Monday, 5 May 2008

Conjure a story

Parts of this have worked really well with different creative writing workshops that I used to run - some for group projects, some for single person projects - and others have worked well for just me. What works for just you might be different still, so re-mix, revise, ignore or obey as you choose.

a) Choose a handful of story elements entirely randomly,
b) Work out how they could fit together.
c) Evaluate, draft, and write-up

Story elements might be characters (a lawyer, two brothers), or character traits (a greasy man), or situations (a secret test), or motivations (causing a diversion), or the tone of the whole thing (absurd), or things that happen in the story (a balloon bursts!) or appear in the tale, (a goldfish bowl). Two or three might be enough, or it might not.

Some ideas on random sampling –
• Turn on the TV, flick quickly between channels using the remote control, and use what you see and / or hear as your ‘sample’
• Drop a biro onto a magazine article, choose your favourite word near the mark it makes.
• Fan through the pages of a book, put in your finger, then use the first word of the third paragraph on that page, or the fourth word of the fifth sentence, or the…
• Push a pin through a few pages of a newspaper, and use the words or photos that contain the ‘bullet-hole’

How the elements could fit together is entirely up to you. An “anything goes” approach at the start of the thinking process can lead you to unexpected places further down the line, so you might want to welcome ideas that appear boring or daft at first – they might turn into butterflies. Perhaps the pressure of time will force you to think on your feet and come up with something unexpected - Think hard for one minute, and write nothing, then write hard for five minutes and then stop – Kurt Vonnegut says that in a dramatic story, everybody must want something, even if it is only a glass of water. Who wants what? Why can’t they get it?

Oh – and it’s your story, so if a fireman would work better than the policeman you’ve ‘sampled,’ then change it. Do you like what you’ve thought of? Why? Why not? Is it worth taking it any further? If so, then take it further – a couple of paragraphs… half a page…

1 comment:

Ian Betts said...

Good blogging Dave, and cheers for the follow... I shall do likewise.

Didsbury still that pointless? Ever considered making chutney? I've had a time trying to recreate England out here. I also like the gay innuendo the name suggests.

Oh life is good.