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Old 10-20-2006, 05:11 AM
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Creativity workshop



So okay, you’ve hidden yourself away. Switched off your phone, warned your family, friends and their mothers that only under ‘imminent, life threatening circumstances’ are you to be disturbed, you open your notepad/switched on your PC/laptop and there it is…a blank page…

So come on, you’re a writer…what are you going to write…?

I think one of the most popular questions people ask a person, who has openly admitted to being a writer (LOL), is ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ Often the answer is unclear: I had a dream, it just popped in there…and with that project done, the well is dry…

This workshop will give you some tips and ideas to try, when your well has dried up…

Become a hunter/gatherer

This first tip is so basic, its embarrassing, but for those of you who haven’t invested in this vital writer’s tool, do so now. It’s inexpensive, small and so completely obvious.

Buy a pocket notebook and keep it with you at all times. (A pen/pencil is handy for this too). Jot down everything and anything you see and hear, smell, touch, taste that takes your fancy. It could be scene being played out in front of you in the queue at the coffee shop, an overheard conversation at work/school, the way the sky looks that morning…if you like it note it down.

Another couple of investments, a larger notebook, a small pair of scissors and a glue stick. Start collecting clippings from newspapers, magazines, collect photo’s, postcards and other images. Good sources of material are the tabloids, Sunday papers, and I hate to say this but the ‘problem pages’ are good too.

A Starpanda meandering…about four years ago, while waiting for a train, I overheard a conversation that was hilarious and even sad (sad as in pathetic). A man was talking to another about his kidney trouble (which is neither funny or pathetic for anyone who has it), on being sprayed with hairspray by some work colleagues twenty years earlier. He was totally convinced that that by having this ‘female’ hair product on his ‘male’ person had obviously done damage to him. Little did I realise that years later I would use it in my latest project. My main protagonist is in the hospital awaiting treatment. I wanted to portray the boredom he was feeling, so I did it using dialogue of half-heard conversations will a medical basis. This included. It just seemed to fit and I hoped it would be amusing to the reader, as well as getting the ‘tedium’ across too.

Don’t just stop at collecting clipping and notes, collect ‘things’ you’re your inspiration scrapbook too…labels, fabric…ANYTHING…If you can’t stick it in a book, then keep it in a box

After a few weeks you will have enough material to strike a spark in the dampest of imaginations.

Inspiration generators

I once had three glass jam jars, within them, some folded post-it notes. In the first jar, each post-it had a different location, e.g. Kitchen, church. Car park, Lake etc. The post-its in the second jar had different occupations, life-lifestyles, or relationships, e.g. mother, son, homeless, police, nurse, clerk etc: and in the third jar there were objects, e.g. knife, car, burger, scissors watch etc.

Whenever I was stuck for a story, I would take out a post it from each jar, so I would have something like, cemetery, paramedic, meat and let these words percolate around a while and I could generally come up with something. These days I have an Excel spreadsheet that does the same thing. Its a lot more efficient, but I have fond memories of the jam jars…

Exercise – pick one of the following groups of words
Jot down any other images that come to mind when thinking about these words.
That done, answer the accompanying questions. Post your answers on this thread, it will be interesting to see how different the answers will be from one person to the next

Group 1 Group 2 Group 3
Son Drunk Teacher
Photo Rope Fire
Bridge Lake Kitchen


Who is this person?
How old are they?
How do they feel right now?
Where did this object come from?
How did it get to the place?
What relationship is there between the object and the person?
Where is this place?
What does it look like?
What time is it there?
What is the person’s link to that place?
How did they get there?

Tip – you could add a fourth jam jar (or excel column) and add emotions

Homework – write a short story (over 500 words, less than 2000) based on the answers you come up with.

You can post them in the Rough Draft (fiction) thread and I will be happy to take a look

Other Idea gathering ideas

· Blurb – for TV shows and films and even on the back of novels are also great to collect and put your imaginations into over drive, for example:

A tough cop is confronted with painful memories of her past after she rescues a mysterious stranger.

Source: TV guide blurb for film, Angel Eyes, starring Jennifer Lopez

The story of a three year old girl, suffering with a rare genetic disorder, Treacher Collins Syndrome, and was born without facial features.

Source: TV guide blurb for TV programme, Extraordinary people, Channel 5

All living with the same terrifying nightmare.
All obsessed with the moon.
All fighting for their sanity and their lives.

Source: Book Blurb from, Strangers, Dean Koontz

· Song titles

· Poetry

· Even memories

Question - What other idea gathering ideas do you have? Post them up on this thread.

Writer’s Block

I wish I had a magic wand, or a sure-fire solution, I’d be rich! I do have some suggestions, which have helped me in the past. If none of the tips we have had so far help, try some of the following…

I tend to have more than one project on the go. If I’m really struggling with one, I swap over to the other one, sometimes just getting your mind off the problem allows your subconscious space to come up with a solution.

Keep a journal. Not as ‘sad’ as it sounds, sometimes seeing the problem down on paper and breaking it down into its barest components can put a new perspective on things.

Talk to friends, family, work colleagues, teachers anyone who is willing to listen and act as a sounding board. You’re a member of a forum; there are plenty of people there who would be happy to brainstorm ideas.

This might sound obvious, but just write…anything. It can be absolute rubbish, but sometimes just getting over the fear of putting pen to paper can work.

