Monday, 14 June 2010

A Great Writing Exercise

On Sunday I visited Writers Connect, a bi-monthly writers' meeting in Manchester. We started the meeting with an exercise. We were each given two small pieces of paper. We were to write the opening line of a story on one piece, and the closing line on the other. We then passed the first piece to the writer on the left, and the second piece to the writer on the right. We then had opening and closing lines. The task- connect them in a story. It was initially planned as a ten-minute task, but we all needed a little longer than that!

Here is my opener-

“It all started when the train didn't turn up.”

Here is my closer-

“James smiled a sad smile, turned, began walking and never looked back.”

I managed it, just about, by abandoning the principle of paragraphs. Here it is in all its, um, glory. Yeah.

It all started when the train didn’t turn up. The platform was freezing. He hated standing still. He also hated not having anything to do. As soon as the train would arrive, he’d be the annoying yuppie commuter- yelling into his phone, manically scribbling into an academic diary and rummaging around in his satchel. There wasn’t much in it, but then that was fitting. Everything he did was for show. He put the bag down on the platform and blew his nose in a tissue. He looked at the hills on the horizon, the distant cousin of the crowded offices that were about to swallow him up. He ignored the bravado-laiden banter of the local chavs, crowding the station. Even they were starting to hush. The hills were tempting. What if he could live like Burt Reynolds in Deliverance? Just disappear into the wilderness and forget all this ridiculous hubbub? BAM. A weight lifted off his shoulder as his bag disconnected. The chavvy kids had undone the strap and now had his bag in their hands, throwing it between them. “You little bastards”, he yelled. He stepped to them. They laughed, and brakes squealed. The train was slugging into the station begrudgingly. Like a rugby player, the kid in possession tossed the laptop bag into the path of the train. There was a crunch as it landed under the wheel. “Run!” one yelled. They vanished down the platform. In the summer sun, the hills were looking at him, tempting him. Without his work, he had nothing. James smiled a sad smile, turned, began walking and never looked back.

BAM! How do you like them apples? If, for instance, Don DeLillo was to stumble across this, he would not be quaking in his boots at the thought of newfound competition. I think it's safe to say. It's a hard task to pull something together creatively with those restrictions, but it's a good exercise for working the imagination and handling the pressure of a deadline.

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