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Sunday, 30 September 2012

Novel Ideas #6 - Writing Triggers That Work For Me

I have a strange relationship with writing prompts. Long ago when I was leading our Creative Writing workshops at university, I enjoyed thinking up first lines that people would have to pick out and write something inspired by it. I was rarely pleased with anything I wrote in this way, but in the last fortnight I've written two competition pieces from prompts.

The first was from a first line given by the Elle Talent Competition 2012.

Let me tell you about my first love...

Ordinarily this is something I would balk at. It's pretty mundane, run of the mill stuff, and invites sentimental, saccharine, angsty prose. Maybe I was having an uncharacteristically un-cynical day, or perhaps it was the prospect of winning a place on the Faber 6 month novel writing course, but I decided to run with it, as a chance to think through the back story of two of the characters in my novel. 

Using prompts in this way can be a great way of exploring elements of a character that don't crop up in the actual story. It also makes the task of writing a competition entry a bit easier because you already have your characters in mind. 

The second was a visual prompt; a photograph of a Grand Piano, for another 'free to enter' writing competition. I feel very differently about visual prompts; I think they give more freedom. And this photo in particular, just worked for me. Almost immediately, I decided how I wanted to approach the story from an unconventional point of view, and it came out as a mini historical fairytale of sorts. 

This story was composed of entirely new material, and ended up being very different from the style in which I usually write. To me, this is a huge positive, as I still feel as though I'm trying to find my voice as a writer/novelist/poet/blogger, or whatever it is I am. Prompts that make me experiment can be really useful.

I've been having creative issues lately, to do with spare time, potential house move, and certain unnamed stresses, so perhaps that's why writing prompts are proving helpful to me at the moment. How do you feel about writing prompts? Do they work for you, or would you rather focus on your own creative work?


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