Craft Exercises: Lists


Here’s another of my craft exercises – one that I’m particularly fond of because it’s more of a crazy little sprint than anything else. Nothing matters except ideas. It’s actually one of my repeatable cards, meaning that when I pull it out of the bag, I put it right back in.

The assignment is to choose a topic and list as many things as I can within ten minutes. I actually started doing this one because of a similar exercise in an acting class. (Which, by the way, was all kinds of fun. Mostly for the people I got to hang out with. Theater people just kind of glow with awesome.) The acting exercise was to choose two lines of dialog that sum up the essence of the monologues we were learning. Then we had to repeat those same lines over and over and over until the teacher told us to stop. 

The first few repetitions were easy-ish. We said the lines happy, sad, desperate, thoughtful… and eventually we ran out of emotions. If you say the same words enough times, you discover meaning beneath the words that you may not have actively thought of.

So, putting my writer’s hat back on, when you need to list different explanations for the same thing over and over, you end up with reasonable explanations, and silly ones, and boring ones, and ones that make you snort and say, “where did that come from?” and ones that make you say, “hmm… maybe there’s a story in that…”

This particular writing workout produced a list of “Situations that would make you jump.”


Someone sneaks up on you.

There is a clap of thunder

You’re reading a history book and find your own name in it.

A car slams on the breaks.

Something on your plate of food moves.

You feel an unidentified twinge of pain in your foot.

You knock a glass off the table.

You’re looking into a mirror and it spontaneously shatters.

A mouse runs across the floor.

The grandfather clock chimes.

There is a low growl from the corner of a previously empty room.

Your friend’s face suddenly morphs into one of a monster.

You find a weapon on your desk.

You pat a girl’s shoulder and she screams

Someone laughs unexpectedly.

Someone receives an e-mail with the subject line “Your brother is dead.”

You wake up in a strange room and don’t remember last night.

You suddenly remember you were supposed to return a phone call.

You are sanding a room for repainting and find blood spatters on the wall.

Your trusty dog suddenly talks.

Your mother makes a sound like a parakeet.

Your computer turns off for no reason.

The lights turn on for no reason. 

(I swear, that purple candle is lit. It's one of the most frustrating candles I've deal with. Almost finished, though.)

(I swear, that purple candle is lit. It’s one of the most frustrating candles I’ve dealt with. Almost finished, though.)




Now, just for funsies, I’m going to extend the challenge to anyone reading this: add to my list! Do not over think it. Just add whatever additional reasons pop into your mind 🙂


3 responses »

  1. Haha–“your mom makes a sound like a parakeet”. I would most certainly jump at that! My contributions:
    1) Finding dubious entries in your Google search history that you never searched up
    2) The kettle whistles without any water in it
    3) Waking up as a goldfish

    This was a fun exercise! It’s neat to see all the different things that would make you jump and certainly gets you thinking of the possibilities 🙂

  2. Hearing bees out of season
    Finding a face at your darkened window
    Receiving an instant message from the deceased
    Having ‘Siri’ answer like an old friend

    Fun exercise and these were the first things that came into my head 🙂

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