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!

Saturday, 27 February 2021

People and problems

 I came across these wonderful photographs on Facebook. I'd like you to choose one of the people from them, give them a name, think about who they were, what they cared about, what their lives were like.

Then I want you to write a story about them - the length is up to you. But remember - this is very important: the basic thing about any story is that you have a character, and that character has a problem. The story is about how the character overcomes the problem, or obstacle. So think about what the problem might be for your particular character.

Here's some information about the photographer.

John Gay (born Hans Göhler: 1909 in Karlsruhe, Germany – 1999 in Highgate, London) Gay attended art college in his home town. In 1933 he left Germany, following Hitler's appointment as Chancellor, moving to England with his friend Walter Stern and Stern's family, including his mother, the photographer Martha Stern.

He settled in London, where he changed his name, and launched a photographic career, finding work as a self-employed commercial photographer, before serving with the Pioneer Corps from 1939 until the end of the Second World War. 

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Didn't we have a lovely time?

 We may not be able to have days out at the moment, but there's nothing to stop us revisiting days out we've had in the past!

Picture from the Evening Standard

This is another exercise from Jenny Alexander's highly recommended book, Free-Range Writing.

Memoir: Didn't we have a lovely time?

Didn't we have a lovely time, the day we went to... Where? And who went? Think of a few great days out you've had, any time in the past.

Then consider the sentence substituting 'lovely' with horrible/boring/exciting, and think of some examples for each of those.

Choose one and tell the story. Exaggerate the mood of the day; if it was boring, make it sound like the most boring day ever, if exciting, the most exciting, and so on.

Thursday, 28 January 2021

Party, party!

One of the many things that seems at the moment like a distant memory is - parties. Personally I don't see this as a loss, as, with very few exceptions, I hate parties - but I think they might be quite fertile ground for writing. Here are some suggestions: 

Write a shortish piece about a party when you were a child, a teenager, and an adult.

Write a longer piece about a party you particularly remember - whether because it was great, or because it was horrible.

Write a story centring on a party. There are lots of parties in films, aren't there? I guess because of the potential for comedy/disaster/arguments/new-found friendships etc.

As ever, strongly suggest starting with a spider chart and jotting down lots of details - the food, the clothes, the setting, the way you/the narrator feels...

Goodness, it gives me the shivers just thinking about it.

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Looking at poetry

 Watching the inauguration of Joe Biden yesterday, I was hugely impressed by the young poet, Amanda Gorman. Wasn't she amazing? If you didn't see her, I'll put a link at the bottom of the post.

Amanda Gorman

Inspired by her, I thought we'd have a look at poetry this week. In discussion, several of you have said that you're unsure about how to write poetry that doesn't have an obvious, regular rhyme scheme. And Simon Armitage, the Poet Laureate, has been mentioned - so I thought I'd look for an example by him. This was actually written about thirty years ago - I don't have anything very recent. Have a look at it, and think about the form as well as the meaning. I think it's probably true to say that poetry is a short piece of language which has a pattern: so what's the pattern here? Probably a good idea to read it aloud. 

It would be interesting to do the same with Amanda Gorman's piece - it certainly had patterns - but I haven't seen the text yet. The task follows the poem.

In Clover

This winter, six white geese have settled near the house.

This morning as she polishes the furniture 

and peers across the river to their nesting place

she finds the gaggle floating off downstream, and there

instead is one white egg sat upright in the sand.

The geese, distracted with a crust, are unaware

as Rose, her eldest, in ankle socks and sandals

cradles the egg in the lap of her pinafore

and picks a safe way back across the stepping stones.

She cracks the contents on a bed of cornflour

and paints policemen on the empty halves of shell

to sell as plant-pot-men in next month's flower show.

Later, the six white geese will crane their necks to smell

the fine egg-pudding cooling on the window-sill.


Write a poem of your own, in 'free' verse. It can be on any subject you like, but here are some starters:

  • Winter - this winter in particular. What are your feelings about it?
  • Zoom in, on a particular detail: birds in the garden, first flowers coming up, a rainbow.
  • Spme aspect of the inauguration - perhaps 'The Leaving of Trump'!
The link to Amanda Gorman is here.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

First things first...

 This week, I want you to write about the first time you - or your character - did something. Jot down some possibilities first - eg:

First day at school

First job

First time you bought a dress your mum disapproved of

First time you travelled abroad

Your first home

These are a few examples, but really, the list is endless! Can be a story or a memoir.

My first...mini-skirt.

Friday, 8 January 2021

Feeling bad, feeling better...

(This exercise is taken from 'Free-Range Writing', by Jenny Alexander.)

Someone is rocked by a difficult emotion. What is it? For example, jealousy, anger, boredom, fear.

Why are they feeling this way? What caused it?

Take a moment to imagine you are feeling this emotion. Notice the physical effects - where do you feel it in your body?

Stories are always about a protagonist who wants something. Your protagonist wants to stop feeling this way. what needs to happen in order for them to feel better? How can they make that happen?

Write the story of how they try to change their situation, ending in either success or failure. What do they learn? How does the journey change them?

Fiction tip: when you are writing stories, as well as the action of the plot, think about the psychological journey of the protagonist. How are they changed by what has happened?

(Non-fiction alternative
Write about a time when you've felt a difficult emotion. What was the context? How did you feel? What happened? How was the situation resolved?

If this feels a bit gloomy or negative, you could write about a time when you/your character felt happy, elated, hugely relieved. But it might be harder to make it into a story! SP)

Thursday, 31 December 2020

Fantasy travel

I think it's time for a bit of fantasy travelling, a bit of escapism - so let's go!

Below are three postcards. You can use one of these as a starting point for a story or imaginative piece of some kind - or you can use a picture of your own and simply write about the place.

You might want to start by describing what you see, but it's entirely up to you!

The Torre Guinigi in Lucca, Tuscany

Tenerife, from a painting by Marianne North

From a painting by James Lynch