Today I spent a couple of hours this afternoon with a group of people doing writing games. This was organised by through a Writers’ Meetup group and consisted of eight people, none of whom I’d met before as it was my first outing with this group.
After a brief period of chatting and socialising the leader of the group, Mat, called the afternoon to order. We engaged in three timed writing tasks, Mat gave us a stimulus for each section. I thought it was an excellent exercise although I must admit it was a bit strange to sit in a cafe in silence while everyone around the table scribbled in a notebook or tapped on a keyboard.
Given the two hour time limit each task was fairly short, I thought I would share with you the stuff I came up with for each task.
Task 1 Stimulus: must be set either in the past or in the future, use the following objects as inspiration, a tooth with a gold filling, dogs barking, a zebra in the city, a hunter. 35 minutes.
Task 1 Response: The ground is cold beneath me, the wind is chilly. The smell of my horse and the embers of the dying fire are potent in my nostrils. The dawn is about to break, I can hear the birds stirring in the branches above me.
In the distance a dog barks at some unseen menace, my horse shifts her feet nervously. She knows what we are set to do, she and I have been companions for a long time. Rubbing the ache in my left hip I get up and pack away my sleeping roll. The day is going to be long and challenging, as it always is, I should be on my way.
A dog barks as I try to sneak past it into the hen house, my belly complains loudly as I slip into the coop. I can feel the hunter close by but I have to stop to eat. He’s been chasing me for what feels like a lifetime, but it can’t be more than two seasons. I can hardly remember who I was before the hunter came.
The chickens are warm on my prying fingers, delicately extracting their prized produce. I wish, more than anything, that I could take back the thing I did, to turn back the clock and save my family, stop the hunter from being put on my trail but I can’t. I believed the lies of the man who came to my door that cold night, the man with the golden tooth.
In the dead of the night I wake with a sharp pang of pain in my jaw. The tooth that was taken by the wizard in exchange for my power, that damned deceitful golden mark. There is not a man alive who does not know me by that mark. I am the one who stopped the song, who ruined everything. I set things in motion that angered the King, destroyed the life of that poor trusting girl and sent that bulldog of a hunter on a path of misery.
I never thought that taking the songs of our people and asking an honest country girl to sing them could lead to this – the fracturing fabric of our world, the reordering of everything we hold dear. This was the wizard’s plan all along.
Task 2 Stimulus: This was a paragraph that Mat read out about a man washing blood from his hands and seeing a cut on his chin in the mirror. 20 minutes.
Task 2 Response: He stared into the glassy depths of the mirror prodding at the gash with his sopping fingers. Frigid droplet of water landed o his bare chest, his face twisting into a spasm of pain as he investigated the wound.
His lover lay on the bed, unconscious and bound, his bloodied body spread eagled on the stained sheets.
“We have to be more careful with our friends, my darling” he said to his reflection.
“One day they might get out of their ropes if we don’t concentrate on the knots. We wouldn’t want that would we?” His right hand reached out to stroke the cheek in the mirror tenderly.
Having washed the filth on his body, the results of his dark, debauched game, he returned to examine the slumped body in his bed.
“Well then, now we can see the corruption that hides inside you Peter.” The man stirred at the sounds of his name, but the beating, bloodloss and barbiturates kept him under.
“We wonder if he’s learned his lesson, that dirty filthy whore. Should we finish the job, my darling, or shall we wrap him up and send him back?”
The two voices inside him fought over what to do next. The demon on his left shoulder wanted to finish the boy off, but the angel on his right wanted to let him go.
“We’ll keep an eye on him, darling, make sure he doesn’t go back to skulking on the corner if we let him live. The Lord gave us this mission to save the fallen, not just to slaughter the sheep who stray.”
It seemed that the angel had won this round but at Peter now knew, or would if he ever woke up, the balance was delicate. A hair trigger waiting for someone to say the wrong thing and set it off.
Task 3 Stimulus: Tarzan flying through the trees after poachers. 7 mintues.
Task 3 Response: Gene: Cut, cut, cut! Honestly it’s like you fuckwits want me to have a heart attack! Tarzan needs to be ferocious, they’re trying to kill Cheetah, your motivation is that you want to save your friend.
Tom: Ok, ok Gene, calm yourself. I’m still trying to get Tarzan into my head. He’s such a foreign character, I mean he’s so wild, so different from me.
Gene: We all know that you got this part because of your rippling abs not because of your talent Tom, but just try not to be so shit, ok? Right. Action!
Gene: No, no, no! Where are the rifles? Fuck Penny! You’ve given the poachers uzes? We’re not in Vietnam!
Penny: Sorry Gene, I’ll… I’ll fix it, just… uh let me have a minute to get to the props truck
Gene: Time is money. This is your fault so it’s coming out of your pay. Right, poachers whatever your names are, we’re going to just do some more shots of running while Penny sorts out this uter cock-up.
It’s all very rough, but it’s a great thing to do every so often. Next time I go I’ll take my laptop, it was kind of hell to handwrite the whole thing. I will have to go to a few of the more sociable events where I can get to know the group a bit better, I didn’t have much time to chat with people.