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2021: Celebrating The Writers' Greenhouse
10 YEAR anniversary!

Saturday, 3 July 2021

Weekly writing prompt: I have never...


Scrabble letters: I have never...

In the run-up to the online Summer of Writing workshops in August & September, 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 "I have never..."  This is a two-parter, so I suggest you do the first part before reading further: it's more fun to have the element of surprise. I've given the timings to make it 10 minutes overall; if you fancy spending longer on it, double those to make it 20 mins. 

Part One (3 mins)

First off, spend 3 minutes listing things you've never done – for example, broken a bone, wrestled with a shark, been to India, killed someone, drunk bubble tea, etc etc. Whatever comes to mind, small and large, profound and random, jot down as many as you can in 3 minutes.

Don't scroll past the swan till you've done Part One. The swan is guarding Part Two.



Part Two (7 mins)

Now, looking at that list, free-write a character you like, who has done everything on the list. Freewriting means you just keep writing, without stopping, whatever comes to mind: you can talk out loud to yourself on the page, write snippets of description or dialogue, start writing in their voice and then argue with yourself about whether they'd use a particular word... you just keep writing.

Your character's going to be a bit on the wild side, for sure, but it's very important that you like them! You can say where they're from, how or why they came to do those things, what they're like, where or when they live – whatever you like, whatever comes to mind in the time available.

Have fun!

This prompt links with the pair of workshops on Characters Unlike You: The Other Types (Sat 7 August) and Tools for Change (Sun 8 August). Writing characters who're very much not you is always important, otherwise the entire cast in your story is an army of mini-me's, with nothing to differentiate them from each other. It also has massive benefits for you, as a writer: when your character isn't you, writing suddenly becomes a whole lot more fun. The more clear blue water you can put between you and your character, the more distinctly you can characterise them, the more of their lives you get to make up, and the more exciting the writing gets. The first workshop on Characters Unlike You uses personality typologies to understand your own traits and create likeable characters with very different traits; the second introduces an array of tools you can use to create or develop characters who're very distinct from you. You can read more about both workshops and book your places here.

There's a new prompt each week, so you can subscribe to the mailing list on the side or at the bottom fo the post.
The full list of Summer of Writing workshops is...

  • 1. Characters Unlike You: The Other Types (Saturday 7 August): exploring different systems of personality types to create likeable characters who are fundamentally different to you
  • 2. Characters Unlike You: Tools for Change (Sunday 8 August): a range of tools to separate yourself and esnure they’re still characters you have respect and affection for
  • 3. The Art of the Short Story: Shaping Short Stories (Saturday 14 August): strategies and techniques for creating and plotting engaging short stories
  • 4. The Art of the Short Story: Stories on a Postcard (Sunday 15 August): extreme economy in storytelling while keeping the prose sensory and rooted in real time
  • 5. Page Turners: Compelling Stories (Saturday 21 August): the underlying principles of gripping storytelling, to develop a story’s narrative drive, plot map, and scenes map
  • 6. Page Turners: Compelling Pages (Sunday 22 August): using micro-tension to tauten every scene and paragraph, so that every page is engaging
  • 7. Unravelling Secrets: Dramatic Secrets (Saturday 28 August): creating thrillers, mysteries, and crime / detective fiction: the genres structured around secrets
  • 8. Unravelling Secrets: Tricksy Storytelling (Sunday 29 August): how to structure a story around its central secret, and managing what you give away when, backstory, and red herrings
  • 9. Orientating the Reader: Shifting Between Scenes (Saturday 4 September): how to keep the reader oriented about who characters are, what happened last, moving in time and place, and dealing with flashbacks elegantly
  • 10. Orientating the Reader: Deft Exposition (Sunday 5 September): a range of ways to weave explanation into a story and how to deal with "heavy-duty" exposition for more complex info
Read more details about the Summer of Writing workshops and book your places here. NB: Workshops are limited to 16 places and fill up quickly, so do book in advance if you can.

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