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2021: Celebrating The Writers' Greenhouse
10 YEAR anniversary!

Friday, 8 January 2021

Weekly writing prompt: A Sense Mystery

Sense Mystery

In the run-up to the online Imaginary Worlds course in February, I'm posting a writing prompt each weekend, to carry you through the winter – plenty of different stuff for you to play around with as a chance to experiment, start inventing, get your pen moving, and have fun!

This week's prompt is A SENSE MYSTERY. This is a lovely way to play both with writing in all the senses and with writing to discover: you don't decide the story or situation in advance; you find out as you write. If you're doing this as a ten-minuter, set your timer first.

At the start, your character has no idea where they are. You don't know either. You're going to find out together. Your character's eyes are closed. Describe...

  • 4 things they can feel
  • 3 things they can hear
  • 2 things they can smell
  • 1 thing they can taste

As you also don't know where they are, you'll be making these up at random – just add whatever you please – though a sense of where they might be will probably gradually emerge.
At last your character opens their eyes. Now describe... 

  • 5 things they can see

If you have any time left of your ten minutes, then let them start exploring to find out more about where they are and maybe how they got there.

This is a spin on the sensory grounding exercise people use for mental health, in the order of 5-4-3-2-1. It helps us calm down by settling us in the present moment, through our bodies. That's also why it's a helpful one for writing: we live in our bodies, through our senses, so describing the sensory experience in the writing lets us live in the story. Of course you don't need to religiously go through 5-4-3-2-1 in every scene, but it's excellent practice to expand your awareness of the senses in writing. And when it comes to letting the reader live in the world you've entirely invented, the senses are absolutely essential!

If you'd like to find out more about the Imaginary Worlds course this February, you can read about it and book here. Remember that bookings close on 19 January, in just 11 days! There's one prompt still left to come, so if you want that delivered to your inbox, you can subscribe to the blog here:

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