A Starpanda meandering…While I was doing my degree, (Arts & History), I had my first real experience of the total, paralysing fear you can get from a blank page. It was during my first year final exams, of all places. It was the third and last question of the paper, so I had already written two essays. I had scribbled down some notes and planned the final essay in my head, was comfortable with the question and was feeling fairly confident. I wrote the title of the essay at the top of the page and then…totally dried up.

My notes didn’t make any sense, I couldn’t remember any of the plans I had, and even the question suddenly began to look like a different language. I remember thinking, with rising panic, ‘I’ve only got 30 minutes!’

10 minutes later and close to tears, I still hadn’t written a word. I scanned my notes in a frantic attempt to salvage something and the only thing that made sense was a note that said_
Charles Darwin- O of S –Unliked

Out of sheer desperation I wrote my first sentence, it said…(and I warn you its bad…)

In the period Charles Darwin’s, Origin of the Species was not well received by the Establishment.

Terrible as it was, it seemed to break the binding spell the blank page had me under. This sentence led to another, then another. Each sentence became easier and the way forward became clearer. The essay was not one of my best, but I did finish it. (Apart for that first sentence, old Charlie wasn’t mentioned again)

Further reading – there are several threads, in the writing tips area where members have given their tips for writers block that are useful. Take a look and post up your own ideas

Creative imagery

Here I’m talking about those tricks we use to fire our readers imaginations and makes our words on the page come alive. Analogies, metaphors…and such like.

I’ve been critiquing fiction for several years on various sites and without being unintentionally cruel, I’ve seen some real howlers. I obviously can’t give you any examples, for fear of potential lawsuits, so I will give you one of mine…

For almost an hour Helen had cried and cried with her face buried in the duvet. Now, her tears no longer flowed. Exhaustion had calmed her grief to just an occasional involuntary sob. She was still clutching the duvet, it was damp and soggy like a day old tuna fish sandwich.

Yes, I was being serious…Yes, I see the error of my ways, and yes, I had to wipe up the mess my creative writing tutor made, with wads of Kleenex and advise him on investing in incontinence underwear.

Creative imagery not only has to have the same attributes, it also has to invoke the same sense of feeling and emotions, as the ‘thing’ you are describing. It also has to fit the setting and circumstances of the piece you are working on. Coming up with new and interesting images can be difficult and you can end up being a little too obscure and abstract and ‘pulp fiction’ Hell looms on the horizon.

It can be difficult to come up with imagery that does not fall into the cliché hall of fame. You know the ones I mean_

Fog - A damp mist wrapped around the forest like a chill blanket

Sad – Grief washed over her like a tidal waves

Although these descriptions are not bad, they are typical.

Exercise: Write two lists of ten words. In the first list, write down words that describe a garden, e.g.
Growth etc.
In the second list, write down words that describe a car

Place your lists side by side. Now write a couple of paragraphs describing a garden using the car analogy.

Some of the combinations will work, some won't. Hopefully the ones that don't will be apparent. If you are not sure, bin it. That 'doubt' you are feeling? Although you can't hear it..that's your muse laughing his or her socks off!

Post up your exercise on this thread and let see how many different descriptions we can get!

Hopefully this workshop will have set you up with ideas for some new projects. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful. Please contribute to this thread, it’s your participation that will make the workshop work!

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Old 10-20-2006, 06:32 AM
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Hannah Blake (Offline)
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I had a little time this morning so I thought I'd try the last exercise you have listed. I can tell you it's not only my muse who's laughing. This one really got to me. I'm afraid none of my analogies worked but it lightened my mind for awhile and for that I thank you.

Here's my results:

Garden: / Car:
Fragrant / Exhaust
Fragile / Horsepower
Tender / Turbo
Blossom / Chassis
Beds / Torque
Bountiful / Combustion
Cultivation / Lube
Perennial / Drafting
Groundcover / Drive
Leaves / Speed

I strolled into my rose garden, a place normally filled with serenity; a place to soothe my soul. Today I felt something different though. At first glance all my torque looked beautiful and were seemingly combustion, but something is wrong; I can smell it. And it's not the heady exhaust filling the air. I checked on a turbo young chassis nearby and found it had been infested with aphids. Even after wekly lube and care my garden has been invaded. No longer is this a place of peace but it is a war zone. A battle to save my roses.

Armed with a spray bottle filled with soapy water I wandered the torque stopping to admire each horsepower chassis as I doused the speed. To my horror it's not only my proud rose garden that is in dire need of help but the surrounding drafting garden as well. The drive is filled with holes from the slugs and snails, my hydrangeas are infested with spidermites, the irises have root borers. How much more must I bear? Why didn't I see any of this before? I hang my head in shame as I walk to the garden shed to get more tools.

My poor garden now lay in shambles. The combustion floral harvest I'd planned to cut and arrange on my table is now gracing the yard waste bin. My heart is heavy. I should have seen this coming. I thought I took such good care of my plants but I didn't take the time for a thorough inspection before now. I always stop to smell the roses but maybe from now on I shouldn't get lost in the exhaust and open my eyes for a change.

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Old 10-20-2006, 06:49 AM
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starpanda (Offline)
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Way Cool...hahaha

I particularly like this one...

Cultivation / Lube

I specifically chose garden and car because its so off the wall and its amazing what people get, bit of fun...but hopefully people get the idea.

Love the paragraphs!

Thanks for participating.
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