Writing Exercise: The Word

Open up a dictionary or thesaurus (encyclopedia, bible, magazine, travel book, technical book, etc.) to a random page and put your finger on the page. Look at the word you’ve chosen. Now write with it, about it, or around it. You could use it directly in your writing. You could use it as the subject of your writing. Or you could simply use it to inspire your writing — the word itself might not show up on the page at all.

Dictionaries and thesauri are best because they’re more likely to introduce you to weird and unusual words that you’ll really have to think about to use. Also, it’s easiest to be sure that you know what word you’re pointing to, and you’re less likely to end up with a word like “a,” “and,” “the,” and so on. Other materials certainly work, however!


  • #3a. Write a poem using the word. Use it in the title or use it once every couple of lines.
  • #3b. Write a short story around a subject provoked by the word.
  • #3c. This word says something very important about a character. What is it? Write a character sketch for the character or use her in a story.
  • #3d. Quick: write out every plot or topic that the word makes you think of! Just start writing and don’t stop, even if it doesn’t seem like you’re writing anything interesting. Write for at least five minutes.
  • #3e. What does this word make you think of? Write down synonyms, antonyms, words that seem related in any way. Keep listing. Free associate. Does this take you anywhere interesting?
  • #3f. Think of the word in the context of your current writing project. How could you relate it to your topic? How could you work it into your story?
  • #3g. Take five characters from your own work or popular fiction. What would each of them think of if asked what this word meant to them?
  • #3h. Find ways to use the word in various forms of writing: a business letter, a resume, a death threat, a blackmail letter, a short-short story, a business name, a slogan, etc.
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