Archives for Writing exercises

FlashPIC #33: feet beneath the table

Two pairs of feet, and knees, and legs. Unidentified. Anonymous. Gender undetermined. What is happening here? This is a writing tip from the Writers’ BLOCKbuster series. Try this picture to kickstart a flash fiction story about a meeting between two people. Or use it as a dialogue exercise for your novel. They could be strangers, or lovers having an argument, or husband and wife splitting up. Or are they planning a murder? Decide on the gender of each person. Give them a name and sketch out an identity. Imagine how their voices sound when they speak. Next write some sample dialogue for each person, conducted with a stranger. The subject matter is unimportant. You should concentrate on the character’s speech pattern; is there something distinguishable about this person’s voice? An accent, a mannerism or verbal tic, foreign pronunciations? Decide on the general subject area to be discussed at the table in the photograph then make your two characters polarised in their opinions, taking opposite positions on the subject in hand. Now give them a problem to solve or a confrontation. Start writing the dialogue. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- How thirsty are you? Hotel corridor
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters, and Writing exercises.

FlashPIC #32: cutting down trees for firewood

During the Second World War the Tiergarten, Berlin’s popular inner city park, was made unrecognisable as the trees were chopped down and used for firewood. Here is a writing tip from the Writers’ BLOCKbuster series. Try this picture to kickstart a flash fiction story about wartime or a decision faced by a character in your novel. Imagine three things:- 1 It is winter. There is no fuel to heat your house. You can go cold, steal, or chop down trees in a local woodland. 2 What are the consequences be? How will your family survive? 3 How does your choice affect your household? How do your neighbours react to your actions? Take these three elements and write a flash fiction story, or a character exercise. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- These feet were made for walking St James Park, polite notice Between the train seats And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: It is winter… what would you do to keep warm? Get inspired to write #writingtip https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3cf via @SandraDanby 
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters, and Writing exercises.

FlashPIC #27: Push Button at Pedestrian Crossing

How do you get the reader to turn the next page of your novel or short story? There’s a great quote about this by English author Charles Reade, author of The Cloister and the Hearth, about this: “Make ‘em laugh; make ‘em cry; make ‘em wait.” As part of the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series, here is a FlashPIC photo to help you write a flash fiction story about waiting, either yourself or making someone else wait, and the nature of delay. Consider this FlashPIC and decide what happens next. Who pushes the button? What happens? Does that person witness something? Perhaps the person doesn’t stop to push the button, why? Think of your own five possibilities. Now work each idea into a paragraph outline for a short story. Choose one idea and calculate your beginning, middle and end. Write a short story of your chosen length. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Moon Rocks Anonymous People Beach And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Write a #shortstory about ‘Push Button at Pedestrian Crossing’ #writingtip via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2rs
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters, and Writing exercises.

FlashPIC #26: Beware Danger From High Tides Beyond

This photograph is a short story waiting to be written. A woman and a child collect shells on a beach. Beside them, a sign warns of the dangers of high tides. As part of the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series, here is a FlashPIC photo to help you write a short story, a brief flash fiction piece of only a few words, or something longer. You choose. Consider this story and what might happen next. Write a list of five possibilities. Now work each idea into a paragraph outline for a short story. Choose one idea and calculate your beginning, middle and end. Write a short story of your chosen length. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Two Empty Glasses Feet Train Window And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Write a #shortstory about ‘Beware Danger From High Tides Beyond’ #writingtip via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2oR
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters, and Writing exercises.

FlashPIC #25: Orange Railings

There are three basic reasons for storytelling; the things which we write about and others want to read. Entertainment, understanding the world we live in, and escape. Sometimes if I am stuck in my own writing, I like to push myself to write about subjects new to me and explore unknown areas. This may mean taking a genre with which I am unfamiliar, which for me is horror, sci-fi, fantasy and military. As part of the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series, here is a FlashPIC photo to help you explore your own unknown areas. If you like writing short stories, write something longer; if write long, try a flash fiction story. Consider this picture of an ordinary scene. An empty train carriage. Write a list of the everyday, obvious things about it. As many single words as you can. Now, alongside each word, write another list of opposites. Then add a third column, with the most exaggerated version of the second list of words you can imagine. Be experimental, take a risk. Now use the train carriage as the setting for a short story. Write in an unknown genre and allow your mind to explore possibilities in your sub-conscious. Don’t be afraid to be derivative,
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters, and Writing exercises.

