Speculative fiction writer, translator, and editor

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  1. Take a few minutes to just look at the pictures.
  2. Pick one of the writing exercises to do.
  3. Set a timer for 10 minutes.
  4. In a notebook or new word processing document, write until the timer runs out.


You may also use your own photos or other tools like tarot cards for inspiration.

Writing exercise image 1
A surreal and atmospheric scene featuring a person in an ornate headdress cradling a wire-wrapped bundle.
[S]abine Science Fiction Scene” by Sabine Mondestin is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Title truncated to not bias a certain reading during the exercise. Click source link to see full citation.
Writing exercise image 2
A light-skinned person with dark, wavy hair looks into the camera with warm eyes and a mysterious smile against a blurred, sea-like background.
2365-12” by Bowy Gavid Bowie Chan is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.


Exercise 1: Write from a third-person point of view inspired by the picture and use at least one set of neopronouns.

Background reading: Nordquist, Richard. “Third-Person Point of View.” ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/third-person-point-of-view-1692547 (accessed October 20, 2022). The purpose of this exercise is to practice writing a viewpoint character who uses neopronouns. Example of a third-person point of view passage using one set of neopronouns: Anima releases the crow and plunges into the body of a tomcat padding down one of the city’s alleys. Æ peers around a corner. A tall figure approaches, one hand wheeling an octagonal case. A black snake floats, weightless, above the figure’s shoulders, sleek scales refracting sunlight into rainbows. Feline eyes narrowing, Anima swishes ær tail, relishing the feeling of it: an extension of ær body, vestigial in ær human form. Excerpted from In the Watchful City by S. Qiouyi Lu (August 31, 2021 from Tordotcom Publishing). Emphasis added.

Exercise 2: Write from any point of view, but describe a character other than the viewpoint character using at least one set of neopronouns.

Background reading: Nordquist, Richard. “Point of View in Grammar and Composition.” ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/point-of-view-grammar-and-composition-1691652 (accessed October 20, 2022). The purpose of this exercise is to practice observing a character who uses neopronouns via another character. Your viewpoint character may or may not use neopronouns as well. Example of an observation of a character who uses neopronouns: The figure’s skin is dark, rich copper brown. Ser hair, a cloud of tightly coiled black curls, halos ser. Perched atop that halo like a crown is a gold headband, charms dangling from it like a veil. A gilded floral motif decorates the high plateau of ser forehead. Heavy gold rings rest around ser neck; gold bangles clink against ser wrists. Ser glittering earrings brush against ser collarbones. A wind catches ser dark cape, billowing it out behind ser, revealing the brilliant, ochre dress se’s wearing underneath, the material delicately patterned like a butterfly wing, shimmering in the slanted light. Anima scans the figure’s face and pulses the data into the Gleaming. No matches.

Excerpted from In the Watchful City by S. Qiouyi Lu (August 31, 2021 from Tordotcom Publishing). Emphasis added.

You can use this text box as a space to write in. Your work will not be saved or submitted. If you want to keep what you wrote, make sure you copy and paste it into a new document before closing or refreshing this window.


During the ten minutes of writing, do I have to describe the picture, make a scene based on it, or…?

You can write however you’re moved to write. The point is to just go, go, go for ten minutes and let whatever comes out of you come out. There is no wrong way; there are no best practices.

Also, don’t worry about writing something good or impressive. Just write.

Do I have to share what I wrote?

No. The purpose of this exercise is for you to feel safe practicing without pressure to share your work.

However, please feel free to post your work outside of the classroom; after all, it’s your work. But you don’t ever have to share what you wrote with anyone. You can keep it secret and safe.

The most important part is to reflect on the questions below. Excerpts may help to clarify and illustrate your discussion responses, but they are not required.

Reflection Questions

Compare and contrast your answers to these questions after doing each writing exercise.

You can use the spaces below to draft responses. Please note that if you hit “submit,” your response will be saved and website administrators (currently only S. Qiouyi Lu) will be able to read your response. Anything in the drafting box earlier in the page will not be sent (it isn’t attached to this form).

If you would like feedback on your answers, please feel free to book free office hours.

Which exercise did you do?

Which picture did you use for this exercise?

What did you like about using neopronouns here?

If you did not like anything about using neopronouns, you may say so and express why in question #5.

How was using neopronouns similar to and/or different from using traditional pronouns?

Did you encounter any difficulties? If yes, what kind? If not, what, if anything, do you think may have contributed to your comfort with this exercise?

Did your writing experience differ between the two exercises? If yes, how so? If not, how were the exercises similar?

Did you encounter anything surprising or unexpected as you worked? If yes, what did you encounter?

Any other comments or observations you’d like to make about this exercise?

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