In case you missed it—on Sunday the 22nd of October Ringwood held a Short Story Seminar in Hillhead Library. One part of the seminar, apart from excellent speeches from Maureen Cullen and Rob McInroy, was a creative writing session, led by intern Annika Dahlman. Below, we’ve posted Sunday’s exercises and writing prompts for anyone who missed the seminar, or for anyone who attended but wanted to come back and look at the exercises again. Since you’re probably doing these from home, you can modify them, you can experiment with changing the time restrictions, and you can do them as many times as you like.
We are about to do a series of creative exercises, five of them to be precise, and for each of them you will have a set number of minutes to do them. They’re all very simple exercises and you are free to interpret the prompts given to you as you wish – the sky is the limit. The only rule is that once that timer starts and you put pen to paper, you should keep writing until the time runs out. Don’t stop to think about what you are writing. Don’t dwell on things like grammar or punctuation, don’t worry about structure or there even being any logic to what you’re writing. Just write.
- EXERCISE ONE: Write what you know (3 min)
- Our first exercise is inspired by the famous saying that ‘you should write what you know.’ You might agree with this statement, you might not agree with it, but to write what you know is always a good place to start to get inspiration flowing, whether you’re a beginner or you’re a seasoned writer and you feel a bit stuck. So to get us started, I want you all to reach back into your past, write about the first journey that you can remember going on. You can define “journey” anyway you like, it can be big or small, physical or emotional, it’s entirely up to you. You’ll have three minutes. Remember, the most important thing is to just keep writing until those three minutes are up.
- EXERCISE TWO: Creating a character (3 min)
- Now that we’re warmed up, our next exercise will be to create a character. To help you get started I will provide you with two pieces of information: I will tell you your character’s name and one fact about them. Then, I want you to use that information as a springboard for the creation of your character. You may choose to describe what your character looks like, or maybe what their favorite snack is, or what they daydream about when they go on the bus, maybe you’ll take the one fact about them that I give you and elaborate on that – that’s entirely up to you. So long as you keep that pen moving. The information is this: Your character is called Alice, and she collects stickers. You have three minutes.
- EXERCISE THREE: Starting a story (3 min)
- For this next exercise we are going to begin writing a story. I want you to make use of that great character you have just created and write from her point of view. To help spark some more ideas for your story you will be using prompts. We had some printed out in the seminar but you can find them online too. You can use several prompts or even just one of them, whatever speaks to you and inspires you! Again, you get three minutes, and I want you to keep doing the same as with the previous exercises: just write without stopping to think about what you’re writing.
- EXERCISE FOUR: Listing objects (2 min)
- Now that you’ve begun your story, I want you to pay attention to where you chose to set it. Picture yourself there and look around: what do you see? Make a list of seven objects in this place, they might be objects you’ve already mentioned as you started your story, or they might be objects you’re only just now noticing. If your story wasn’t set in any physical space, or if there aren’t many objects lying around, let your mind make some associations. What objects could be relevant to your story? You’ll get a minute to compile your list.
- Now, look at your list: is there anything on there that speaks to you for some reason or other? That you find interesting? If yes, pick that object. If no, just pick object number five.
- EXERCISE FIVE: Reversal (3 min)
- “We’ve reached our last exercise now. For this exercise, I want you to write the story about Alice again. You can start over from the beginning, or you can pick it back up where you left off, but this time, I want you to write it from the point of view of the object you have just chosen. Don’t think too hard about the logic or the credibility of things, just write. You’ll get three minutes.
Well done for completing all the exercises! Don’t forget to submit your stories to the Ringwood Short Story Competition. Submissions are open until the 1st of December, and you can find more info on our website. We look forward to reading your work!