Friday, 23 March 2018

Rules for Life (an A - Z), Writing Prompt #3

Here's a quick creative writing exercise for you. Simply write a sentence, story, or poem, in which each word begins with the next letter of the alphabet. For example:

Always be courteous,
Don't eat fish guts, 
Harness infinite joy, 
Keep looking marvellous, 
Never offend people
Quit repeatedly stalking the unsuspecting vet who x-rays your zebra.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Speaking of anthropomorphism... Writing Prompt #2

"I love you, Bucket."
Here's a fun exercise to get you thinking about dialogue.

  • Write down the names of a dozen household objects (e.g. corkscrew, saucepan, broom, key, rug) on different pieces of paper and put them in a container of some sort. 
  • Take two out – at random – and imagine these two objects are having a conversation. 
  • You are going to have to think about the kind of conversation they are having. Is it an argument? Are they in love? Is it educational or instructive? Is one object admonishing the other? ... you choose. Jot down some ideas.
  • Write your dialogue as talking heads – using only he said/she said and no context. This is to get you thinking about the character of your objects. Use only the language, words, and expressions your object/character might use.
  • When you are happy with the words your objects are saying, fill in the context - i.e. setting, speech tags, thoughts, etc, and anything else to make this exchange real.
  • "And I love you too...
    but don't expect me to
    clean up your mess again."
  • Feel free to share your conversation below. 

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Pocket Writing Prompt #1

Here's an idea to get you thinking about character, inspired by Ian McMillan's wonderful poem, 
Ten Things Found in a Wizard’s Pocket ... 

A dark night. 
Some words that nobody could ever spell. 
A glass of water full to the top. 
A large elephant. 
A vest made from spider’s webs. 
A handkerchief the size of a car park. 
A bill from the wand shop. 
A bucket full of stars and planets, to mix with the dark night. 
A bag of magic mints you can suck forever. 
A snoring rabbit.

When we read this poem, we get a real sense of the wizard's magical power and some insight into his personality. 

"You should see what else I found in here..."
Now, imagine a character of your own. Maybe it's a character you are already familiar with, either real or fictitious. Or maybe this is a new character; someone you don't know very much about yet. Either way, spend a few minutes jotting down some notes about them and when you think you know them, write your own poem or story of ten things you might find in your character’s pocket.

Did you learn anything new about your character? 

If you want to post your poem or story below, we would love to read it. 

Friday, 2 March 2018

Show, not tell.

Show not tell is one of those concepts it can be hard to get to grips with. Inexperienced writers will often be told it’s all ‘tell’ and you need to ‘show’ more, but they are not alone; even experienced writers will slip into telling sometimes.

If you don’t know, ‘showing’ is the description of events which allow the reader to experience the story through the action, words and senses of the character. It’s like a picture in writing; the reader can look at it and work out what’s going on without you having to tell them. Ernest Hemingway called it the Iceberg Theory, or the theory of omission, where what is not said is just as important (if not more so) than what is said. You give the clues and allow the issues to emerge.

The whole process of showing allows the reader to engage with the text by expecting them to fill in the blanks and use their brain. You have to respect your reader to do this, to develop their own understanding of the action without detailing everything and laying it all out for them, but generally, this makes for a much more enjoyable reading experience.

‘Telling’ leaves little room for the imagination. As a reader, it’s boring and often exhausting to plough through pages and pages of narrative summary or description, however beautifully written it may be, and will often be the cause of your reader skipping ahead looking for some action.

Children especially, will not tolerate endless boring pages of you telling them how it is. They have the imagination to fill in the blanks on their own.

If she tells me that one more time, I'll scream, thought Eddie.
But, there are times when telling it how it is, is the right and proper thing to do. If, for example, you wrote a whole novel showing everything, you would have one seriously long narrative to get through. Showing requires more words so telling may cover a greater period of time more succinctly. And also, those between scene moments need to be 'told', to help the story progress and keep the pace. Telling is a legitimate shortcut which will help you and the reader move to the important drama.

Still confused? Here are a couple more posts for further clarity...