FlashPIC #24: Cable

Plotting is often the nuts and bolts part of writing a novel which a writer may be tempted to ‘allow to sort itself out’. But without plot, the reader will not want to turn the page. There are two key questions which keep the reader reading: Suspense [where the answer lies in the future], and Mystery [looking backwards into the past for the answer]. As part of the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series, here is a FlashPIC photo to kickstart your plotting for a novel, short story or flash fiction story.This is the fixing of an industrial cable, a common type used in construction of a biggest buildings. It carries a heavy load. It is designed by engineers, specified by architects and installed by construction workers. As a plot device, the cable can supply the reason for a crucial turning point in the storyline. Imagine a setting which features a construction project or a famous building. Add characters [maximum three]. Assume that the cable in the photograph is faulty. Work out a plot in which the faulty cable causes something to happen. Now write your plot in no more than five bullet points. For example, here’s a rather simple idea: Architect designs award-winning
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters, and Writing exercises.

FlashPIC #23: Deckchairs

Dialogue is a writing technique which rewards practice, patience and observation. Reading aloud helps too. So today’s writing tip is a two-hander, two characters only, pure dialogue. As part of the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series, here is a FlashPIC photo to kickstart your conversation. There are two alternative ways to start this exercise:- 1 Choose your two characters. They could be based on someone you know, a character you have already created, a character you are working on, or celebrities. Mis-matched personalities yield the most conflict and liveliest dialogue. Do not pre-judge whether their conversation will be funny, quickfire, sparse or argumentative. Or 2 Choose the location of your deckchairs and work out why your two characters are there. Do they know each other, have they arranged to meet, or are they strangers? Now, seat your characters in their deckchairs. Each character should, in turn, introduce himself. Find something for them to agree about… And something for them to disagree about. And let the conversation develop naturally. Do not worry about punctuation, simply start a new line to indicate change of voice. Finally, incorporate these characters and their dialogue into a flash fiction story. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters, and Writing exercises.

FlashPIC #22: We Are Watching You

Today’s writing tip is less about storyline and more about emotions. This is a useful trick if you are trying to get to grips with a new character. As part of the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series, here is a FlashPIC photo to kickstart your writing day. Or perhaps a flash fiction piece about the surveillance society?As you carry out your daily tasks, consider how it would feel if someone were watching you all the time:- What would you do differently, and why? How does your body react to being watched – sweaty, feverish, twitchy? Let your mind run over the question ‘Who is it?’ Why is it happening? Are you guilty of something? Have you been mistaken for someone else? What emotions are you feeling: indignant, affronted, ashamed, guilty, bashful, frightened, aggressive? How do you want to react? Challenge? Run? Fight? Now in 20 minutes of free writing, write down everything you thought about. Single words, phrases, dialogue, stream-of-consciousness. Then use everything for a new character who is being stalked. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Hotel Corridor Red sign ‘Pedestrians’ Go! Clock And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post,
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Categories: Writers' BLOCKbusters and Writing exercises.

FlashPIC #21: Two Empty Glasses

Here’s a writing tip to start the day off well… before your mind is stressed with deadlines and ‘not working’, allow your thoughts to slow down. Let your imagination do the work. As part of the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series, here is a FlashPIC photo to kickstart a flash fiction story. 1 Study the photograph for 60 seconds then put it aside. 2 Write down every word or phrase which you can recall about it. These can include descriptions, feelings, dialogue, expectations, presumptions, colours, smells and noise. 3 Work out a beginning, middle and end for a short story. 4 Write 500-800 words. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Plastic Bag Stairs to who knows where Moon rocks And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Get inspired to write… Two Empty Glasses #amwriting via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2ot
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters, and Writing exercises.

FlashPIC #20: Rubbish Bin

One rubbish bin is much like another rubbish bin, isn’t it? Yes… except for its location, the time of day, the weather, the people passing by. Consider writing a short story which takes place around a rubbish bin or in which a rubbish bin plays an important part. As part of the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series, here is a FlashPIC photo to kickstart a flash fiction story. Choose three of the situations below, and write a paragraph for each. Then concentrate on one, and write 500 words:- An argument takes place beside the rubbish bin; A crime happens nearby; A homeless person meets someone he didn’t expect beside the bin; A passer-by finds something strange in the bin; Two strangers agree to meet on a street corner, near the bin; A spy uses this rubbish bin as a dead-drop, but someone else finds his package first; A bird nests in the bin; An uncared-for, un-emptied bin is adopted by a schoolgirl who lives nearby. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Coffee Shop Belisha Beacon Death Valley And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Get inspired to write… Rubbish
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters, and Writing exercises.

