At our last meeting, we were due to have Giselle Leeb give a short story exercise but unfortunately she had to cancel due to illness. And what with the weather proving obstinately truculent (unexpected and unpassable snow drifts and a bitterly cold wind) we were a bit thin on the ground at Knights Court.

We discussed a few short stories we’d brought along, including “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway and “I Am Worldmaker“, a piece of flash fiction by D. Wallace Peach. Both are examples of being caught in a moment or character, focusing on the ‘journey’ of the story as a whole piece. There isn’t a twist or punchline at the end. Those stories (such as Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected) put much more emphasis on the ‘destination’. Of course, if the journey to the destination is rather dull then the reader will never make it to the end, so it’s important to make sure that, even when you’re clearly writing a ‘destination’ piece with a fabulous kick at the finale, you need to make sure the journey along the way is as interesting and engaging as possible. And if your journey is rich enough the destination will be an even bigger surprise!

We also had a little bash at writing to unusual prompts. It’s very easy to feel uninspired, to not see a way of challenging your usual processes of writing or thinking. But by bringing together some very random adjectives and nouns, and trying to imagine how they can work together as a concept, you can find yourself going places you never expected.

Here’s our list of random combinations. The first group may be relatively easy because they adapt easily into stories for children:

  • The Knobbly Goat
  • The Smug Duck
  • The Worst Rabbit
  • The Sour Sheep
  • The Disappearing Pig
  • The Awful Insect
  • The Local Tiger
  • The Happy Chicken
  • The Stupid Donkey

The second group is a little more interesting in some of the combinations, but still not too weird:

  • The Wonderful Fuel
  • The Uncomfortable Answer
  • The Cold Sandwich
  • The Sweet Present
  • The Soggy Sentence
  • The Orange Jogger
  • The Green Chief
  • The Invisible Iceberg
  • The Hot Cabbage
  • The Capable Sauce
  • The Foolish Explanation
  • The Enormous Door
  • The Beautiful Individual
  • The Independent Biologist

And for those who like a challenge the third group is completely off the wall:

  • The Favourite Lampshade
  • The Smelly Heart
  • The Purple Parent
  • The Ugly Keyboard
  • The Accidental Music
  • The Sticky Rain
  • The Gruesome Pencil
  • The Ultimate Plum
  • The Smooth Sugar
  • The Fried Foot
  • The Strict Banana
  • The Angry Arrow
  • The Northern Lemon
  • The Hairy Wallpaper
  • The Complex Carrot
  • The Sweaty Museum
  • The Tiny Castle
  • The Furry Employee
  • The Crying Enemy
  • The Nice Fool
  • The Blue Smell
  • The Naughty Printer
  • The Purple Trophy
  • The Corrupt Handkerchief
  • The Laughing Jelly

We gave ourselves 20 minutes to come up with a piece of instant flash fiction based on any of the above. Here’s my effort.

If you fancy having a go please feel free to add a link to your version in the comments!

Good luck!

πŸ™‚

 

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14 thoughts on “Short Story Exercises: 1) Journey or Destination? 2) Weird Prompts!

        1. It is! Very engaging and magical πŸ™‚
          If you ever fancy doing a bit more of the Worldmaker I’ll do another companion Worldshifter – I kind of want to find out more about him! πŸ˜‰

          Liked by 1 person

            1. Funny thing is that I never thought of myself as a pantser. I’d prefer to plan it all out, but then it would never get written! Plus, my two Greek sailors have kind of proved otherwise.
              I bet you can riff on a theme easier than you think. But if you came up with a plan I’d love to tackle the Worldshifter’s POV. πŸ™‚

              Liked by 1 person

  1. I was at a zine making workshop last week – lots of hands on cutting and pasting from old newspapers and magazines. One thing I rather enjoyed – discovered quite accidentally – was to cut out pairs of words from newspaper headlines from adjacent lines, changing the context entirely. I was doing it for japes – my favourite was “Boris ride” – but it’s good for random creative prompts, similar to what you’ve described here. Anything that gets the brainbox firing in new and unexpected directions is good for creativity!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That does sound like fun, a nice mix of mischievous creativity and primary school art class πŸ˜‰
      I was reminded of the power of random words when I read Giselle’s short story Grow your Gorilla which is kind of about an electric gorilla toy. Sort of. Which made me think of Douglas Adams’s Electric Monk from Dirk Gently. Crazy concepts. I then dug out some random phrases we’d used for our theatre group & whittled them down to odd adjective / noun combinations. I’d originally grabbed the words from the random word generator website, stuck them in Excel, each with a random number function attached & then I just kept pressing the Sort button to get weird combinations.
      πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And then running with them when they come out…my son came out with the phrase “lonely wizard” this morning. ..immediately made me think of some Ben Kenobi on Tattooine type of situation, but played for laughs…will have to write that one as soon as I get some time!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Love it! Makes you think of a Wizard not enjoying the hermit lifestyle and wanting to find a soulmate. A classified ad, perhaps? “Lonely Wizard WLTM magical creature who can put sparkle back into his wand. Must have GSOH & ability to draw pentagrams.”

          Liked by 1 person

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