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!

Friday, 27 November 2020

Christmas Writing

 


I was going to present you with some images of Christmas as a starting point for writing - but when I googled Christmas, none of the images that came up really seemed to represent Christmas for me. Though I did like this one!)

So I decided instead to look for some writing that I hope will inspire you. First, here's a poem by U A Fanthorpe.


BC : AD

This was the moment when Before

Turned into After, and the future's 

Uninvented timekeepers presented Arms.


This was the moment when nothing

Happened. Only dull peace

Sprawled boringly over the earth.


This was the moment when even energetic Romans

Could find nothing better to do

Than counting heads in remote provinces.


And this was the moment

When a few farm workers and three

Members of an obscure Persian sect


Walked haphazard by starlight straight 

Into the kingdom of heaven.

*****

And in a very different mood, this comes from The Country Child, by Alison Uttley. This book is about a year in the life of a little girl living on a Derbyshire farm at the end of the 19th century. There's a whole chapter on Christmas, full of the most delicious things, but this bit is from the beginning.

Christmas Day

Susan awoke in the dark of Christmas morning. A weight lay on her feet, and she moved her toes up and down. She sat up and rubbed her eyes. It was Christmas Day. She stretched out her hands and found the knobby little stocking, which she brought into bed with her and clasped tightly in her arms as she fell asleep again.

She awoke later and lay holding her happiness, enjoying the moment. The light was dim, but the heavy mass of the chest of drawers stood out against the pale walls, all blue like the snow shadows outside. She drew her curtains and looked out at the starry sky. She listened for the bells of the sleigh, but no sound came through the stillness except the screech-owl's call.

Again she hadn't caught Santa Claus. Of course she knew he wasn't real, but also she knew he was. It was the same with everything. People said things were not alive, but you knew in your heart they were: statues which would catch you if you turned your back were made of stone; Santa Claus was your father and mother; the stuffed fox died long ago.*

*(The stuffed fox was something she saw on her way to bed every night, which she was afraid of.)


Some suggestions for getting started:

Get a biggish piece of plain paper and make a spider chart - put down, without thinking too much, all the ideas, memories and things you associate with Chistmas. Circle the ones that stand out. 

  • Consider: would they fit a poem best, or a short story, or a memoir/reflective piece? If you're stuck - how about taking one of the lesser figures in the Bible story, or just an onlooker, and telling the rather unlikely story from their point of view, eiter as a poem or as a story?
  • Or, think back to a Christmas you've experienced, which was memorable in some way, either good or bad: the turkey that wasn't cooked, the storm that caused a power cut, the relations who didn't get on... the first Christmas in a new house or in a foreign country. 
  • Or go for a children's story - make it magical or funny: the elf that fell out with Santa, the new-fangled motorised sleigh that put Rudolph out of business. Or make it darker: the present you wanted so much but didn't get, the Christmas play that went all wrong, the arguments that marred the big day. Or simply think back to your childhood Christmases.

Illustration by C F Tunnicliffe from 'The Country Child'.



Thursday, 19 November 2020

Pick an object - any object!

We’ve done this before, but I don’t think that matters!


I’ve picked these four objects pretty much at random. From left to right, they are a porcelain figure of a girl in, I suppose, 18th century costume (she’s actually one of a pair), a glass bowl, which came from Cornwall and reminds me of the sea, a small pottery receptacle made by one of my children at school, and a Coronation mug. 

You are very welcome to use one of these, or (probably better) choose something of your own. 

Start by carefully describing the object you’ve chosen - not in a sentence, but really thoroughly. 

Then it’s up to you which way you take it. You can either use it as a prompt for memories and reflections, or you can put it into a story. If you go for a story, remember it needs to focus on a point where something changes in the life of the protagonist - and it would make sense for the object to be bound up in this. 

Good luck!

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Life stages

This week's task is taken (slightly adapted) from the October edition of the Writing Magazine.