FlashPIC #19: The Meaning of Purple

It is said that every person, at least once in their life, experiences a life-changing moment. An epiphany. Here is a writing tip to inspire you today. As part of the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series, here is a FlashPIC photo to kickstart a character study or flash fiction story. You choose the person’s gender, age, name, background, personality, the place, the time of day.Until today, your character has only been able to see in black and white. And then, he/she sees a flower, a glorious purple flower. A rhododendron. And he/she knows it is purple. Write a paragraph about each of the following, either first person or third:- The instant emotion when he/she realizes the flower is coloured; The secondary reaction, will it last, did I really see it? The character’s life before today; What he/she thinks the colour purple looks like – before and after; The significance of purple; What will my future be like? How will my mother/father/wife/closest relative/best friend react? And then look for conflict in the situation. Once you add conflict, it gets interesting. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Feet Cranes on the skyline Beach And if you’d like to tweet
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters, and Writing exercises.

FlashPIC #18: Hotel corridor

Every hotel has two version of daily life: that of its guests, and its staff. This hotel corridor could be anywhere, it could be the first floor or the penthouse, in Edinburgh, Paris or Hong Kong. As part of the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series, here is a FlashPIC photo to kickstart a character study or flash fiction story.  This exercise examines how two different people can be in the same place, and see something entirely different. Write two personalities, who see this corridor for the first time. One is a hotel guest, the other a maid on her first day at work. What do they think when they get out of the lift and walk down this corridor? Do they actually meet and exchange conversation? Then something happens which brings the two together in a way they could never have forseen – comedy, tragedy, theft, explosion, accident, illness: you decide. Start small, and work up. First of all, write one paragraph sketching the character of each person. Next, put each character into their individual setting. Now, make the two meet. What happens next? © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Cranes on the skyline Arrivals board at Waterloo
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters, and Writing exercises.

FlashPIC #17: Stairs to who knows where

A spiral sweeping upwards to the sky, a slope to stride up and run down, flushed by the heat of the sun and blinded by reflections. As part of the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series, here is a FlashPIC photo to kickstart a flash fiction story – it could be historical, timeslip or science fiction. Imagine… You are walking up the walkway at the Reichstag in Berlin, a guidebook is in your right hand, your right hand is pressed to the earphone in your ear as you listen to the audio guide; You imagine the craftsmen who built the original building, and the men who built the modern extension. The building was finished in 1894 after 10 years of construction. In 1994, architect Sir Norman Foster re-designed the damaged building and added the glass dome. As you stand and look at the view across Berlin, a Tall Man brushes past you, hurrying upstairs. Beneath his arm he carries large rolls of parchment. He is in a rush, his brow is sweaty. Outside, the Tiergarten is full of summer visitors. Overhead, you hear the drone of an airplane. It is a loud, guttural noise, unlike a modern airliner. The engine stutters, outside a siren screams,
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters, and Writing exercises.

FlashPIC #16: St James Park, polite notice

When you live in a place, you cease to see things. We all become victims of subjective vision. Try looking around you, at your everyday scene, as if you were a stranger. Take an ordinary object and start writing As part of the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series, here is a FlashPIC photo to kickstart a flash fiction story. This is a sign from London’s St James Park, discouraging cyclists from leaving their bicycles. Try this scenario:- You are a student on holiday in London, this is your first visit; Choose a nationality, and decide how much English you can a) speak and b) read; You have your own bike and need to leave it unattended in the park, outside a park building for some reason [you decide what]; Do you ask for help? Ignore the sign? Walk away? Perhaps a passer-by stops to help? And what happens as a result of your actions? Are you arrested? Is your bike stolen? Write 500 words based on this photograph. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Beach Plastic bag Anonymous People And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Start #writing… polite
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters, and Writing exercises.

FlashPIC #15: Beach

As part of the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series, here is a FlashPIC photo to kickstart a flash fiction  short story. Things are not always as they seem. This photograph was taken in India but this beach could be anywhere. Empty your mind of preconceptions about beautiful beaches, your local beach, the beach you played on as a child. Without over-thinking, consider this beach to be a good place and write down 10-12 words. Now repeat the exercise, but look at the beach as bad. In what way it is bad is totally up to you: a bad memory, an accident, toxic water, an aggressive confrontation. Now write a short story using both views of the same beach. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Nothing of Value Left Overnight Red sign ‘Pedestrians’ Go! Anonymous People And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Start #writing… but what’s wrong with this idyllic beach scene? http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1W5 via @SandraDanby
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters, and Writing exercises.

