several times before the room came into focus.

A swirl of faces turned in my direction and quickly returned to the interests at hand. I walked toward the dark stained bar that ran along the back wall. My boots stuck to the floor as I picked my way through the jungle of tables and occupied chairs. Stains from semi-dried beer, blood, and other noxious fluids covered the floor. I tried to step around the worst of it. But, there were few dry spots to find. Two women stood on the stairs that led to the second floor. Wearing little more than undergarments, they tried to catch the eye of the patrons.

I continued to the bar but refrained from touching it as it was no cleaner than the floor.

“What do you want?” asked a small wiry man from behind the bar. His beady eyes never left mine as he carefully replaced a bottle beneath the bar.

Through the stench of the smoke and beer, I smelled the distinct chocolate aroma of magic coming from the man behind the bar.

“I’m looking for this woman,” I said as I handed him a faded photograph. “I was told she used to work here.”

The man looked at the picture of young woman wearing a wedding dress. She had a crescent-shaped birthmark on her neck. He glanced to the women on the stairs and then handed the picture back to me.

“Maybe I have seen her. Why are you looking for her?”

I stuffed the picture into my shirt pocket and said, “She’s my mother.”


Posted by on April 21, 2012 in Other Strangeness


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8 responses to “Dual Writing Exercise

  1. annewoodman

    April 21, 2012 at 2:45 am

    Cool! I’m not sure that opening scene can be finished very quickly… sounds like the opening to a novel!

    The concept that your writers’ group has started reminds me of those pictures we used to draw as kids: one kid would draw a head, then fold the paper; one kid would draw the mid-section, then fold; then the last kid would draw legs and feet. They were always fun.

    I think it is an interesting exercise. And as much as I’ve read of my critique group members’ work… I think I could pick out who wrote what. You should definitely post if all of you could identify the other members’ work–it will tell you a lot about whether your “voice” is coming through clearly. Good luck!

  2. Dennis Langley

    April 21, 2012 at 3:05 am

    Thanks, Anne.

    I think we will settle for an additional scene or two. Though, it might also be fun to write the next 250 words, pass to the left, and continue with another writer to see if we can keep story line continuity. As diverse as the group is, it will be a very interesting exercise.

  3. Matthew Wright

    April 22, 2012 at 4:29 am

    Sounds like an excellent writing exercise. I recall doing much the same with friends of mine years ago, (we did round-robin stories by way of creating a role-playing game) – educational, good writing practice – and fun.

    Matthew Wright

    • Dennis Langley

      April 23, 2012 at 10:48 pm


      First off, thanks for stopping by.

      I have done some team GMing which was really fun.

      I have my own ideas where my opening scene should go. However, I am eager to see where someone else takes it.


  4. 4amWriter

    April 22, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    Ooh, you have drawn me in with this. Your protag obviously has some solid reasons for trying to locate his mother in a pretty humiliating setting. A scene like this would get wheels turning for sure.

    I like this exercise overall, and I might employ it to my creative writing students (they’re young, so I’d have to pare down the word count, but it would be interesting to see what 8-11 year olds do with something like this.

    Keep us posted on how this turns out in your group!

    • Dennis Langley

      April 23, 2012 at 10:30 pm


      When it was proposed, I thought it would be a lot of fun. We are meeting tonight to swap scenes and then two weeks before we see the finished work. So, look for something in the next couple weeks.

  5. Kimberly Packard

    April 22, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    What a great exercise! Our writers group did a round robin short story exercise a couple of months ago. Several of us signed up to write two pages of a story and then passed it to someone else. It was all posted on our blog ( and it was fun picking up the baton from the person preceding us to build upon his or her vision and add our own favor. These little exercises keep our juices flowing when we get too focused on our own work.

    • Dennis Langley

      April 23, 2012 at 10:43 pm

      I’m looking forward to the next step. Our group is pretty diverse so I have no ideawhat will be handed to me. I do hope I can get permission to post some of the results. Thanks for stopping by.


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