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2021: Celebrating The Writers' Greenhouse
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Friday, 24 July 2020

Weekly writing prompt: Semantic field

Semantic field

In the run-up to the online Summer of Writing workshops in August, I'm posting a writing prompt each weekend - plenty of different stuff for you to play around with as a chance to experiment, get your pen moving, and have fun! Each of the prompts loosely connects with a weekend pair of the Summer of Writing workshops, and I'll explain the connection at the end of the post each time. I find it's often more useful to play with prompts first, then think about their purpose afterwards, as we're more open and uninhibited that way. (That said, if you need to understand the point of something to enjoy it, feel free to scroll down and read that first!)

This week's prompt is A SEMANTIC FIELD. That's a rather fancy term for obessessing over one kind of imagery – for example, in my watery Oxford story, all the imagery is about the ships and the sea, so the storyteller says which stories are "afloat", and someone is "sunk" in love, and high standards are "fit for a captain", and so on. A story about a cook might use a ton of imagery around food and recipes, someone's stirring the pot, or giving someone else a grilling, or garnishing their outfit with a scarf, and so on.

So, step 1: pick your semantic field, ie your source of imagery. If you have a story with a very specific theme / world, you might want to choose something from that. Otherwise, pick one of the following: 🌱 sea & sailing 🌱 food and cooking 🌱 machinery 🌱 birds

Step 2: pick a situation to describe. I suggest... 🌿 a very unsuitable couple getting together (as a scene or as a general summary of their relationship) 🌿 someone trying to borrow money from their boss 🌿 someone covering up a murder

Now, you're going to describe the situation using as many images as possible from your semantic field. Go wild with this, cram them in, don't be afraid of dreadful puns (it's an exercise, not final prose), you can use existing idioms and images from our language and make your own up freely. get yourself comfy with notebook and sippables, set a timer for 10 mins (or however long you prefer), and off you go! Have fun!

This is the the last of the 5 weekly writing prompts running up to this year's online Summer of Writing workshops. This prompt links with the pair of workshops on honing your style: Exploring Styles (Saturday 29 August) and Polishing your Style (Sunday 30 August). Playing with a semantic field like this is a great way to explore a new style, giving yourself permission to write in fresh, unexpected ways, and not being afraid of any silliness. (We often stop ourselves doing new things because we're afraid of feeling "silly", so embracing silliness is a perfect way to try out new things.) It's also a great way to find original imagery and captivating details, both of which are part of polishing your style. You can read more about this pair of workshops and all the other ones here.

You can also see all the previous prompts here. This is the last of them for now, but there are still more posts to come on creative things to do and of course there'll be more writing prompts in the future, so if you want those, you can subscribe to the blog here:

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You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram to get reminders. The full list of Summer of Writing workshops is...
  • 1. Creative Ground (Saturday 1 August): exploring the different kinds of thinking we need for creativity, process versus product driven approaches, and increasing our reservoirs of inspiration
  • 2. Creative Play (Sunday 2 August): experimenting with taking creative leaps, opening up to fresh ideas, and risk-free thinking
  • 3. Creating Voice (Saturday 8 August): creating or developing characters through exploring their voice
  • 4. Dialogue on the Page (Sunday 9 August): practical aspects of writing dialogue: its purpose in the story; common errors; attributing speech; and the descriptions and actions that go around it.
  • 5. Place is Story (Saturday 15 August): using rich locations to develop and create plot events
  • 6. Purposeful description (Sunday 16 August): writing description that serves strong narrative purposes and exploring techniques for strengthening your descriptive writing
  • 7. Shifting between Scenes (Saturday 22 August): how to keep the reader oriented about who characters are, what happened last, moving in time and place, and dealing with flashbacks elegantly
  • 8. Deft exposition (Sunday 23 August): a range of ways to weave explanation into a story and how to deal with "heavy-duty" exposition for more complex info
  • 9. Exploring Styles (Saturday 29 August): exploring a wide range of styles and the features of each, and experimenting with writing in different styles
  • 10. Polishing your Style (Sunday 30 August): using original imagery, selecting telling details, improving word choice, spotting clichés, and pruning unnecessary words
Read more details about the Summer of Writing workshops and book your places here.

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