What's it about?

This blog has a very specific purpose: it's a place to post prompts for creative writing during the time of the lockdown. Initially it was for the use of my writing group, as we cannot for the time being meet in person - but I want to open it up to anyone who'd like to have a go at creative writing. I very strongly believe that writing is good for you: while you're writing, you're off somewhere else - you've escaped! And that can only be a good thing during lockdown.

Do sign up to be notified by email when a new prompt is posted - usually on Thursdays - and I would love to hear how you're getting on in the comments. Have fun!

Sunday, 13 June 2021

Eric Ravilious

 This week, I'm posting some paintings by the wonderful Eric Ravilious. You've probably heard of him, but if you haven't, do look him up - he's worth finding out about!

As usual, write a story inspired by one of the pictures. If nothing comes to you straight away, just start by describing the picture and how it makes you feel, and see where that takes you.

Or get into the head of one of the people in the picture - or of someone looking at the scene if there are no people - and write a monologue about what they're thinking, how they're feeling. Has something happened? Is something about to happen?





Thursday, 3 June 2021

Make it up...

 Choose one of these prompts, and off you go!

*Outside the window, you see something you really can't believe...

*Write about a piece of furniture that means something to you.

*You knock louder and louder on the door, but nobody answers...

*Choose a favourite painting, and write a story inspired by it.


From the Hitchcock film, 'Rear Window'.


Thursday, 20 May 2021

Be happy!

 Here is another task from Jenny Alexander's book. She's written other books about writing, too: see here for more information about Jenny and her books.

Poetry: Happy

Lots of people go through a phase of writing poetry in their teenage years, to help them manage and express the complicated emotions they may be buffeted by, but then, as life levels out, they stop and never return to poetry again.

I think perhaps these early experiences can mean we associate writing poetry with feelings of angst, but poetry isn't only a place for exploring and expressing difficult feelings - it can range across all the emotions in the heart's library.

What makes you happy? Make a list. It will include activities, places and people. Some will make you feel happy for a moment, others for hours, and others throughout your whole life.

Write a poem about one of them. Rhyme it, if that feels right. 

Enjoy the lift that writing about happy experiences can bring.

Sunday, 16 May 2021

A Meal - taken, with thanks, from Jenny Alexander's 'Free-Range Writing'

 

Mealtimes are a rich seam for writing in every genre, and there's a vast menu of possibilities to choose from: state banquets, family gatherings, romantic dinners, takeaways, birthday celebrations, TV dinners, snatched sandwiches at the computer...

Mealtimes may be sociable or solitary affairs. A whole group culture or an individual psyche can be expressed in people's relationships with food.

Choose one of the following tasks. 

Memoir

Think about your family mealtimes when you were a child, and how they evolved at different stages in your childhood. Where did you usually eat breakfast? Who was with you?

What about lunch? Did you have school dinners? And teatime?

What was the atmosphere like at family mealtimes?

Choose a period of your life, and the mealtime you'd like to write about, breakfast, lunch, tea or supper. Start by describing a typical occasion, setting it in the background of your family life at the time.

If you can remember one occasion in particular, move on to that, perhaps marking the change of focus with something like: 'But one day...'

Fiction

Someone is offered a food item they don't want to eat. Who? What is the item?

Why don't they want to eat it?

Who is offering it to them?

Where are they?

Who else is present? 

What does your protagonist do - accept it but leave it on the plate? Decline? Try and spit it out? How do the people around them respond?

Think about how this little exchange over food, offered and rejected, might reflect the relationship between the characters concerned. Write the scene.

Saturday, 8 May 2021

'Fiction: Feel the feelings'



This is an exercise from Jenny Alexander's excellent book, Free-Range Writing.


Fiction: Feel the feelings

We tend to think of emotions as somehow outside our physical experience, but they are alwayts felt in the body.

If you describe the physical sensations of emotions rather than just stating how your characters feel, the reader feels these sensations in their body too, and this makes for much more effective writing.

For example, rather than saying, 'She felt scared', you could describe the physical effects of that emotion in her body. 'She caught her breath... the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end...'

Instead of saying, 'He looked amazed,' you might describe how that emotion affects the way his body looks. 'His jaw dropped... his eyes opened wide...'

Write for ten minutes from each of these story starters, describing the physical effects of the strong emotions the protagonists feel. (Or, if you prefer, take just one and run with it.)

  • 'Police!' I shouted into the phone. 'It's an emergency!'
  • Jessica set the table for one...
  • Rob reached out and took her hand...

When you have finished, check back and cross out any places where you have stated how they feel - 'He was horrified... She felt lonely... She was overcome by desire...' and so on. If you have shown how they feel in their physical symptoms, telling it should be unnecessary.


Sunday, 25 April 2021

Framed!



For your next task, think about frames - or about being framed.

So your story could revolve around:

- A framed photo

- A framed picture - of any kind, from anywhere

- Framing someone, or being framed, for a crime

- Or anything else you can think of!

Enjoy!

Friday, 16 April 2021

'Grief is the thing with feathers.'




Grief is the thing with feathers is the title of a book by Ned Porter. I haven't read it, but for some reason the title has been running through my mind lately. I'd imagined it must be a quote from something, but if so, I haven't been able to find out what.

I don't understand it - does it mean that grief is like a bird? I don't know. But somehow it resonates.

I thought we might use it as a starting point for some writing.

Grief is an emotion, a feeling. Think of others - happiness, sadness, jealousy, anger. Make up your own metaphor: eg Anger is a fire-breathing dragon, Joy is a balloon the colour of rainbows.

Using one of these as a starting point, write a poem or a story that explores that particular emotion.

Update - a friend has told me that the title is adapted from a poem by Emily Dickinson. Here it is.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.