What if? : writing exercises for fiction writers

by Anne Bernays

Paper Book, 2009




New York : Longman, 2009.


This how-to-write fiction book is comprised primarily of exercises introduced by brief but informative essays on the aspects of fiction. Long on specifics and short on theoretical information so often found in books about the art of writing, this text provides a practical, hands-on approach to writing fiction. Organized by the elements of fiction and concluded by an anthology of contemporary fiction, this book helps all fiction writers hone and improve their craft.The elements of fiction-character, point of view, dialogue, plot, style and revision.For those interested in improving fiction-writing skills.

User reviews

LibraryThing member inkstained
This book is organized somewhat thematically and includes both exercises and responses to the exercises so you can get inspiration from what others have written. I recommend it for those looking to sharpen their skills with regard to particular aspects of writing. Larger-scale writing issues like plotting or novel organization aren't really addressed, but as a whole, this is a good tool to keep around for when inspiration is lacking.… (more)
LibraryThing member UtopianElle
Wonderful book for the "stuck" fiction writer who needs help curing chronic or acute writer's block. The prompts are divers and creative.
LibraryThing member jpaulett
Good set of exercises for writers. I use the exercises heavily in my creative writing class. Practical and clear.
LibraryThing member aulsmith
While I found the prompts interesting, the sample exercises were all from student work, which I didn't find inspiring to read. Almost all of the exercises were aimed at realistic fiction or personal essays, so if you're writing genre fiction you have to rethink them to make them helpful.
LibraryThing member Tatoosh
In 83 lessons organized into 12 section Bernays and Painter offer advice and suggest activities designed for students and beginning writers. More experienced writers will benefit from the review materials in this book as well.

Readers will find the sections differ in their importance. How to begin a story (Beginnings) and the usefulness of Notebooks, Journals, and Memory will most likely be informative only to those early in their writing career. Beginning writers may also find the inclusion of games and the instruction to learn from the greats to be useful. For more advanced writers the reviews provided by topics such as characterization, perspective and point of view, dialogue, plot and (the potpourri included under the heading) mechanics are likely to be useful despite.

The coverage of each topic generally begins with a short explanation of the essential point. That is followed with an exercise that allows readers to practice the skills and techniques just described. This is the weakest part of the book and I was not moved to attempt most of them. Greater thought in crafting more interesting and practical exercises would improve “What If?” greatly. Most of the chapters conclude with examples that depict student’s responses to the exercise. Reading these examples was the most interesting and fun part of the book.

I found this “What If?” to be useful despite my many years of experience as a writer.
… (more)



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