My first draft of Mamacona is “resting” and I am trying my best not to think about it (although brilliant ideas and sudden, horrible realisations pop into my head about 11 times per day). In the meantime, I am absorbing as much as I can about self-editing, continuing my research into the Incas and devouring novels. However, I am also trying to practise my creative writing – at least a little bit – most days.
My main practice has been in the form of exercises from 642 Things to Write About by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. If you have ever had a desire to “pen an ode to an onion”, “write ten sayings for fortune cookies” or “write stage directions for an actor that insult him or her personally all along the way”, I would definitely recommend this book. (I’m not working on commission, honestly.)
I thought I would share with you a few bits and pieces I have written using prompts from the book. Disclaimer: these are mostly very silly as I thought it would be fun to write the first thing that came into my head, and I have not meddled with them in any way since.
Zimmer frame soup
Prompt – “Write a recipe for disaster.”
You will need a very large pot (stainless steel recommended). Fill with soup (homemade or shop bought is fine) and simmer gently. Go outside. Take one long, flat stretch of road. Grease with butter, preferably unsalted. Eat a kilo of bananas and scatter the empty skins liberally across the street. Gather up fifteen old-age pensioners – look out for walking sticks and zimmer frames, these are the juiciest specimens. Place each pensioner on a skateboard, and hand him or her an egg. These eggs are precious and need to remain intact. Go back inside. Your soup’s burnt, hasn’t it?
A sad tale of non-friendship
Prompt – “Something you’ve always regretted saying.”
I regret saying nothing, that one time in the playground. I was five. So was she. She skipped up to me with her rope – the new girl with long, brown hair and no friends. “Will you be my friend?” she asked. I wanted to say yes, to lead her – skipping – to the wall where we stood in a line playing something or other. But I was shy. I said nothing and turned the other way.
A ghost story for kids
Prompt – “You are a camp counsellor. Make up a story that will scare the bejeezus out of your eight- to ten-year old campers.”
“Lights out, little campers.” That was the last thing anybody ever said to Ellie Lacey. Ellie was ten years old, like a lot of you are now. She loved ghost stories, especially the ones that take place on a dark, stormy night like tonight. They didn’t bother her usually, but that night she couldn’t sleep. It was their last night at camp, and their counsellor had told them a bedtime story about a little girl. A little girl at camp, ten years old – the same age as Ellie. The little girl had gone to bed in her cabin, just like she had every other night for the past week, except, this time, when she woke up, the cabin was empty. No campers, no counsellor. Ellie couldn’t get the little girl out of her head, even though the counsellor hadn’t mentioned her name. She just couldn’t fall…
Ellie opened her eyes. It was still dark but she could tell it was much later than it had been. She must have fallen asleep in the end. She must have stopped thinking about the girl with no name. Darn it, she was thinking about her again. The little girl in the story had left the cabin, gone into the one next door. Empty. The one next to that. Empty. Empty, empty, empty. No stuff even. Rucksacks. Clothes. All gone. Ellie tried to see the time on the wall clock, but her eyes hadn’t grown used to the darkness yet, so she carried on thinking about the counsellor’s story. The little girl had gone to the camp fire next. There was nobody there either. Nothing but ash and empty marshmallow skewers.
Ellie could see a little better now. She sat up, feeling panicked suddenly. The cabin was unusually quiet. She looked at the bed opposite. Shona wasn’t there, nor Sarah in the bunk above. Ellie jumped from her covers and ran from bed to bed. They were all empty, just like in the story. She ran to the next cabin along and the one after that. Yes, you guessed it. All empty. Ellie didn’t want to visit the camp fire but she couldn’t help herself. She didn’t want to think about the girl in the story anymore but she couldn’t help that either. The girl had left the camp fire and walked into the woods. Who knew why? Ellie had thought that had been an idiotic thing to do. The girl had walked and walked until she reached a clearing. In the clearing, there had been a gravestone. On the gravestone had been a name. The girl’s name.
Ellie shuddered. She told herself it was just a stupid story, that the other campers were playing a stupid joke on her. She had reached the campfire now. The flames had gone out and the stools were empty. She picked up an empty skewer, in case she needed something sharp. Not that she would, of course – it was just an elaborate prank. She looked up. Yes, that’s where they would be – the woods. She took a deep breath and walked into the shadows. She walked and walked, around and around the woods. It was still dark and she couldn’t see another living soul. Eventually she reached a clearing. In the clearing stood a gravestone. Carved into the gravestone was her name, Eleanor Lacey…
Anyway, enough of that. It’s your last night of camp and it’s getting late. Lights out, little campers.
I hope you have enjoyed reading these as I certainly enjoyed putting them together. Look out for more exercises in future blog posts, and let me know if you try any of them yourself! You can also find similar creative writing prompts online.