Sunday, February 22, 2009

Writing Exercises

Our Sunday school teacher used a new word this morning: "chreia." This is an exercise used to prepare orators and speakers, one of fourteen such exercises (progymnasmata). A chreia uses anecdotes and stories to indirectly portray a figure, focusing on words and deeds. Dr. Jim Altman brought up the term in discussing the book of Mark, which he categorized as a biography that uses chreia.

My subsequent reading about chreia and progymnasmata set me thinking about writing exercises. Everyone who has attended some sort of mentoring class is undoubtedly familiar with a number of these. My favorite was the one Karen Ball used one year, when she had us start a story with a central character who was the most hateful, mean, worthless person imaginable. We then had to pass our stories to the person on our right, who was required to write the conclusion of the story while turning the bad person into someone good. I found it to be a great way to stretch my imagination. Try it sometime with a writer friend.

There are all kinds of writing exercises available, many of them just a Google click away. I particularly like the ones mentioned in this writing website. I don't like to do the exercises--too much like work, I guess--but they are a great way to tone up your writing muscles.

If you decide to work on your chreia and the other thirteen features of the progymnasmata, you can go to this site. As for me, I think I'll pass. But at least I've learned a new word to drop into my conversation the next time I'm around either writers or Bible scholars. "Of course, the gospel of Mark is a classic biography, rich in chreia." Try to find that in your word-a-day.

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