Friday, 1 July 2016

Creative Spark Week 1 - Story Fundamentals

Welcome to Creative Spark!

Triskele Books tried out a self-sourced creative writing course last summer.
We loved it. Now we've refined and honed and gathered support, and want to share with you.

Ten weeks of creative writing exercises from professional writing tutors, each focused on a particular element of fiction writing.
We don't want your money. We don't even want your email address.
This is FREE.

For ten weeks, every Friday, we'll post an exercise or two on a particular theme.
Each post is designed to last no longer than half an hour, but trigger ideas lasting so much longer.
Share your thoughts in the comments or keep it to yourself. Up to you.

Have fun! We did.

With grateful thanks to Ingram Spark and all our contributors.

Story Fundamentals Exercise
By Emma Darwin

A story is built of people who act, and what makes us keep reading is that they act in ways which we can believe, for reasons we can believe in. But it’s not always easy to hit on that story-driving combination of convincing actions in a convincing world, so this exercise starts with the most basic job: evoking physical convincingness, and develops outwards from there.

1) Think of an object which you’ve never seen, but know must exist or have existed. It might be a toy your German grandfather left behind when he came to England on the Kindertransport, the gun that was used to assassinate Anwar Sadat, or the fridge on the Space Shuttle.
Don’t worry about being accurate.
Make notes to evoke its physical presence.
Make sure you’ve checked in with all six senses including kinaesthesia (what’s it like to pick up, hold, throw, sit on?).

2) Our first, default ideas are often the least likely to bring out the best writing, so start imagining outwards from that moment in the object’s life. Where else might it have been? And where else again?
Maybe your grandfather’s toy had been his grandmother’s. Maybe the gun was bought on the black market in Moscow. Maybe the fridge had to be specially imported from a tiny specialist company in Guatemala.

3) When you’ve found an atmospheric place, pick one of the people who owned or had custody of your object.
Write some notes to bring this Character A into focus: who they are, their job, personality and so on, and how they feel about the object.
Now, your character A must sell or give the object to Character B.

4) Start writing the scene at the point where they meet.
Does A want to or not? Is B willing to take it, or not?
What kind of negotiations or arguments might result? Does A get to hand it over, or not?

Good luck!


Novelist and creative writing tutor Emma lives in South London. Her latest book is Get Started in Writing Historical Fiction, while her novels have been long and short-listed for many awards. She also writes short fiction and blogs about writing at This Itch of Writing: the blog

All images courtesy of Julie Lewis

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