My Favourite Writing Exercise

by | October 6, 2021 | General | 4 comments

By Ashley Lister

 I can’t remember if I’ve shared this before or not but it’s always worth revisiting. My favourite writing exercise is the swifty. What, you might ask, is a swifty? (other than a rather awkward rephrasing of the term ‘quickie’). According to Merriam Webster a ‘Swifty is a play on words taking the form of a quotation ascribed to Tom and followed by an adverb. Here’s a good example: “The thermostat is set too high,” said Tom heatedly.’

The form takes its name from the main character (Tom Swift) in a series of adventure books ascribed to the authorship of Victor Appleton. In the series Appleton was meant to have a weakness for adverbs, attaching an excess of them to dialogue in order to add colour and variety to the narration.

“I’ve got a knife,” said Tom sharply.
“Get to the back of the boat,” said Tom sternly.
“I like the herb you’ve used for seasoning,” said Tom sagely.

I like these because, as a writing exercise, they’re a fun diversion from the seriousness of writing, they allow a little bit of silliness into the otherwise formal world of fiction writing, and they teach a valuable lesson about the way the artifice of some adverbial tags can distract a reader from the content of dialogue.

“Baa,” said Tom, sheepishly.
“I have a thing for redheads,” said Tom, gingerly.
“Have you ever tried figging?” asked Tom, gingerly.

It’s a relatively easy exercise – simply write a swifty – but it is a liberating process that reminds us of the fragile balance between dialogue creation and speech presentation. I’d love to see your examples of swifties in the comments box below.

Ashley Lister

Ashley Lister is a UK author responsible for more than two-dozen erotic novels written under a variety of pseudonyms. His most recent work, a non-fiction book recounting the exploits of UK swingers, is his second title published under his own name: Swingers: Female Confidential by Ashley Lister (Virgin Books; ISBN: 0753513439) Ashley’s non-fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines, including Forum, Chapter & Verse and The International Journal of Erotica. Nexus, Chimera and Silver Moon have published his full-length fiction, with shorter stories appearing in anthologies edited by Maxim Jakubowski, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Mitzi Szereto. He is very proud to be a regular contributor to ERWA.


  1. Chaz

    “This is very important,” Tom said seriously.

    “You’ll never get that donkey to move,” Tom said stubbornly.

    “Erotica is very arousing,” Tom said excitedly.

    • Ashley Lister

      Loving the donkey one (and it’s not the first time I’ve used that phrase).

  2. Lisabet Sarai

    “You can lick whipped cream from my pussy if you like,” said Lisabet sweetly.

    Always a fun exercise… Thanks, Ash!

    • Ashley Lister

      That’s the best invite I’ve had all year xx Excellent example x

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