When I was a kid, I loved stories about magical creatures. Stories of dragons, hippogriffs, centaurs and unicorns fascinated me. One of my favourite stories was “The Last Unicorn”. Write about a magical creature. What if you came across one in the woods? Have fun, let your imagination go wild.
For a short word, it brings out all sorts of images. A crash can be several things. A crash diet, extreme, fast, urgent, determined, sometime desperate. A alcohol, drug or sugar crash – to be high one minute and to reach the earth, violently with a thud. Destructive and often painful, whether it’s your mood or the sudden, evasive throbbing of the head. Car crash, train, mid-air, to crash and burn. I don’t think a pleasant connotation for crash exists. But, let’s try, shall we? Write a scene where two or more people crash, whether it’s shopping trollies at Tesco or a three way crash on the M25. Can something good come from something negative? That’s just a suggestion, but if you’d rather, simple try to write about the theme.
When I was young, at the age when every action and word of your peers has the weight and importance more damaging than the shifting of continents, I had a friend who passed me over. For the two years prior to my banishment, we had been inseparable. Although we were in different classes throughout the day, at lunch and after school, we found ways to be together, hanging out at the pizza parlour banned to students during the day, but inviting and welcoming with outstretched arms when the bell rang at three.
It was not a sudden disagreement. It was a slow and sinister turning of the back when one fine Spring day, a childhood friend that has moved away, returned to my friend’s life. So, rather than treat the return as a opporunity to become a happy trio, they chose to become a reunited duo and I , I became superfluous. It started with whispers and giggles behind my back, but close enough for me to see. Then, slowly, the signs that I was not wanted became less subtle. I remember the day when all became clear.
I wandered into the school parking lot, heading towards my friend’s car, when I saw the two girls get in and close the door. Panic would have set in when we met each other’s eyes and the cruel recognition of what was happening hit me like so much ice water. The hint of cruelty around the curve of her mouth was unmistakable. I was being dismissed and her eyes watch me with curious glee to see what I would do, as though I was a captured fly with a set of fingers caressing the wing it is about to pull. What would the response be?
Suddenly, a honking horn came to my rescue. A group of fellow classmates were heading out and someone shouted, “Eliza, are you coming with us?!” I turned on my heel and my defeat turned into a victory as I scrambled into the back of the yellow pickup truck with the others, a merry party destined for pizza. As I settled in, I looked toward the far end of the parking lot as the Datsun sped away and with it, my two-year friendship. We didn’t speak again for the next three years, but as much as I tried to grant forgiveness and managed to say, “It’s ok” when she asked me to all those years later, the memory of the behaviour is still with me. It reminds me never to exclude.
So, have you ever felt like you’ve been banished, from a friendship, a conversation, a room, a city, a social circle, job or anything?
I was thinking just now about what it would be like to get stuck in quicksand (some jobs and relationships must be like this…)
Can you imagine the thoughts going through one’s head? First, there is denial, the though that this can’t be happening to you. Logic would then take over and you would try to think of how you can scramble out. Unfortunately, the more you move and the more you struggle, the faster you sink. So, you play back the history and geography lessons and everything you saw on the Discovery Channel about how to get out of it. Look for a branch, call for help. Hold still….
I’m going to leave it there. Write a story about someone stuck in quicksand. What do they do, how do they feel, think, act? Do they get out of it? If so, how? If not, how did they get there in the first place and what are their last thoughts before the sky grows dim and disappears?
I few years ago I went on a cooking course. It was therapeutic and interesting to see how different people could bond over food. There were couples, a mother and son, a few strangers that has a laugh getting to know the recipes. Chop, chop, chopping in unison we obliterated mixed herbs, that before that day only existed to me in pre-crushed and mixed jars from Tesco. We beat and cut and stuffed a pork fillet then tenderly tucked it in into an oven tray. As it slow cooked, I started beating cream and espresso together for my chocolate tart with espresso cream while the old gentleman nest to me showed me what to do with baking beads. Did you know that to keep pastry from puffing up out of the pie shape, you use these sort of terra cotta beads to hold them down? I only ever saw pies and tarts in their completed form.
