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How to start a story…

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While surfing the net through Stumbleupon I was greeted by this fantastic post written by Graeme Shimmin – who takes inspiration from Ernest Hemmingway – “All you have to do is write one true sentence write the truest sentence you know.”

“Trying to start writing a story is a daunting prospect. Whether it’s a short story or a novel, sometimes it’s putting the first few words on the page that’s difficult. If we aren’t careful we can end up just staring at a blank screen because we don’t even know how to start the story.

I used to have the same problem. Now people say, “Where do you get so many ideas from?”

There’s a trick to starting a story that I can share with you and I got it from Ernest Hemingway.”

Click here for the full article by Graeme Shimmin.

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Easter Creative Writing Ideas

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Have you got writer’s block? Do you have some free time to indulge in a spot of creative writing this Easter break and need a little inspiration?!

Here are 10 super Easter Creative Writing prompts by Bryan Cohen we discovered on the Build Creative Writing Ideas Blog. If you enjoyed these prompts, the entire collection of 1,000 Writing Prompts for Holidays is available for purchase on Amazon.

671. What is the best treat you could ever hope to find in an Easter egg? How excited would you be if you actually found it and what would you do with such a prize? What would make the treat so special?

672. You hear a knock on your front door and it’s the Easter Bunny! He says that he’s extremely tired and could use some motivation to keep delivering Easter baskets around the world. What do you say to the Easter Bunny to give him the pep talk he needs?

673. Describe the most colorful Easter egg you’ve ever seen. What are all the different colors represented and how would you describe the pretty pattern if there is one?

674. Imagine that the animal of the holiday was not a bunny at all but some other animal entirely. What animal would you choose to be the face of the holiday and why? What are some of the other ways the holiday would change with this new and improved animal?

675. Easter is one of the biggest holidays of the spring season. What is the thing you like the most about spring and why? What is the thing you like the least about spring and why don’t you like it?

676. It’s a tradition for people to try to wear some of their finest clothing during the holiday for Church services. What do you think your Easter outfit would look like if you were trying to look your best? How would you try to spice it up to make it more interesting and why?

677. What kind of candies and toys would make up your perfect holiday basket? Why would you choose those items specifically?

678. Create a made-up story using the following words: bunny, egg, bonnet, and sunshine.

679. You and three of your friends have gained entry into a worldwide Easter egg hunt with a big cash prize! Describe the hunt from beginning to end, including whether or not your team is the winner.

680. While the holiday is full of candy eggs and decorative eggs, sometimes the best kind of egg is one you cook. What is the tastiest kind of egg you’ve ever had and why was it so good? What are some other foods that have eggs in them that you enjoy?

Machines – Creative Writing Exercise

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The creative writing exercise theme this week is Machines

Start by looking around whichever room you are in. How many machines do you see? Life is full of machinery we rely on – the answer phone that runs out of recording space, the printer that chews up our important document when we are in a rush.

Some technology, like a toaster or the boiler, is so familiar and domestic we barely see it. Some machines – in factories say, or ones used for travelling, or war – are massive or mysterious, a source of awe or fear.

Machinery can confound us – how do I get the battery restarted under the bonnet of my car? It can delight us, like a bicycle bringing us access to the countryside.

Perhaps when you think about machines you think of fictional, imagined technology – a machine powered by daydreams, or a time travel device like Doctor Who’s Tardis.

Or perhaps you think from a historical perspective – the development of clocks, the very first telephone, the advent of computers.

Perhaps there’s a useful machine that in most circumstances you personally can’t live without – a pacemaker, a hearing aid, a wheelchair.

Whatever machine inspires you, start by describing it, and see where that takes you. See past the machine to the experiences it connects you with, the hidden story of its making, or the emotions it leaves you feeling.

