Fiction Writing Exercise 3
Writing Ugly as Beautiful

This is a quick exercise that is useful for strengthening your descriptive abilities. It’s also a bit of slightly twisted fun. Try it every now and then to get the words flowing.

Think of something — an object or an action — that is ugly or repulsive. Describe this thing in such a way that the reader will either begin to see it as beautiful or will believe that the narrator truly believes it is beautiful. Do not resort to falsehood, though. One way to manage this is to adopt the voice of a narrator who thinks each repulsive aspect of your thing is sublime.

Notes: I was given an exercise similar to this as an assignment in a writing workshop. One of the other students chose to describe someone eating the contents of an ashtray. Each detail — from the gritty feel of the ashes to the smell of stale tobacco — was so realistic we could all imagine actually doing this (the description was in first person). We as readers were all repulsed, but we were also convinced that the narrator (though not the writer) really, truly enjoyed eating cigarette butts and ashes. That is the ideal you want to aim for.