The result, an appreciation for cooking and how easily one can fall into conversation with total strangers when you’re comparing the consistency of your Tuscan vegetable soup and roast pork.
So, after a few years, I haven’t repeated the process, but have created recipes of my own. I stumbled upon my old recipe book and the next project is to try to make everything again.
So, most people have some sort of relationship with food. Whether it’s a love of ice cream or a dislike for avocados, everyone has something. So, write about food. What you love, something you hate or a food-related memory. Have fun. Bon Appetite!
Many of us have traveled by train at some point in our lives. In my case, most days. I find a seat, plug in the ipod, close my eyes and listen to tunes as I doze. Other times, I read a book or become engrossed in a game on my iphone.
The point is, that very rarely have I bothered to put the phone, music laptop or books away and just looked out the window at the view. I know it’s not the easiest thing if you’re traveling at night, but when the sun is out or even in the haze of the English countryside or scooting along the coast of Scotland, try looking out the window and taking in the scenery. What do you see? Are there cows grazing? Can you follow the roads and spot rivers or flocks of birds? Maybe you’re passing a city, full of thousands of people living out their lives, hurrying from one place to another.
On the way down to London on day, as I headed down the coastal track via Newcastle, I watched the sea and small towns and I flew past at high speed. A few of the views of trees and rivers made me wish I could stop. I even day dreamed of getting a month train pass and moving from place to place by train and see the country from end to end. (I still may do this).
Next time you’re on a trip, look out the window. Absorb everything around you and write down what you see. You might find your next story setting.
An hour or so south of San Francisco is the coastal city of Monterey. It’s a scenic drive I used to love whenever I needed a little time out. The windows down with the CD player going, it was a nice way to reboot. Once there, you can wander around a different world.
There is something soothing about sitting in the dark watching sea life gliding past you. My favourite part of the aquarium is the area where they keep the various species of jellyfish. I love the sight of their light dancing in the water.
It’s serene, peaceful, yet exciting at the same time. When you consider how little we know of the oceans compared to the rest of the world, all sorts of things are possible.
So, think about the sea. Create a story about either an encounter at an aquarium or at the bottom of the ocean.
This is one of the hardest things to write. There are thousands of stories and very few themes in the world, but I think that to write love convincingly is enough to twist you in two, make you doubt yourself and make you feel like grabbing your laptop, closing it and using it as a really big coaster.
Love comes in many shapes and sizes. Romantic, unrequited, love between strangers, family, friends…
Trying to communicate it in either words or actions is complicated. Especially if you’re writing for an audience. It’s hard to write emotion and not feel like a bit of a tool. You wonder if you sound corny, or if it rings true. And of course, the hardest thing about writing love is that you feel totally exposed, as though by writing that feeling, you’re allowing for the possibility that people who read your work will think it’s you.
So, try to write about love. It can be a memoir, a love story, either happy or sad. The important thing is to try to write honestly and inject some of your own experience into the work. Tricky, but try it. You might surprise yourself.
Things break all the time. Some intentionally, like eggs or piggy banks. Others are accidents, like dropping something on your iPhone or shattering a glass while washing up. Sometime things get broken without anyone even realising, like promises, hearts or relationships.
Draft a story around the concept of something broken. What happened, who was involved and what are the consequences? Dig deep and try to delve past the obvious.
I lit a candle on the fireplace mantle and it released a light scent of vanilla. As I looked around the room, I realised there were dozens of smells available to me. A bottle of lavender hand lotion was on the table, my favourite perfume, Pomegranate Noir from Jo Malone beside it. The cat came in from the rain and I could smell grass and wet fur.
When writing, one of the senses we often overlook is the sense of smell. The ability to describe things in terms of their smell can add depth to your writing. Give it a try. Describe a room, now carefully describe elements within it by their scent.