Writing Exercise: Word-Play

Open a dictionary or thesaurus again (see warm-up #3). But this time, instead of picking one word, pick three. How can you relate these words together? What patterns can you find? How can they be more interesting when viewed together than alone?

  • #4a. Pick two words this time. Pick four. Pick five. Play around with different combinations of words.
  • #4b. Open a thesaurus and pick several words that are all synonyms for the same word. Play with them. Play with the similarities, the differences, and anything else you can think of. Try to use them all in the same piece of writing.
  • #4c. Pick words that are related to each other in some topical way and play with them.
    • Play with words that describe personality. Take the first three that you find and try to work them all into the same personality. What is this character like?
    • Play with variations on a theme. Pick three words that represent different types of cat, horse, dog, tree, insect, star, rain, or anything else you can find. How can you explore the differences and similarities between these variations in your writing?
    • If you’re having trouble coming up with a theme to guide your variations, then go back to that dictionary or thesaurus. Keep picking words until you get one that is a type rather than a specific item. Think in broad terms–as we’ve just seen, even a word as simple as “horse” can have variations.
  • #4d. Write your words out across the top of a sheet of paper. Use them as column headings. Free associate on the words until you have a list of words in each column. Now try to find even more patterns among the words.
  • #4e. Enter your set of words into the search box of a major search engine and see what web sites you turn up. Take notes on anything you find interesting or inspiring!
  • #4f. Imagine you found a list on someone’s desk that contained these words. What do you imagine the list is for? Go wild.
  • #4g. Use all of the words in the same piece of writing: a short-short story, a business letter, a resume, a poem, a narrative description, etc.
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