"A word after a word after a word is power" - Margaret Atwood


A blog for readers and writers

A blog about the stories we tell each other and how we tell them...

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The EVERLASTING creative writing exercise

Most courses have now broken up for the summer...so here is a perpetual creative writing exercise for those who can't ignore the itch to write...
You can repeat the exercise again and again, each time going off in a new direction. How much time you spend on it is up to you - it can be 10 minutes or two years. (But only if the exercise has developed into a novel – there is such a thing as too much polishing.)
 The Rules
You can break them, twist them and even ignore them entirely. Remember, this is Creative Writing. It is not A level English, or Leaving Cert or High School Diploma. These are rules you can chuck as soon as they stop being useful.

1) Take two fiction books – any two: love them or hate them, it doesn’t matter. But if you choose novels from different genres the challenge is greater.
2) Go to page 101 in the first book
3) Select the first full sentence that doesn’t contain someone’s name or a reference to a specific time or place (unless you want to: see above). That means you are free to reject Sherwood Forest but really should accept one that mentions a forest.
4) Go to page 201 in the second book. Again select the first full sentence that doesn’t nail you down too rigidly. (Best to avoid something like: With a sigh, Claude hailed a hansom cab knowing that tomorrow he would be leaving dear old London and be sailing for South America and his uncle’s diamond mine...)
5) The first book will give you the opening sentence of this passage of writing. Don’t call it a story yet. It is just about to be born and you have to wait to see what it will grow into. I like the word passage because it’s not intimidating. It doesn’t commit you to anything except writing and it gives you the freedom to stop after a page.
6) The second book gives the second sentence. Use it somewhere, somehow, on the first page; or in the first 250 words; or within four paragraphs of the opening….you get the idea, you have to work your way towards it pretty quickly.
7) Change pronouns (she, he, I, they) and past and present tense to be consistent.  And that's it....

Here's the two sentences I've come up with...see where they take you.
The first sentence is from The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (winner of the Booker in 2008)
They had seen things like this happening before
The second sentence is taken from page 201 of The Visible World by Mark Slouka (A story revolving around the resistance fighters in WWII Czechoslovakia.)
The air moved, bringing a breath of coolness.
Don’t like it? Maybe it gives you too much freedom and you’d rather like to be pinned down. Ok, let’s switch the books around

Page 101 from The Visible World
Walking down a long, sloping dirt road through the fields, I found myself behind an old woman dressed in black, making her slow way toward the forest.
Page 202 from The White Tiger
Crouching and jabbering like monkeys.
(I know it’s not actually a sentence but let’s not get picky and if it's all right for Adiga...)

Just think what other treasures wait to be discovered on your book shelf. I should warn you that this is an exercise that can become seriously addictive.

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