Rural Creative Writing Workshop

Lesson Plan

Rural Creative Writing Workshop


1 – Overview of course work – basics of creative writing, how to write about place, reflect on their relationship to the past, present and future of the rural places.

2 – Field trip to park / farm / ranch / open space to practice writing about place


3 – Students share their work in a writing circle: teacher and peer critiques

4 – Presentation of final work, submit for publication

Introducing the Lesson:

Facilitate a discussion with the students

What is the sense of place?

a unique collection of qualities and characteristics – visual, cultural, social, and environmental – that provide meaning to a location. Sense of place is what makes one place different from another, and what makes our physical surroundings worth caring about.

Warm Up:

Read an example from a creative piece (poetry, novel etc.) that is about place.


Gregory Hill – East of Denver

Wendell Berry

Kent Haruf – Plainsong

Close your eyes for a moment and think of the places that are important to you during your day. Places you like to explore, learn, relax, connect etc. Now write down what you thought about.

Get to Work


  • Goals for workshop – BE CREATIVE!
  • Go outside and find a place to sit. (Football field, playground, etc.)
  • Talk about place & setting in creative writing
    Refer to earlier example read or share another example of setting / place
  • Do a writing prompt about setting: Begin a story or scene by envisioning the setting first (somewhere in your community). What is unique about this place? What does it look like? How does your character feel about this place?
  • Go outside and find a place to sit. (Football field, playground, etc.)
  • Read prompts and critique
  • If time do another prompt
    • Begin a new story by creating a character. What do they look like? How do they dress? Is there anything unusual about their appearance? Write a scene or story exploring your new character.
    • A tornado is forming, and your character is in the absolute worst place they can be at the moment. Where are they? How do they handle the situation?
    • Eavesdropper: Create a poem, short story, or journal entry about a conversation you’ve overheard.


  • Review from last session if a different day
  • Ideas on how to structure a story – how the prompts can help
  • Writing dialogue: When you’re working on dialogue exercises, you’re not worrying about plot or where the scene’s headed. You’re not distracted by furniture or waiters or sunsets. In essence, you’re closing your eyes and giving your complete attention to the subtext of the conversation.
  • Dialogue prompts: Pick one of these starting lines and start writing. You don’t have to know who the characters are, where they are, or why they’re at odds. Dialogue is one of the best ways to learn more about your characters. Maybe one of these will even lead to a new story.
    • “I thought you were supposed to call me.”
    • “I never, ever want to hear you say that again.”
    • “Don’t just stand there looking at me.”
    • “It doesn’t do any good to get worked up.”
    • “Hey, there. Are you in the witness protection program, or what?”
    • “What on earth happened in here?”
    • This isn’t what it looks like, I swear! Okay … it’s kind of what it looks like, but just give me a chance to explain.”
  • Read and critique prompts
  • Metaphor and Similes
  • Step 1: Put a line down the center of your page and fold in half. Then write down a random list of abstract concepts.  Then flip the page over and write down an equally random list of concrete things that you can see, taste, touch, hear or feel (try not to write things that relate easily to the first list). Like so:
    Abstract/General Concrete/Physical
    Cayenne Pepper
    Dirty sneaker
    Bitter cucumber tip
  • Step 2: Next, fill in the blanks of this sentence below using one word from the abstract side and one word from the concrete side.
    ____(abstract noun)_________ is (like)____(concrete noun)__________.
    When you do this, don’t pick things that match — pick something that seems oddly mismatched or is truly random.  This is important, because metaphors have more power when they take big leaps. If the leap is too small, there’s no snap. If the leap is too big, it’s called a conceit (which is a no-no for some — but I’m not a big nay-sayer).
  • Step 3: Now write a sentence that helps to explain.
    For example: Love is like cayenne pepper.  A little bit goes a long way.
    Here’s one a student wrote years ago: Love is like going to the moon. It takes a long time to get there, but when you do, the earth looks very different.


  • Review and questions
  • Clichés: avoid clichés like the plague. See what I did there? As a writer, it’s your job to come up with creative storytelling. A cliché can refer to an overused phrase or expression. But another definition for cliché, is a worn-out idea that should’ve been put to bed a long time ago.
  • How to ID a cliché:
    • Look for metaphors; many clichés are metaphors that are in widespread use.
    • Look for any phrases that are describing complex ideas in short, pithy, and often visual statements.
    • Look for words and phrases that are not precise or accurate in what they are meant to convey (even if their meaning is still clear).
    • Look for any phrases that you hear a lot in everyday speech.
  • Start your story, work from ideas generated in this workshop


  • Review and questions
  • Different ways to end a story:
    • Resolved — neatly packaged and put away
    • Unresolved — entice readers to use their imagination and create their own ending
    • Implied ending — The conclusion, or ‘what happens in the end’, isn’t explicitly stated
    • Twist in the tail — catches the audience by surprise with a completely unexpected turn of events.
    • Tie back — begin and end in the same way
    • Crystal ball — goes ‘beyond the ending’ in a way, looking into the futureRead stories and critique

Extension Activity

Do more prompts:

  • Compile a list of inanimate or animate objects to which you might compare yourself metaphorically.  (I am a windmill. I change direction or my thoughts whenever someone talks to me…) 
  • Think about an incident that happened to you and exaggerate in the telling.  Make it into a tall tale. 
  • What qualities make where you live today unique? List as many physical, emotional, and social details as possible.

Facilitate Creative Thinking Activities:

  • Ask open-ended questions that foster original ideas:
    • What are 3 ways that the world would be different if everyone could fly?
    • Are you more like a mountain or a valley? Why? 
    • If you could change one thing to make the world better, what would it be, and why?
    • Would you rather be a highlighter or a hole punch, and why? 
    • Imagine you are in London in the 1800’s. There is no electricity. How do you cook a meal? 
  • Do exquisite corpse lessons:
  • Look up a word in the dictionary, and then look up the word before and after. Make up a short story using the three words (loosely inspired by Twyla Tharp, from her book The Creative Habit).
  • Take a compound word made up of two words. Separate them. Replace one of the words with a new word to make up new compound word. List as many combinations as you can.