The Creative Prompt Thread

Excellent Mal Fet. I like the drama contained in the small movements and looks. Your story definitely has the feel of an classic Japanese samurai movie where mysterious characters are meeting for the first time and the stage is being set for a larger story.

I’ve fallen a little foul of having Lyrics in my songs. They effectively derailed my half hour. I think I’m going to have to listen to the tracks then go into half an hours writing to get anything meaningful done.

Edit: Ok. Had a break through. I do a lot of writing and my usual writing style is the opposite of what these exercises require the two methods were fighting each other but I've worked out a way to proceed that wold allow me to do something more immediate and bite sized.

I revisited prompt 3, which was massively more successful this time. Now back to prompt 4 which really didn't get off the ground last time I looked at it.

This is the result of Prompt 4. (Prompt 3 was basically a much rougher version of this) The extract below doesn't reach the start of the main story but I'm actually starting to enjoy the patchwork quilt effect of illuminating small elements of that time in my life in different media and writing styles.

Spoiler:

I press the eject button on the side of the walkman and the front flicks open. Slipping cassette tape out I read the hand written labels on both sides before flipping the tape over and dropping it back in. Snapping the lid shut I briefly consider rewinding it back to the beginning of the tape but don't want to waste battery. I pressing play. The inventive musicality and dark, tortured lyrics of a ‘The The’ song flood my ears.

The platform is sparsely populated. Familiar faces are waiting for the 7.30 train into London. I look down at my trousers again. The leg bottoms brush my shoe laces. Are they too short? Perhaps I shouldn’t have worn them. Too late now. There is a polished strip of metal between two printed and framed railway time tables. I see myself, tall, with a slim face and a mop of dark brown hair bisected by the thin silver hoop of the headphones. I’m tempted to walk over and try to study my complexion but don’t want to do it in front of everyone.

The train arrives, it’s carriages impressively flush with the concrete platform. The old train carriages with wooden doors and pleasingly mechanical brass handles are going out replaced by sleek modern versions with sliding doors. The doors part with a hydraulic hiss and I turn right towards a group of four seats facing each other. No one follows me. I slump down into a seat next to the window, place my bag next to me and stretch out my legs. I generally enjoy any train journey. Nothing is required of me other than to pass the time until I’ve been transported to my destination. As the train pulls out an emphatic voice is singing, “…and made my wish but sleeping boys catch no fish.”

At the third stop a couple get on. They turn towards me. I sit up straight putting a hand on my bag to show I’m willing to move it. They sit down opposite me chatting and laughing, at ease with each other. They talk about an up and coming marriage, about buying houses and fun at work. With my face close to the glass I watch the blurred scenery racing by.

Wednesday today and I’m desperate for the week to be over. Each day as a perilous step towards the sanctuary of the weekend. I can’t wait to be free to read or watch movies, to tour the comic shops in London or head to Rochester and spend endless hours in the second hand bookshops.

The countryside gives way to the backs of houses. Back yards, weed choked, tidy, crossed by washing lines or cluttered with toys, trampolines and children’s bikes. Brickwork in various states of repair, painted, unpainted, plant pots in windows some watered some not, neat roof tiles, blackened chimney pots and TV aerials. Occasional glimpses of streets, shops and queuing cars. Battersea dogs home comes into view. Long white prefab buildings. Not a dog to be seen. That would have been a great job. Looking after dogs.

On the other side of the train Battersea power station is approaching. I lean over to get a better look at it’s massive rectangular form. Now hollow the brick structure has a huge, ivory coloured chimney at each corner. The cover of Pink Floyds ‘animals’ album comes briefly to mind: gloomy sky and a large inflatable pig drifting between the front two chimneys.

Across the Thames and into the heart of London. A ‘The The’ track is playing that layers beats one on top of the other building and building to a driving drum beat. Soon we’ll pull into Victoria station and I’ll have no choice but to get on with my day.

Edit: Oh, I'm open to public reactions (I forgot to add that bit :P)

Mal Fet - That's awesome! It feels really alive and I agree with Higgledy about the classic Samurai movie vibes coursing through the piece. Well done!

