WRITING PROMPTS FOR QUARANTINE!

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Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, in these crazy days of limited movement and social interaction, we still have a great power that no one can take away from us – our imaginations!

Yes! Through our imaginations we can still wander, all over the world if we like. We can create miracles, climb mountains, swim to the bottom of the deepest oceans and all without expensive equipment.

All we need is a little time and the ability to daydream. Never has dreaming and imagining been so important. We need to envision a new peaceful and positive way forward for our world, so that all this grief and loss brings good and long-lasting healing to our beautiful planet and all her people and animals.

So here are a few prompts to help get you started on using your imagination and letting it take you to places you may never have been before.

Your Favourite Place in Nature

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We may not be able to get out much these days but in our minds, we can still travel to our favourite places.

Close your eyes, focus on your breathing and take yourself to your special place, your favourite swimming hole or beach or forest or dessert or field of poppies.

Use your five senses.

What colours and shapes can you see? What is the quality of the light? When you look up what do you see? Look down. Look all the way around, stretch the working of your mind’s eye.

What can you hear? Is there the trickle of water, or the wash of waves against the shore? Are leaves rustling in the breeze? Can you hear birds singing, animals foraging in the undergrowth? Maybe you hear voices? You can have companions on these mind journeys too.

What can you smell? Is the air salty, or sweet and musty from the lush undergrowth of the forest? Maybe you smell pine trees, or the fresh sweetness of mountain water.

What do you feel? Is the sun warm on your back? The breeze soft on your face? The earth deep and yielding under your feet? Sand gritty between your toes? Water fresh and tingling on your skin.

What can you taste? How does the air taste in your mouth? Take a mouthful of that mountain stream, taste the sweetness of the water.

And how does it all feel in your heart? How does being in this special place make you feel emotionally?

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Once you have envisioned it all and dwelt there awhile in your imagination then get writing and fill in all those specific sensory details to bring your special place to life so that anyone reading your piece will feel as if they have been there with you.

All the Good that Will Come from This

 This is a wonderful exercise to do whenever you feel yourself stuck in a difficult situation, as we all are right now. Use your imagination to see a positive and powerful new future for us all. Even in the midst of all the tragedy now unfolding in many places, there is still good. There is still hope.0f8acd5ce0202400b9c03a0dc86b808f

Close your eyes again and envision all the potential for healing and the creation of new and better ways of being which can come from this enforced pause of human activity.

For me the ozone layer healing is a great and wonderful positive that I hope we’ll find a way to maintain. Plus we’re all getting a chance to slow down and pull back from some of the many hectic activities that usually fill our days. This situation has certainly brought into focus what’s most important to us. What we value most. And for many of us, it’s our people, our family and friends. Spending more time with family is also, in most cases a lovely plus to come from all of this. On my daily walks I’m seeing more and more people out enjoying nature now the gyms have closed. Another positive. People are pursuing more creative arts, learning new skills, learning to meditate or do yoga, playing musical instruments that have been collecting dust for years. Gardening. All these small things as well as big things like ceasefires, and fresh air and blue skies over cities that haven’t seen a blue sky in decades. All these and so many more.

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Write a list of at least 10 good things that can come from this. If you’d like to you could develop this into a short story about a utopian future, a future where we create a new world where resources are shared, greed is no more, and all the world lives in peace and harmony with each other and with nature.

 

Write Yourself Friends

 For many people this is a very lonely time. Especially for those who live alone. It’s at times like this we really need our friends and hugs.images

You can write a letter to a real-life friend, telling them all the things you value about them and remembering some good times that you shared. Post it the old-fashioned way and give them a treat in the mailbox.

 

Or you can imagine a whole new friend for yourself, a best friend, a lover even.

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What do they look like? What kind of clothes do they wear? Why do you like them? What do they do for work? What makes them so special to you? Flesh them out like you would a character, fill in all those little details, star sign, sense of humour. Create the perfect online profile of someone you’d just love to meet.

Then imagine meeting them, hanging out and doing something fun.

Write the story of that first meeting, that buzz of electricity when you meet someone you click with. Whether it’s platonic or romantic, there’s still a rare thrill that comes from meeting a kindred spirit.

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So write away. Get them to tell you what they like about you too.

And remember, you can write yourself as many hugs as you need!

What have you been writing during this strange time? Have you been able to write?

Your imagination is a powerful tool. As writers we know how to use it – now wield your power for good.

