When my creative writing course ended a couple of months ago, we all swapped email addresses and pledged to set each other writing exercises and share work. While this has unfortunately already fizzled out, there were 3 exercises set, of which I’ve completed two:
Choose three sounds (any sound will do – for example “sh”).
Next, come up with 6 words for each sound ( eg: shower, shingle, shame, shoot, push, shindig).
Then, use all those words (3 times 6 of them) in a short story/description/poem, whatever you fancy.
The idea is to give yourself about 15 minutes to do it so you don’t over think it.
1) Write a 100 word description of your bed. Do it quickly, the first things that come in to your head, it doesn’t matter how rough they are. You can be as broad as you want – what is around the bed, what you dream of etc. You may want to set a timer and do this in under 5 minutes.
2) Write a 100 word description of a bed you had as a child. Again same rules apply.
3) Finally write a 100 word description of your dream bed. Here you can let your imagination run wild (made of clouds and flies all over the world and so on).
Then cut them all up (it will help if you type them up in a big font first) into single words and phrases that you particularly like. Mix them up and then start putting them back together in different ways to create a new piece, a poem, a description of a few lines or whatever form takes your fancy. It won’t make perfect grammatical sense but that’s fine.
Carry a notebook and pencil absolutely everywhere you go for the next week. Listen out for snatches of dialogue – could be one overheard sentence from two people who pass you in the street talking, someone on their mobile, a conversation you hear on the bus, in a cafe etc. Write down exactly what you hear. There might be things you mishear – but that’s ok, write it down as best you can. Try to get overheard words from 3 different sources/ situations.
Choose one of the three pieces you ‘found’ and add to it, change it, fictionalise it. It could become the basis for a short story, poem or script extract.
So, I’ve yet to attempt the third exercise, but here’s what I came up with for the others. This first one’s by no means a completed piece but more of an extract from something longer – I tried to get all of my words into as short a piece as possible. It was really tempting to change any words that didn’t really work too but I managed to resist doing that!
“Did you know that ‘analyst’ is an anagram of ‘nasty Al’?” my daughter Anna asks, rousing me from my slumber. I must say I’m impressed; having only just celebrated her fifth birthday, her ingenuity is extraordinary. She’s referring to my ex-husband – her dad – Alan, who works as a Business Analyst in the city. “That’s very clever darling”, I say, trying not to encourage her to bad-mouth her father, but secretly loving it. I turn over and try to return to my random dream about a koala playing a viola, but it’s no good I’m wide awake now. We’re on a plane to Canada for my nana’s funeral, whose death was sudden and unexpected. Suddenly, I’m so thirsty it feels like there are thistles in my throat. I hate flying, especially the taking off and landing parts, and as the runway comes into view, it looks like a labyrinth of lanterns below. But I’m thankful for a smooth landing and we manage to get off safely.
Bedding like big balcony doors
That open out to the fluffy grey ocean
Waves curled up at my lapping feet
Warm and cosy between my toes
Red pillowcases are halogen spotlights
The white duvet a cuddly polar bear
A double mattress in a single room
A trinket box filled with teddies
The bedroom window is a photo frame
So big you can’t reach the ends
The street below a carpet of white feathers
A sheet that blankets the low ceiling sky
At night I wake up to the sound of sleeping
A cat as soft as a cup of tea stretched out
An alarm clock at the foot the bed
Squeezed up at optimum drinking temperature