FlashPIC #14: Plastic Bag

As part of the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series, here is a FlashPIC photo to kickstart a flash fiction short story. Study this photograph. Describe the colour tones, the textures, the movement and the feeling of the breeze which is blowing the bag. Now use this situation either by putting yourself into the action, or by creating a storyline based on the photograph. Are you running after the bag, did it slip from your grasp and you must catch it, no matter what? What would it mean to you to lose the bag? Who are the people, the two dark shadows on left and right? While your eye is caught by the bag, are they closing in on you? Is their intention helpful, sinister, threatening? © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Feet Looking Over the Parapet Cranes on the Skyline And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: To-do list: 1) check this pic 2) start #writing – a bag, blowing in the breeze http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1W2 via @SandraDanby
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters, and Writing exercises.

FlashPIC #13: Train Window

As part of the Writers’ BLOCKbuster series, here is a FlashPIC photo to kickstart a flash fiction short story. Study this photograph. How does it make you feel? The blurring gives a strong sense of motion. Close your eyes and concentrate on how you feel, are your senses heightened, or does dizziness dominate? Describe how you feel in one paragraph. From that paragraph, pull out three key words, and write 1-2 sentences about each. Using the sensations you experienced, give them to a character caught on the edge of speed – standing on a motorway bridge, balancing on rocks beside a fast-flowing river, waiting at the kerb to cross the road as racing cyclists fly by. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Coffee Shop Death Valley Looking Over the Parapet And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Today’s #writingexercise to shake away the cobwebs: Train Window by @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1VZ
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters, and Writing exercises.

FlashPIC #12: Moon Rocks

As part of the Writers’ BLOCKbuster series, here is a picture to kickstart a flash fiction short story.  Study this photograph. What does it look like: rocks on the moon? A work of art? A space in a community garden? Look a little closer… at the texture, the colours, the shapes. Is it daytime, or night? Is there sign of life… is that a cigarette butt I see? Describe the setting in 1-2 paragraphs. Next, put into it a character you have already created, someone you are familiar with, and see what happens. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Red sign ‘Pedestrians’ Go! Anonymous People Arrivals Board And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Today’s #writingexercise to shake away the cobwebs: Moon rocks by @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1VC
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Categories: Writers' BLOCKbusters and Writing exercises.

FlashPIC #11: Red sign ‘Pedestrians’ Go!

As part of the Writers’ BLOCKbuster series, here is a FlashPIC to kickstart a flash fiction short story. Use one of these phrases in your first paragraph, using the photo for inspiration. Red light means Stop. Green light means Go. “I’m confused.” He knew it wasn’t the right sign, but there wasn’t another sign to use. So he did what he was told. “Not there, you wally. If you put the sign there, the people are all gonna walk over the ….” “Some joker’s left it there, haven’t they. That arrow points at the wall. That can’t be right… can it?’ John could see a red blur about a metre ahead and, erring on the side of caution, as always, he tapped the red thing with his cane. It sounded metallic. Not for the first time, he missed Petra. She felt her front wheel fall into nothingness, the pavement disappeared, and as her bike fell forwards, the red sign fell into the hole on top of her head. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Anonymous People Arrivals Board Belisha Beacon And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters, and Writing exercises.

FlashPIC #10: Looking Over the Parapet

As part of the Writers’ BLOCKbuster series, here is a picture to kickstart a flash fiction short story. Examine the photo, and then use one of these phrases as the starting point for a short story:- Down, down, so far down, she leant further forward, the edge of the stone parapet cutting into the spare flesh at her waist. We could put a glass roof over it, that would keep the rain out and let the sunshine in… but will Alexi say yes? I should never have come, he’ll see me. That’s his desk there, the second window from the right, if he looks out of the window he can’t miss me here. It felt like flying, it wasn’t quick at all, she expected it to be over in the minutest part of a second, but she was still here, floating, like a bubble blown from a child’s bubble wand. He crouched behind a wall, listening for the sound of marching boots. He was breathing so hard from running, he had to hold his breath. Was that them, fading away? A hand clutched his shoulder. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Red sign ‘Pedestrians’
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters, and Writing exercises.