Write up a storm and keep smiling. Let me know how you go with the writing prompts!

Lots of love

Edwina xx

ANECDOTE vs. STORY What’s the Difference?

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When I first started writing I got a few rejections saying my pieces were anecdotes and not stories. After I’d dried my tears, I began to wonder what the difference was?

What is it that makes a story a story, and an anecdote something you tell your friends but don’t get published?

MEANING.

An ANECDOTE is an incident from our lives that we tell our mates down at the pub or over a cup of tea. This tale may have many of the elements of a story – setting, characters and action – but usually that’s it.

For example –

When people notice the scar running from my forehead down along my left temple beside my eye, I tell them an anecdote about how, when I was fourteen, I was searching for organisms out on the rocks at Deadman’s Beach (true!) during my school biology camp on Stradbroke Island.

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A huge wave came hurtling towards us and I braced myself by facing into the barnacle covered rocks, gripping on for dear life. The wave crashed over me and my classmates, and smashed my face into the rocks, dragging me as it fled back out to sea, grating my face against the barnacles. Adrenaline pumping, I scrambled to my feet and leapt  over the rocks, racing to shore where my poor teacher was greeted with a bloody mess like Sissy Spacek at the end of Carrie.

I was almost helicoptered back to Brisbane, but the local island doctor was used to shark bites and stitched my face back together again – sixty stitches in all. I wasn’t a pretty sight. Once I got back home my friend took some photos and we entered me in a Dolly Magazine Covergirl Competition. We thought we were pretty funny. Needless to say, I didn’t win 🙂

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As you can see, this anecdote has plenty of action and drama and even a happy ending. But it’s not a story. WHY?

Because it only tells what happened. An anecdote doesn’t reflect on the events and dig deeper to find meaning.

STORIES on the other hand are how humans make sense of the world and what happens to us. They delve deep into the emotional heart of what that incident meant to us and how we were changed as a result. A story creates MEANING from the meaningless.

For example –

What if I told you this accident happened only a couple of months after the death of my young father? What if I told you that when the wave hit something inside me hoped that it would tear me away and take me to where my father was. What if I wrote about how, as the doctor stitched my face back together again, he sang the Death March. What if I wrote about how my best friend tenderly helped me wash the blood out of my hair that night as I sat in a cold bath. What if I told you that I lay awake for hours in my bunk, trying to convince myself that my father’s death had been a bad dream I’d had while knocked out, that he would be waiting for me on the other side of the ferry?

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Then we’d have a story.  A story I haven’t written yet, but just might.

“Dig deeper,” I tell the memoirists I edit and teach. Don’t be afraid. Go deeper and find the true heart of your story. Turn that anecdote into something that touches people.

Have you got an anecdote or two you could dig deeper into to create meaning? Search hard enough and everything that happens has another layer of story reflecting human experience.

That’s what we writers do, we write to make sense of the world.

Want to learn more? Come along to my next retreat in the mountains with a special focus on memoir writing. Great for beginners too, and anyone needing to reboot their writing mojo!

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Let me know how you go!

Lots of love

Edwina

Thing 1 and Thing 2 Short Story Method

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Got a great story but it’s just not selling? Or you’ve got a great idea but the story just isn’t working somehow? Need a way to think about short stories so you can generate ideas quickly? Well, here’s my THING 1 and THING 2 STORY METHOD.

You can use this for larger pieces of writing too but it works best for short things.

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Thing 1

THING 1

Think of an incident or a turning point in your own life, or the life of someone else you know, or someone you just made up 🙂 This could be anything from a traffic accident to the birth of a child to discovering you have cancer. ANYTHING! Remember it only has to be a thing.

In my story “Mrs Sunshine” I thought of a family breaking down, a young mother on the verge of leaving her partner and children – that was my incident.

For my story “Last Days on the 15th Floor” in Bjelke Blues – it was the last few days of ex-Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s rule when it is rumoured that he locked himself in his office and refused to leave.

In “Something No One Else Can See” my Thing 1 was the climbing number of suicides among farmers here in Australia.

Thought of something you could try? Good!

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THING 2

Thing 2 is important. Thing 2 is what gives your story another layer of meaning and depth. Thing 2 can be anything, any – thing at all 🙂 Somehow whatever you choose your brain will find a way to link it to the themes in your story. Thing 2 will help to amplify the hidden truths in your story without you even having to try that hard.