Imagine a main character that you want to write about. Then ask yourself how they would have reacted to various circumstances or challenges at different stages of their life. You can choose what ages to use, but some suggestions are:

  • Small child
  • Teenager
  • Person in their twenties
  • Elderly person

Then think about how they would have dealt with these events at those different ages (or you can choose a different one if you prefer):

  • Death of a pet
  • Moving house
  • Falling out with a friend
  • Witnessing a car crash

Then you could write a series of self-contained but linked stories with your character at a different age in each one.

OR, just as good, rather than making it up, you could write from life.


Thursday, 5 November 2020

I've taken this next task from the website of Writing Events Bath - it's a sort of competition, which could result in publication in an anthology, so if you want you can enter it - the link is here. (Naturally, you don't have to enter the competition, but I thought the exercise was quite a fun idea.)

NB It should be no more than 600 words.


Below is a list of a dozen words. Write your story incorporating at least 5 of the words in any way you like. Please give your story a catchy title and submit it by email as an attachment (sorry, no hard copies) by December 2nd. The plan is to publish 100 copies and price them at £5 which includes post and packing as well as a donation to one of our favourite charities, Young Carers. (Google to find out more about them)

Please note this project is suitable for beginners and experienced writers and our mission is to keep your creativity flowing during lockdown.

A couple of tips: Avoid cliches, check spelling and word count and try for a story arc.

Here is the list of words – remember to use a minimum of 5:

Bluebottle, Clock, Fur, Lavender, Train, Ella Fitzgerald, Nylon shirt, High heels,

Seaweed, Turpentine, Burnt Toast, Bonfire



Friday, 30 October 2020

Two pictures that tell a story?

 These are two pictures by Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershoi of the same woman, Ida. (I am indebted to Phyllis's son, Martin, for telling me about this artist - I hadn't come across him before.) How about having ago at filling in the gaps between the two pictures? The woman is called Ida. Start with asking some questions.

Who is this young woman?

What do you think you can tell about her character, about the sort of person she is, about her situation?

What do you imagine her feelings are in the first picture, where she's wearing a white dress?

What about in the second picture?

What has happened in between? 

(Or you could take them the other way round, with the picture of her in the dark dress coming first.)

If you are a bit wary about telling a story, just describe what you see in the two pictures - and see where it goes. Have fun!




Thursday, 22 October 2020

Food, glorious food!

Two of my writing group have requested an 'uplifting' task centring on food, and thank you to them: I can't think why I haven't thought about it before. You only have to think of the shelves in bookshops full of temptingly luscious cookery books (I succumbed myself only the other day), or the popularity of gorgeous national treasure Mary Berry, or the runaway juggernaut that is The Great British Bakeoff, to be aware of what an important part food plays in our lives - apart, of course, from it being an essential component of, well, being alive.


So, food. Time to recall some special meals. Here are a few possible starting points. You can just enjoy writing about food memories (hoping for some mouth-watering descriptions here), or food could form the starting point for a story - a special meal where something goes wrong or something gets decided, perhaps.

  • How has food changed? Think back to your childhood. What were the foods you especially liked or loathed? I'm thinking puddings - we had a pudding every day, WITH custard almost invariably; tinned fruit and evaporated milk, fried potatoes and cold beef on Mondays; the excitement of Vesta curries, Angel Delight (well, -ish), prawn cocktail.
  • Special meals - feast days, celebrations, disastrous/amazing first nights out, birthday cakes.
  • Food you encountered on holidays - exotic, delicious, a little bit strange.
  • Particular foods you associate with particular people.

Lemon meringue pie was one of my great favourites as a child, and it still is.


Thursday, 24 September 2020

The next step...

 As a couple of you have already guessed, your next task is to to write a story using your character/s. 

Just to chuck something else into the mix, you could 'borrow' a character from someone else too, and arrange a meeting - a meeting which could lead to a change, even if only a small one, in one or both of their lives...? 

Don't forget about setting - especially if this 'story' ends up being largely dialogue, setting could help to set the mood, change the pace, and alleviate/create tension.