Higgledy - Yay! I'm so excited that you found a way to make the instructions work for you, and that they've yielded some success. I also want to give you huge props for pushing through an attempt that didn't get off the ground right away.

I want to take the opportunity to remind people that these prompts are tools. If changing anything around the edges of them helps you put in the time or empowers you to create, then don't hesitate to tinker. They are meant to break you out of normal habits as well, so I do encourage attempting the instruction has written first, but the priority is always going to be on creating things. If you are creating something that's more important by far than any given instruction.

Higgledy, your prompt 4 really spoke to me. Especially the wandering thought about taking care of dogs in a life that might have been. Great work. The way you incorporated your soundtrack as part of the story is awesome.

TheHarpoMarxist, thanks for your feedback and advice. Loving these prompts! It's nice to be creative just for the sake of creativity.

Keep it up, everyone!

Creative Prompt #8

Read your story out loud. You can choose from the following options:

Option #1: Record yourself reading the story and then listen to it.

Option #2: Do the above, but also read it to a trusted friend. In advance, tell them that they shouldn't comment at all on the story afterwards, no matter how tempted they are to do so. Explain the nature of these prompts, if you'd like, but inform them that this isn't about feedback. This is the option to choose if you'd like to practice sharing your work with others and navigating the vulnerability that comes with that.
After you have read it out loud, you might have the impulse to start changing things. If possible, wait until you have also listened to the recording before you start to tinker.

Immediately after completing the exercise, answer the following questions: 

1) How did it feel to speak your words?
2) How did it feel to listen to yourself?
3) What surprised you?
4) Did either speaking or listening spark any changes?
5) What was harder, speaking or listening?
6) If you chose option #2, reveal the spoiler after you have completed the prompt.

Spoiler:

6a) Who did you choose to share the story with and why did you choose them?
6b) What was your biggest fear going into this exercise?
6c) Did that fear manifest and if so, how did you handle it?
6d) How do you feel having shared your work with someone?

Creative prompt 5. The patchwork quilt continues. This is a scene in vague movie script form. I wrote sketches for a local amateur dramatics group at one time:

Spoiler:

The camera looks down a long, poorly lit corridor. There is a room at the far end with light coming in from the right. A woman is talking to a nervous young man in a suit. You can’t hear what they are saying but the woman is clearly giving a guided tour.

A black curtain is swept aside, on the righthand side of the corridor, close to the camera. Will emerges. He is laughing and holding a ruler and a contact sheet. He walks towards the camera which retreats backwards. As he emerges into a larger room [light from the right hand side also.] There are tilted desks either side of the space he is walking down. He Passes two people sat at desks. On the right is Stuart, on the left Val [Who is UK Indian] both sit facing the camera.

Val: When they drained the pool and looked in the filter there were five glass eyes.

Stuart: In public swimming pool?

Val: Bethnal Green pool. He works there three days a week.

Will approaches another desk that faces Stuart and sits down. He turns sideways so he can be seen in profile. Across from him on the left is Claire facing the camera and away from everyone else. She is working away but laughing with others on occasion.

Will: I just… He gestures towards the curtain

Val: He found an artificial leg someone left in the changing rooms once.

Will: Is this the same boyfriend who saw a parachutist land in the open mouth of a hippopotamus?

Everyone but Val laughs.

Val: That was true! It was in the local paper! She pouts but is clearly not annoyed.

Stuart glances at Claire’s back which Will notices. He looks at Val who raises her eyebrows.

The woman from the far end of the corridor [Karen: head of studio] arrives at the desks. The young man follows.

Karen: This is the studio. Everyone hard at work as you can see.

The young man smiles, unsure whether to laugh or not.

Karen: Stuart, Will. I need you to collect some lamps from the warehouse for the shoot this afternoon.

Will: Ok.

Karen: Go now. Ask Mike which ones we need.

Stuart and Will move right, out of shot [there is another corridor between desks.] Karen turns to the suited young man.

Karen: Would you like a tea? coffee?

Suited man: Coffee please.

Karen: How do you like it?