For “Mrs Sunshine” – Thing 2 was a Sunshine Family set of dolls I was given for Christmas as a child and came to mean a whole lot more than just toys. Mrs Sunshine became a symbol for the impossibly perfect ideal of motherhood.

In “Last Days on the 15th Floor” – Thing 2 was Joh’s Vietnamese cleaner whose father had been governor of her hometown. Her perspective gave the story a whole new understanding.

In “Something No One Else Can See” – two sisters coping with the loss of their mother, building fairy houses and believing in magic, helped to bring lightness to what could have been a very dark tale.

So, what is your Thing 2? Nothing immediately coming to mind? Look around you and pick an object. Any object. Put that into your story and see if the magic of imagination doesn’t somehow build that simple object into a meaningful part of your narrative.

Flick open a book and stab at a word. That could just be the key to adding another layer to your story. Have a close look at some short stories – can you find the Thing 1 and Thing 2?

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But why stop there just because Dr Seuss did? Chuck in a Thing 3 if you feel like it!

THING 3 – an abstract noun  like LOVE or HATE or REVENGE or FAITH or REGRET or FORGIVENESS.

Put your incident, your character or object and the noun together and what have you got?

A STORY – that’s what!

This post is making me go all Dr Seuss so I’d better stop now 🙂

I hope you get lots of great stories from Thing1 and Thing 2 (and 3).

Let me know how you go, and if you discover any THINGS in stories you read.

GOOD LUCK!

Oh, and only a few places still left in my next retreat – RELAX AND WRITE IN THE MOUNTAINS – March 27 – 29 2020 in Highfields near Toowoomba. See here for all the details.

Places are strictly limited to 15 so don’t miss out!

HAPPY WRITING!

Lots of love

Edwina xx

 

 

 

10 SENTENCE STORY STARTER!

The other day I dug through my creative writing files – the old fashioned sort –preparing for a workshop I was presenting for the Brisbane Writers Group, and found this fun exercise. It  took me a long time to find, I have a lot of files!woman with endless files

I first did the exercise at a workshop by the respected Australian author Rodney Hall (he won the Miles Franklin twice!) at the QLD Writers Centre well over a decade ago now. It was one of the best I’ve ever attended.

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This exercise is a simple way to start a story.

But more that, it demonstrates just how useful setting and description can be when developing the tone of a piece and even in developing character. It’s also great for showing how much impact a little repetition can have in your writing. Sound good?

Let’s do it! Get your writing tools ready!

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FIRST – Envision a scene about two people (Person A and Person B) meeting again after a long period. Anywhere, any time, any people.

For each of the following prompts write one sentence without deliberately connecting them.

  1. Weather – describe the weather

 

  1. Object – describe an object in the environment – a non-living thing

 

  1. Person A – focus on an item of clothing they’re wearing – does it do something?

 

  1. Weather – describe the weather again

 

  1. A sound – not speech

 

  1. Mood – return to the object and show it reflecting the mood of the scene

 

  1. Person A has first glimpse of Person B

 

  1. Look at 5 and repeat the sound

 

  1. Look at 3 – what is the item of clothing doing now?

 

  1. Person A says something surprising

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How did you go? Did you come up with something you weren’t expecting that was even just a little bit poetic? I hope so! It’s a great way to start a story or just get those writing juices flowing for the day.

Have you got a favourite writing prompt? I’m always looking for new ideas for my workshops so please do share in the comments.

Always looking for prompts and writing hints and tips yourself? JOIN MY LIST.

The last two spots are still available for my upcoming Magnetic Island Relax and Write Retreat June 21 -23. CONTACT ME for more information.

And last of all, I have a couple of new workshops coming up.

7 JULY at the CYA CONFERENCE which is now including a special day – WRITING FOR ALL THE MARKETS – for writers of crossover fiction and/or adults in its program. Join me for an action-packed life writing workshop!

13 JULY at the QLD WRITERS CENTRE – come along to BUILDING YOUR CAREER AS A WRITER – or as I like to call it, Many Fingers, Many Pies. This is a fun-filled creative exploration of ways to make money as a writer. We all need to make a living and finding ways to pay the bills that align with our writing dreams isn’t as hard as you may think. Come along for some brainstorming, planning and creative collaging on ways to make money from your writing skills. This afternoon workshop is being live-streamed for regional writers. Check it out.

Good luck with all your writing projects. Let me know how you go with the 10 Sentence Story starter. Hope you have fun with it!

Lots of love,

Edwina xx