Last Saturday, Swati conducted a session at Write Club. She was initially reluctant to do it, but like most classy people, once she agreed she put everything into it. She must have enjoyed the experience too, because she sent me a novel-length summary of what happened and whose pieces she liked most. (Love the enthusiasm, Swati. Thank you!) I’m putting the stuff here with her permission; feel free to download the material and use it as you see fit in your own writing.
We conducted this as a team-based plotting workshop, but you can easily do it on your own. The idea is simple: there are six sets of three clues each, and each set correspond to a story or a narrative that you must build. For instance, in the set labeled Team 1, the three clues are: ’54 years, male’, ‘armed forces’ and ‘flashback.’ Swati tells me that the story involved an army man talking about a time when he couldn’t shoot a boy because he had to pee.
Yours may be a little less weird (and funny) than that, but you get the picture.
Prompt 1: 54 years male, armed forces, flashback
Prompt 2: Single parent, school day, annoying boss
Prompt 3: Ex-convict, wife’s diary, truth
Prompt 4: Friends, 26/11 Mumbai, Scream
Prompt 5: Natasha, weekend trip, truth or dare
Prompt 6: Cinderella, ex-boyfriend, lie
Go on, knock yourselves out.
In this exercise, the hos t gave out five pictures taken out of her own personal library, and asked members to assume that each picture was the cover of a book. Alternatively, you could look at the picture and write down any piece – either prose or poetry – inspired by it. For example, one of the good pieces that came out last weekend was one that documented the thoughts of the Dalai Lama as he sat atop his perch and looked down at the human ‘fungus’. There was also a poem in Hindi based on a member’s old bicycle that made us all sit up and notice.
So the idea is not to worry too much about whether it’s any good or bad. It is to spend forty minutes or so (twenty for the first exercise, twenty for the second) in solitude, thinking about things that matter to you the most. It’s just like meditation; only instead of emptying your mind, you’re looking to focus it on one single thought or experience. Whether it’s good or bad is secondary, almost irrelevant.