Tuesday, 8 September 2015

shutting up and writing: a creative writing exercise

I've recently heard about 'Shut up and Write' - it's an academia thing. Academics or research students get together somewhere and write in companionable silence for a while, before chatting together over coffee. There's a useful piece on it here.

I like this plan, it might be because I like coffee and writing, but hey. It seems like a good enough plan for all of us.

If you're going to a 'Shut up and Write' gathering and you're stuck about what to write about, I'm intending on giving you some suggestions to get you started. You'll be able to find a few different ideas right here under the Writing tab. If you've got suggestions for useful prompts then let me know, because different things work for different people at different times.

Disembodied words

For this exercise you gather words that you hear when you turn on a radio/resume your podcast. You know, just a random sentence from the middle of an interview or news report.

I wrote mine down on wee post its and just collected them until I had the requisite six (I always do six, why is coming up if you haven't already guessed).

Once you've got six you roll your dice to select the one you're going to use.

On paper, write down your sentence, and spend five minutes exploring ideas about it - you can do a mind map if you like, or just do some free writing on it. You can even come up with a load of bullet points if you fancy that.

When the five minutes is up STOP, this is my time to get a cup of coffee, and let those ideas percolate through, but you might be happy to get straight on with the next bit, which is to take something from what you've been doing to start work on a story/article/poem/interpretive dance. Get absorbed in that for about 20 minutes, at the end of which you can drink more coffee, and chat with your mates (if you've managed to bring any out with you - if you're doing this at home then maybe have coffee and read your work to the cat). 

You can share what you've been doing, or you can set the world to rights. It's up to you.

And just in case you don't have time to capture six sentences, here are mine (I'm not going to give you any context):

  1. 2,000 people experienced severe delays.
  2. Sometimes, if it's really quiet, even if you're wearing a bra you can still hear them.
  3. There is this black hole of responsibility on the internet.
  4. They can bring down our wages, starve all our children, in chains they can bind us...
  5. They're going to use you for that year of medical school.
  6. We live in a society where the options to look good are huge.
Now roll your dice. If you don't have one, use an app or an online dice roller.

I got a 6. My first thoughts were about Jenny Agutter's character in Logan's Run, and a back story on her.

My immediate thought after the five minutes was that I should go and watch Logan's Run, and indeed I did watch a bit, to get a snippet for your information. But back to the task at hand. 

What I wrote was a bit of Fan fic based on Logan's Run (the film and the book, I can't remember the TV series). I'll share it here, to prove I did it.

The Options

Jess bent over, leaning on the old stone wall and gasping for breath. Dylan was trying to look around the corner without being seen.

"Who are they Dylan?" she panted, wondering who he'd got in trouble with this time. It wasn't just Dylan's hair that was spiky.

Dylan ducked back down just as a flash of light signalled that a weapon had been fired. Jess watched sme sort of bullet fly past and then circle back around.

Dylan saw it too, and ran out into the open space in the middle of the cathedral ruins.

"Dylan!" Jess shouted, trying to stop him, but to no avail.

The bullet hit him and his arms came out from his sides as if his own body had repelled them. She'd never heard a scream like it, and that made her keep her distance, although he'd be embarrassed to have wet himself.

When the scream stopped he didn't so much slump as totter over, hitting the ground stiffly, and yet with no resistance, she could see from here that her brother had been terminated, and the realisation brought a sick feeling into the pit of her stomach, seeming to pull the warmth and blood out of her limbs. She saw the sandmen there, but she couldn't help but edge closer.

Dylan lay sprawled on his front, his arm awkward by his side. His palm faced the sky, showing his palm jewel.

It was black.

"Do you want something?" A precise, meticulous voice, the kind of voice which commanded.

She was crouched over the body, straightening his arm. He looked so undignified.

"The clean-up team will be here soon. Do you want something of his to keep?" The sandman with the interesting voice seemed to be looking at her. His black leather uniform so much more defined somehow than the casual black leather her brother, on the floor, wore. She was reflected in the mirrored visor of the sandman's helmet. Her hair was all sweaty, her crouching posture ungainly, she realised.

She stood up, smoothing her green dress down. Did she want anything? She wanted her brother to get up, but looking at the black jewel, she knew his time had come.

"Why didn't he go to Carousel?" She asked the sandman.

"I was hoping you could tell me that." He answered. "Show me your palm jewel."

She held out her hand, like an offering, relieved to see that her jewel still glowed red. She looked up at te reflection of that glow in the mirrored visor.

The sandman nodded. "Good." He said, putting away his gun. "Go and get your hair done, take some drugs, maybe put yourself on the circuit." He turned to see the other sandman, who was walking toward them. "My friend and I will take care of this." He said, gesturing to her brother.

She dropped her hand down, recalling the way Dylan's arms had sprung from his body when he was shot.

It seemed best to obey the sandman.


And that's it, so far... I haven't got to the extreme makeover that she's going to go for, or the relationship that is going to develop. I think I might leave it there though, because it looks to me like this fan fic could become slash fic rather fast.

Anyway, let me know what you come up with. I'd love to hear from you.