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, 15 May 2020

'The Hero's Journey' - sort of.

I've been looking at a couple of online courses recently. All of a sudden, there are a lot of them about - like this one, I suppose, and there for similar reasons. There's always something useful to be gleaned from them, and the idea that's stuck in my mind from one of them is this: that every story involves the main character taking on a QUEST, with lots of obstacles along the way which have to be overcome.

There's nothing new in this idea. There are lots of books which set out the archetypes which form the basis of all stories, and one of them these is always the 'hero's journey'.

The Wanderer Above The Mists, by Caspar Friedrich

This course suggested you can simplify it even further - that every story is about a character who must undertake a quest. I haven't tested it out thoroughly yet, but so far, every book I've thought of fits: Harry Potter has to find out more about his parents and save the world from Voldemort; the Bennet sisters have to find husbands; the Count in A Gentleman in Moscow has to survive his confinement within the walls of a hotel and even make a positive out of it: Heidi has to melt the heart of the Alm Uncle.

So if you want to write a story, as opposed to a character sketch, that's what you need. A quest: a struggle against almost insurmountable odds. When I've been into schools talking about writing, I often get four children out at the front and line them up. I tell them that the first child is the hero/heroine, tootling along quite happily. The second one is something bad that happens - an obstacle. The hero/heroine manages to overcome this, and the reader breathes a sigh of relief. But then - WHAM! Along comes an even tougher obstacle (I usually get someone naughty to play this, and pull faces and scowl and things) - which is going to be even harder for the hero/heroine to overcome. But s/he manages it in the end.

Then the fourth person is the hero/heroine at the end. But as you see - s/he has changed. S/he's different, because all s/he's gone through has changed her/him.

So, options for this week.

1. Use one of these beginnings to start off a story:

I met my father for the first time when I was seventeen. It didn't go quite as I'd imagined...

Or: She went out into the garden, touching a flower here and there as if for reassurance. She sat down, in her favourite seat overlooking the pond, and took some deep breaths.
      So. It had happened, as she'd always known it would. Now what?

2. Make up a character (see earlier post here), and send them on a quest of some kind. It might be to find something that's lost, to look for something new, to conquer a long-standing fear - whatever you like.

3. Those who don't want to write a story - take us on another walk, or tell us about another holiday.

Finally - I was just reading an interview with Jackie Morris, who is the illustrator of The Lost Words and many other gorgeous books - and also a writer. In it, she says that Michael Morpurgo once told her that Ted Hughes had told him, that if you want to be a writer, you should each evening write down three observations about something you've seen, thought, come across, during the day. It need only be a sentence. But it trains you to observe, and it will also eventually be a sort of treasure box you can dip into. I'm going to try it, and maybe you would like to as well.

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