Writing Exercise #21

Questions and Writing

Questions are used throughout the writing process… from decision-making about what we’ll write, through the research and planning stages, the writing, and on to the marketing and promotional stages.

Exercise ~

Make a list of all the ways you use questions in your writing life. Begin by brainstorming, then add to your list as new examples come to mind.

Reshape your list by rearranging items into positions that feel right to you.

Take some time to ponder the list, and the significance of questions to your work.

Write a piece that highlights the usefulness of questions in relation to your writing.

Ask yourself how many questions you asked during this exercise. You may be surprised!


This Writing Exercise relates to my Blog ~ Pondering Questions

Pondering Questions

How do questions figure in the writing process?

The answer is, they have many uses… one of which is as an Opening, just like the question above. An opening question is designed to entice the reader by creating interest, to give some information and to engage the reader’s imagination, thus drawing them in.

A reader’s attention can similarly be baited by a well-worded question at the beginning or end of the Back-cover Blurb on a book, and on Promotional Material.

Asking questions is a good way to Explore Ideas for a New Writing Project. You might ask yourself… What do I want to write about? What am I passionate about? What do I want to say to the world? What is the underlying story?

Research relies on questions. It involves investigation, exploration, examination and enquiry, all of which require the use of questions. What has already been written that relates to my project? What can I learn from these titles? Does it make my intended work redundant? Could it enhance what I’m planning? Who are specialists in this field? Who would be an appropriate person to interview to get the most useful information for my project? What do I know/can I learn about this person and their work before the interview?

Interviews are micro-worlds of questions; designed to obtain and clarify information, learn from the interviewee, hear their thoughts and opinions. There are also ice-breaking questions; designed to put the interviewee at ease, and to lead into the heart of the interview.

During Planning, writers ask questions of themselves when making decisions about the Setting, Character Development, Plot Development, Point-of-View, and so on. This is where my favourite question comes into the equation. The What if…? question is useful when you’re at an impasse and/or when you want to expand. It floods your mind with a myriad of possibilities, leaving you with choices you may otherwise not imagine. What if…  I set this story in a prison, an apartment building, an isolated community, under the sea…? What if… the main character was secretly rich, a prince, warlord, a street person in 1828 Birmingham, a miner…? What if… the antagonist was the main character’s guardian, or best friend with a dual personality…? What if… this happened, or that happened…? What if… the story was written from the point-of-view of the villain, or a dead victim…? And so on… Each of these options would bring vastly different dynamics to a story, as will others that flood to the page any time the What if…? question is asked.

As writers, we Highlight the big questions of life and the universe in one way or another. We question, hypothesise, discuss, and suggest solutions and sometimes produce answers.

As Memoirists, we question and Explore aspects of our lives… to Make Sense of them and Put them Into Perspective.

As with any topic, the list of uses of questions in the writing process gets longer the deeper we go… by asking questions of course!

More on questions and questioning in my next post…


This post relates to ~ Exercise # 21 Questions and Writing


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Writing Exercise #20

First Day At School

Our first day at school is one of the turning points in our lives. This is when we step from full-time parental protection into the world of shared protection from other adults.

These people play a role in shaping the foundations of who we become, and the students who share our first-day experience have the potential to be life-long friends, again influencing our future.

The school our parents choose for us, usually reflects the family background – financial status, belief systems, and so on. The chosen school also makes an impact on where our first step on the long road to independence will take us.

Exercise ~

Brainstorm at random, the things you remember about your first day at school.

Ask yourself questions to help you find more memories to add to your list. Questions like: What school did I attend? Where was it? What did I wear? What do I remember about getting ready? How did I feel? Was I upset or happy to be there? What happened in the first hour? What did I do at lunch-time and play-time? What was my first impression of the playground? How would I describe the room and where I sat? What sounds, odours, colours and textures do I remember? What was the teacher like? What do I remember about the other children? How did I get to and from school?

Write a piece of three hundred words or more, that gives the reader an insight into your first day at school, your experience, and the important things that have stayed with you from that day.

If you don’t remember your first day at school, substitute the first day of preschool, high school, university, first job… and change the questions to appropriate ones for the circumstances you are exploring.

Yin & Yang

For Ashlee – 22.08.1991-12.09.2013 


Twelve inch thongs on three inch feet

left on right     right on left

four small toes fitting neatly

in the space of one adult big toe…

you strut about the house

chin held high

golden curls flowing to your waist.


You snatch your brother’s toy

while Mum’s back is turned

smile in glee as you watch him punished

for trying to get it back.


‘Mine!’ you screech

when your empty cup is removed from the table

or if someone should hold an item you want.


‘No, not!  Tell my Daddy, you!’ you pout

when unable to have your way.


You insist on calling David ‘Dave’

announce ‘Dave, you’re Grandmum, right?’

and ‘Grandmum, you’re Dave’

then proceed to address us

by each other’s name

for as long as it suits you.


Contrary to the core

a storehouse of limitless energy

you fill the room with your presence…


as you do      when you sit

on your mother’s lap

look intently into her eyes 


walk hand in hand with big brother

exploring flowers and butterflies

and when you

lie quietly with baby    tenderly stroking

his tiny limbs


when you sing to Dolly

as you tuck her into bed


and most treasured of all


when you bounce into my room

angelic face framed by silken hair

eyes sparkling beneath long lashes

excited smile exuding from young lips


softness      softness      everywhere…


c. Kathryn Coughran


First published: 1994 in Family Matters (Kathryn Andersen)


Poison Tongues

‘A’ says something to ‘B’ about ‘C’.

‘B’ agrees, and adds a little.

Her fire fuelled, ‘A’ contributes again.

Hyped, ‘B’ continues

making it up as she goes.


Reaction… leads to reaction…

leads to reaction…


A fact, taken out of context

twisted and distorted with jealousy,

is moulded

until the meaning has changed.


‘B’ can’t wait to tell ‘C’ what ‘A’ has said.

‘A’ soon takes her opportunity

to report to ‘C’

that ‘B’ has been tale-telling.


Both ‘A’ and ‘B’ believe

they have spoken the truth:

each has shared their reality

even if maliciously…


and the truth lies

somewhere in between.


 c. Kathryn Coughran


First published: 1993 in Live At Don Bank – Live Poets’ Society Anthology  

Also: 1994 in Family Matters (Kathryn Andersen)