Creative Writing Exercises

Maniacal MasterChef

chef-1318790-639x711I love cooking.

Following a recipe and producing something resembling food helps my creative side. I get great ideas for characters and plots whilst cooking. I think it is something to do with sharp knives.

A recent exercise on the Creative Writing course asked to write notes whilst preparing a meal or baking. The aim was to produce a character and prose to include the five senses and emotions evoked during the process.

This is the most recent draft of the piece.

Cooking created a quandary for Dave. He enjoyed the process of collecting ingredients and following a recipe but the bouts of disorganisation and collective clutter, as the recipe came together, disturbed him.

Selecting a recipe raised Dave’s mood and he felt a tingle of excitement as he went through the cupboards getting together the ingredients. Butter, flour, cinnamon and honey looked ordered in their factory packaging sat next to the bananas, sultanas and eggs. The smell of sultanas provided particular appeal.

The start of the recipe involved mashing bananas. Dave wanted to get his hands into the bananas, in the mixing bowl, but his aversion to mess prevented this and he opted for a fork.

The Happy Monday’s, Hallelujah, played on the radio and soon he was mashing in time to the music.

Mixing the butter and sugar provided a short physical workout. He whisked the mixture until it became a soft cream and his hand ached. The white flour sifting through his hands and fingers, into the mix, provided some pleasure as nothing stuck to him. He battled to keep the egg shell out of bowl as he cracked the eggs, and after more whisking something resembling wet concrete sat in the bottom of the bowl.

The bananas were added and, after a final whisk, the mix was poured into the baking tin. The smell of the bananas, sultanas and honey made Dave’s mouth water.

A blast of heat hit his face as he opened the oven door and placed the cake tin on the shelf. He felt satisfied as the oven light illuminated the efforts of the last half hour.

Satisfaction was quickly replaced by mild terror.

Here Comes The Mirror Man

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How many times a day do you look in the mirror?

If you’re like me, it must go into double figures.

It’s the first thing I do in the morning, checking for vital signs to make sure I have made it through the night. Then regular looks throughout the day for shaving, tooth brushing and ensuring that things haven’t moved or dropped off.

All this practice came in useful recently for one of the Creative Writing exercises which asked to sit with a notebook in front of a mirror and write a personal description. The following was the carnage that ensued.

“My hairline races to see how quickly it can reach the back of my head. A few flushes of brown break through the vastness of grey with the odd stray hair, evidence of a time when it actually lived there. Although the hair, now trying to manifest itself through my nostrils and ears, suggests that it is just on the move.

The Night Pig

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Dark eyes and snout appear
from the rustling undergrowth.
The slick backed spinal wig
illuminated by the garden light.

She emerges centimetre by centimetre.
Legs purposeful, but without rhythm,
slowly advancing on a prey
not designed for resistance.

Frantically she snuffles the cat food.
Each mouthful broken by a
glance for enemies,
occasionally hoovering surrounding debris.

The sprint into darkness,
indicating meal over.
A final rustle bids goodbye
and thank you.

Waiting For A Train: Part 1

waiting-for-the-train-1530794-640x480Neon light throws shadows of
lampposts across the platform.
Winter’s wind rattles the bones
of the shelter.
Inside, blue and yellow shout
out Oxford to London.
Stillness and an empty coke can
my early morning companions.

The whirring door announces company.
A young couple, eyes locked
in a magnetic gaze.
A business man, suit and trainers?
The modern day eclectic mix.
Conversation replaces silence.
The whirring now constant.
Feet march across cold slate.
Laptops open.
Mobiles flash.
Pen meets paper.
An army prepares.

“The train now arriving at platform 2”
Frantic dashes of black,
grey and blue.
The herd cramming
through the doors.
In a moment, solitude and silence return
as my only companions.

The Man in Costa

cup-of-coffee-1328582-639x852Over the past month I have been immersing myself in the OCA Creative Writing course and working on a number of exercises designed to improve the skill of writing as seeing.

The process takes the student from observation and freewriting notes of what is seen, to carrying out a series of drafts to produce a poem.

An opportunity to try this presented itself one day whilst I was having a cup of tea in Costa.

In amongst the usual mid-morning commotion my attention was drawn to a man, sat opposite, reading a hard back book. The book appeared to have turned him to stone and provided a complete contrast to the chaos going on around him. I decided to
watch him for a while and discreetly take notes.

The observation provided four A5 pages of freewriting, and a series of drafts and re-drafts produced the following passage of prose.

 

It was his stillness that first attracted me, allied to the fact that he was reading a hard back book, not a laptop, or Ipad or Iphone.  A statue, immersed in the aromas of pastry and coffee and the sounds of clanking china and conversational din.

On the next table a young man shouts into his mobile, another man in a suit types frantically. Their table strewn with files and pieces of loose paper.