Suited man: looking at Val then back at Karen Without milk

Val laughs to herself as Karen and the suited man head back down the corridor the way they came.

Outside Will and Stuart walk down the long side of a building with no windows. The camera keeps pace with them in a tracking shot.

Will: I went into the dark room and… You know Ted is doing scans of all the toasters for the catalogue?

Stuart: There’s forty odd aren’t there?

Will: Yup. When I went in and he had his head in his arms saying, “How many more? How many more?”

Stuart laughs: Poor Ted

Will: Oh I was talking to Claire. We were just… and I mentioned project rocket bear and you and she said she’d quite like to go for a drink with you some time. Will waits for a reaction. It’d have to be lemonade and/or milk shakes in your case I guess.

Stuart laughs.

They reach the end of the building. Beyond the end of the wall are lorries loading and unloading

Will: We got here a bit quick. Should we do this bit again.

Stuart: Yeah.

They walk back to the spot where they started the scene. The camera tracks back with them. Reaching the other end of the long building they turn and start walking very slowly back towards the warehouse.

I'm open to public reactions

I love the way the dialogue is largely in the realm of casual chatter but leaves enough space for the more serious/higher stakes beats to breathe under the surface. I'd love to see the actor playing Stuart receive the ending dialogue from Will! There are so many great interiority options for that the way you have it written. I also want to really applaud your ability to refrain from pure exposition and your comfort level with letting things live more in subtext. Bravo!

Thanks HarpoMarxist. All those things happened, I've just compressed them together and changed what happened to who, when and where (although a lot happened in that studio space.) I've never really used things from my life so directly like that. You can see why so many writers use their own lives to 'harvest' material.

I found it odd to write myself as a character that someone else was empathising with and trying to help. It's almost like seeing my past self through the eyes of that other person.

Creative Prompt #9
Once you have completed Prompt #8 and you are sitting at your work station with twenty minutes to work, reveal the instruction. As a heads up, I will be out out of pocket until mid-October, so this prompt will cover the next couple of weeks. I plan on being back on the 14th to begin a new cycle.

Spoiler:

CONGRATS! You have made it to the home stretch for this cycle. At this point you have a healthy chunk of a story coming into shape. Spend the next twenty minutes writing, editing, and working in any way you see fit, with a goal of finishing a draft. Then choose one of the following:

-Work on this story at least five minutes every day for a week. You can edit what you have or generate more content. The important thing is to choose a consistent time and see if you can commit to writing at that time every day for a week. If you need to use some of the twenty minutes you have set aside for this session to schedule an ideal week, do so.

-Schedule a writing date with yourself in a place that you don't normally write. This date must be at least one hour long. If you write in a cafe, try writing at home. If you write at home, try finding a nearby cafe or a different room. If you need to spend some of the twenty minutes you have set aside today to work to schedule this writing date, do so.

Whichever you choose, after you have completed the instruction, answer the following question:
Now that you have a draft, how do you plan to proceed with this story? What comes next?

You may also reveal the lie, if you'd like.

Okay, back from Mexico and settled in. How is everyone doing?

Planning ot resume on Monday!

Ironically/wonderfully I broke my flow by travelling through Wales for a week with ‘Claire’ from my story and her husband (who is a great guy.) More than that, we met up with two of the people I used to work with at BDC and we got to reminisce, look at old photos and learn of the studios epic history after our time there.

That’s amazing!

Also, I realized I was slightly unclear in my above post -next prompt is coming Monday the 28th. Apologies for anyone perplexed!

Creative Prompt #10

When you have sat down with 20 minutes to work, unblock the section below.

Spoiler:

Write some poetry. For this exercise, you can pick from the following form options:

-Write a Haiku. Haiku have a 5-7-5 syllable structure.
-Write a Quatrain, using at least one verse (though feel free to use more if the mood strikes.)
-Write a free verse poem.

You can choose from the following content options:

-Write about your first memory
-Write about a childhood friend you haven't thought about in years.
-Write about a favorite toy

Note that these content options are a starting place. If the subject matter zooms in on an adjacent topic or you get inspiration for something else, feel free to run with it.

Good luck!