This creative writing was taught by Mike Loveday today during our Creative Writing Telephone Group for the housebound

Magical Realism

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Today we would like to share a wonderfully inspiring Ted Talk by South American writer of magical realism Isabel Allende:

How to Live Passionately No Matter What Your Age

After you have clicked onto above and watched the short Ted Talk why not try out our magical realism creative writing exercise! – from Open Age tutor Mike Loveday…

About Magical Realism:

‘Magic Realism’ or ‘Magical Realism’ is a genre of writing “in which magical, fantastic, or supernatural events take place in an otherwise realistic context.”[1]

  • “It’s a chiefly literary style or genre originating in Latin America that combines fantastic or dreamlike elements with reality.”[2]
  • “The term ‘magical realism’ was first used by the German art critic Frank Roh to describe the unusual realism of primarily American painters such as Ivan Albright, Paul Cadmus, George Tooker and other artists during the 20s. It grew popular in the 20th century with the rise of such writers as Mikhail Bulgakov, Ernst Junger and many Latin American writers, notably Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende.”[3]
  • Notable books containing Magical Realist elements include One Hundred Years of Solitude (Marquez), The House of the Spirits (Allende), Like Water for Chocolate (Laura Esquivel), Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie), and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Diaz)
  • Magical Realist stories “tend to treat reality as completely fluid and have characters who accept this as normal… characters are subjected to strange and bizarre events, but the background remains stubbornly ‘ordinary’. As Julian Birkett notes in his Word Power: A Guide to Creative Writing, ‘The point about magic realism is that the realism is quite as important as the magic.’ ”[4]
  • “When writing a magical realist story, concentrate on keeping it dream-like… a weird kind of logic underlying the strangest events. Settings should seem odd, yet familiar. When magical events occur, they should seem normal. Don’t comment on them. Don’t express surprise. Don’t explain.”[5]

Magical Realism Exercise:

  • Can you think of any unusual gifts or strange curses?
  • Spend 5 minutes brainstorming a short list.
  • The gift/blessing or curse can be positive or negative.
  • It can be about one person or a group of people. What happens to them or the people around them?

Here are some examples:

1) A whole village – one morning all the racist people wake up with green noses

2) Somebody who when their mood changes the weather changes in the local area

3) Someone who changes into an animal i.e an angry person who turns into a snake. A happy person who changes into a fish. Or a sad person who changes into a cat… etc.

f you’d like to share your short stories on our blog please send them to Hester at: hjones@openage.org.uk

[1] Zoe Fairbairns, Write Short Stories – And Get Them Published, London: Hodder Education, 2011, p.136

[2] Catherine Smith, ‘Myth and Magic’ in Short Circuit: A Guide to the Art of the Short Story (2nd edn.), ed. Vanessa Gebbie, Norfolk: Salt, 2013, p.154

[3] Smith, p.154

[4] Smith, p.154

[5] Fairbairns, p.138

A Day in the Life – Creative Writing Inspiration

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Here’s an inspiring photography project on Feature Shoot about A Day in the Life of single elderly women in New York City, USA.

In Life Ever After photographer Patrícia Monteiro shows how four women in their 80s and 90s, living alone, live life to the full: soaking up the art, culture, social activities and life in this buzzing city.

“In these four women, the photographer found fiercely independent souls, constantly evolving and engaged with the goings on around them. Despite physical difficulties—Rita, for instance, has a few disabilities—each pursues her interests with as much fervor as ever.”

“At this age, the women have seen the deaths of lifelong friends and companions, but they have learned to cope with loss. Their late husbands are abiding fixtures in their lives, and Sonia still wears her wedding band. Rita got giddy reminiscing on her boyfriend, Molly shared relationship advice. At one time, they all had careers. A few of them shared photographs from their pasts, although nostalgia was sometimes tinged with heartache. For the most part, explains the photographer, the women didn’t dwell on or concern themselves with thoughts of their mortality, focusing their attentions instead on the joys of the day-to-day.”

Today’s Creative Writing Exercise: A Day in the Life..

Write about a day in your own life, or in the life of a neighbour, or a friend… It can be fictional or biographical, a short story or poem – let your imagination decide! But use Patricia Monteiro’s inspiring photography project as a springboard to get your creative ideas flowing!

You can see more of Monteiro’s photography here:

http://www.patriciapmonteiro.com/life-ever-after/

Light – A Writing Activity

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The days are getting longer, very gradually. This exercise gets you thinking about light, and the many forms in which it appears.

