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Poetry Madlibs: April Isn’t the Cruelest Month

Image Courtesy of Patrick Emerson

The following exercise comes to you courtesy of Rob Carney, an astounding poet and a professor at Utah Valley University. When Carney’s class was recommended to me, it came with one of the strangest testimonials I’ve heard. To paraphrase, my friend told me that when they took the course, they didn’t feel like they were learning at all. Rather — thanks to the exercises and assignments given in class — they were simply playing with language throughout the semester. It was only after the semester concluded that they realized how much this form of play had improved their effectiveness with the craft.

So, without further introduction, I bring you an exercise from that course (posted here with permission of the original author).


(Have enough fun that you can’t wait to share the resulting draft.)

1. Begin with “April isn’t the cruelest month. That would be [pick one of the other 11],

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Ultimate Culture Creation Worksheet


When worldbuilding, one of the difficult tasks writers encounter is understanding the cultures they are creating. As it is, we often do not learn about the other cultures around us or even study our own cultures. One tool that helped me gain a better grasp on cultures as I was younger was the Cultural Worksheet.

Something similar to the culture worksheet was given to my 8th grade social studies class by our teacher, Ms. Derwinski, to help us understand cultures. I wish I knew her full name and where she got the original so I could properly thank and cite her contribution. I have since used it to help organize several of my fictional cultures. It has gone through a few minor tweaks over the years to improve usability.

This Ultimate Culture Creation Worksheet can be used as a checklist or guide. Fill in the document with the relevant information. The first few times you should go in order to help with organization, but feel free to go back and fix things if you change your mind later. This worksheet provides a framework to ensure you address all the major elements of a culture.

Before using this worksheet to flesh out your fictional culture try filling it out with your own real life culture or a fictional culture you already enjoy. Doing so will help you understand each of the elements better and smooth the process of designing your own.


First, title your culture.

I. Background of Culture

A. Time: When does your culture take place? This can be in Earth time or your world’s time.

B. Geographic Setting: Briefly describe the geography that impacts the culture.

C. Physical Description of People: What distinguishing features do they have, if any?

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The Usual Suspects: Questions to Unearth a Powerful Personal Narrative

Several of the questions from this list were pulled  from The School of Arts and Enterprise, re-posted here with edits. The majority of the questions come from my own experience and brainstorming. The hope is to make this a comprehensive and solidly available resource for those writing personal narratives.

How Can I Choose a Personal Narrative Topic?:
Questions to Help You Discover Your Story

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Writing Exercise: A Letter to Your Muse

I started TA work on Tuesday for an Honors Intro to Creative Writing course with Dr Laura Hamblin. In the two class periods that have taken place so far, I already have about five items I want to port over as blog entries. We’ll start with this exercise, where you will write a letter to your muse.

Muse letter exercise.

A Letter to Your Muse

Bare-bones description: In this exercise, you will write a letter where you ask for your muse’s help and make commitments on what you will do to earn your muse’s favor.

What this exercise accomplishes: The goal of this exercise is to help writers identify what makes them feel creatively in-tune, approach their creative resources proactively, and to accomplish these goals in a creative framework.

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Attaching the Flesh: A Character Questionnaire

Attaching the Flesh: Character Questionnaire

Characters easily make or break a story. It’s not about having a “good” or “bad” character; rather, it’s a difference of dimensions. To give your characters that third dimension of presence requires adding layers to who they are—patching sinews of flesh onto their waiting bones.

Okay, that’s a bit morbid. The point is that it’s crucial that you take time to develop your characters. This questionnaire will help you start thinking about your character in a deeper, fleshier way.

It’s 50 questions long (with bonus and sub-questions to boot), so I won’t be saying anything extra after the last question’s been asked. Hop past the break to start the survey.

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