At first glance, assumptions might seem a strange choice for a writing worksheet – but you know the
Here are a few ways that uncovering hidden assumptions can help you in your writing, and in your life…
In your writing
- Use reader assumptions to generate suspense. For example, if you make the reader assume that outside help is impossible for a character, you can make them worry when the character gets in trouble.
- Use assumptions about the story world to hide clues. Mystery writers do this all the time! Describe a clue in such a way that the reader assumes it’s simply part of the background. Edgar Allen Poe’s The Purloined Letter is the classic example of this trick.
- Use assumptions about genre and characters to create a plot twist. Plot twists work by leading the reader to assume a certain way of thinking, and then thwarting this expectation. The big plot twists that readers most admire are always (to the best of my knowledge) a result of mistaken identity and of bending genre conventions. For example, think of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd or Fight Club.
- Use assumptions about form to experiment with style and story. One of the most interesting characteristics of literary or experimental fiction is that they push the boundaries of form. Examples abound, but The House of Leaves is an extreme example that springs to mind.
- Use assumptions about writing and authorship to engage in your story. The authorial voice in particular is a fun tool to surprise the reader. For example, what does the reader expect to remain constant and consistent in the writer? How can you pull the rug from under their feet?
In your life
- Find assumptions that are holding you back from fun experiences. Assumptions often turn into limitations. I still remember the day I realised that one didn’t need to be born musical, or to have studied an instrument from a young age, or to have qualifications, or even to have any experience or aptitude with music, in order to enjoy making sounds. A stupid assumption that, once removed, led to a huge epiphany.
- Let’s assume we’re wrong. The idea of an assumption does seem to connote a false belief. We assume things about people all day, partly because our brains function by making predictions. But often we attribute thoughts, feelings and even actions to people, and later find out that we have erred. It can be useful to uncover these assumptions, especially if they form a pattern, and to re-evaluate them. Are we too quick to assume? Why do we err in our assumptions? Could we defer or disregard our assumptions? Could we, instead, assume the best of people?
- Assumptions aren’t just unwritten beliefs. “To assume” also means “to take on.” What roles or characteristics have you assumed without realising?