  • Think about daylight first. Each morning, thank goodness without fail, the sunlight gradually greets us. Think about its qualities. Maybe there’s a particularly memorable dawn you once saw, and a story around it which you want to tell. Think about the sheer power of the light from the sun – it can even be dangerous – if we’re driving and momentarily blinded, or when it causes skin cancer, or if we use a magnifying glass to focus its rays. Maybe there’s a fictional story to create in which a character is momentarily blinded by the sun and risks his / her life, or someone else’s.
  • When the natural light lessens then artificial lights come on – street lamps, house lights, headlights. And twilight is an in-between time when perceptions change, a time symbolic of near-endings, dwindlings, and change generally. Maybe something particular happens for you or your character at this time.
  • And how about when it’s night…. There’s the cold light of the moon, reflecting the light from the sun. There’s the monthly full moon, with all its associations of wildness (literally lunacy) or romance. There are stars, each shining with a different quality of light – some twinkle rose-pink, some glimmer white – and often planes pass overhead slowly with tail and wing lights blinking. Shooting stars, or satellites, sometimes delight us. Maybe you once stayed out at night lying on the ground watching the stars and the night sky. Maybe you were an expert on the constellations as an avid science student. At night, the lit windows of trains hurry down the tracks, the windows of houses offer a small yellow square in the dark. Maybe you see something through one of these windows, maybe even something secret, something you shouldn’t have seen.
  • Maybe you have a favourite lamp, or there’s a lampshade you inherited, and it has a story to tell.
  • Maybe the light from your mobile phone stops you sleeping at night and you’re exhausted, and you want to sing about it.
  • Maybe you want to create an exciting story about something that happened in the dark – in a forest when someone’s torch stopped working, in an ancient imaginary cave when the fire went out, in a cellar at the bottom of a house.
  • Maybe you’ll choose to imagine what it’s like to go blind and lose light – or, conversely, to gain too much of it – to enter the long, sleepless Scandinavian summer waiting for a restful night-time that won’t arrive?

Real or fictional, write a story in which light is important.

[this exercise is derived from Jo Bell’s marvellous blog of writing exercises called “52”, one for every week of the year

https://fiftytwopoetry.wordpress.com/

Look out for a soon-to-be-launched book of writing activities by Jo Bell, based on her blog]

Winter Writing Prompts

Here are some great winter writing prompts with photographs to inspire you…
Grab a cup of hot cocoa, snuggle up on the sofa, or get settled in your favourite writing spot… and check out these wonderful writing prompts by Chris Dunmire at Creativity Portal – Click on the text below to view the prompts:

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Cold, snowy winter weather! Looking for some inspiration or the “write” kind of prompting for the winter and Christmas season? Never fear, look right here! These cool writing prompts and photos will help facilitate your creative stories, blog entries, and holiday reflections for the winter season and melt any icy writing blocks you’ve been chipping away at. Grab your writing shovel and dig in!

Writing Exercise – “Food”

Colorful Fruit Food Square Background

Food delights the senses – tempts the taste buds, conjures aromas, seduces us with colours and textures. Here’s an activity which really allows you to explore your senses through writing, by focusing on the theme of food from a number of possible angles.

(1) Write about a particular meal you once had that was memorable. Talk about the occasion, the setting, the conversation, as well as the food itself. Maybe it was memorable for good reasons, maybe for the wrong reasons.

(2) Write about a favourite food, and what it means to you, as well as describing the food itself. Maybe you can come up with an unusual simile to conjure up what eating this food is like.

(3) Write about a time you gave food away to someone who needed it more. Or perhaps more dangerously, write about a time when you failed to do so and walked away guilty.

(4) Maybe you once used to get food cravings for a particular type of food (I nearly typed pearticular there). Write about the experience.

(5) If starfuit make you think about that visit to Africa, write a story where you eat a starfruit and are taken back there in your mind.

(6) Write a commentary on politics about food banks, world famine, food wastage, recycling. Get angry if you want to.

(7) If there was a strange food or a particular recipe which you used to rely on when recovering from illness, write about that.

(8) Maybe you once tried a really unusual, exotic or strange food. Tell us about it.

Adapted from Jo Bell’s marvellous poetry blog “52” – fiftytwopoetry.wordpress.com

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