Ways into Writing
Malvern Civic Society is running its annual Schools Literary Competition again, and this time it's to write about a place in Malvern you'd like to visit. For full details follow this link. Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Scrawl Crawl – on your daily lockdown walk, take photographs of 5 places along your route. They can be quirky, attractive, unpleasant, close-up or distant – as long as they are in Malvern and are interesting to you. (NB If you don’t live in Malvern, you can do this exercise as a warm-up, and follow up with an internet ‘scrawl crawl’ on places in Malvern in Google images.) You can either do the next bit in situ or back at home. Spend time in one of the places or looking at one of the pictures. Now use the 5 senses to make lists of details: sight, smell, taste, touch, sound. Never be afraid to embellish – remember: ‘A good storyteller, like a good joke-teller, embellishes the truth to make it more real.’ (Eva Salzman) In other words, you can offer details that weren’t originally there.
2. Beginnings – pick another photograph and describe in as much detail as you can for 10 minutes. Don’t worry about whether you’re writing in poetry or prose. Write continuously. Elaborate beyond all reason, covering anything and everything: colour, texture, size, etc. Now and again, something might remind you of an association/memory – a simile? – but always return to the object itself. Which sections feel like poetry? Which parts feel like prose? Which lines are the most vivid, and why and how?
3. The Imagination Bag Game (adapted from George Szirtes) – Select a different photograph of a Malvern place. Write as follows:
1. 2 lines describing it
2. a question
3. a personal memory or association triggered by it
4. a potential title for the photograph
5. the first sentence of a story about/around it
6. the last sentence of same
7. a line of a potential poem about or around it, from anywhere in the poem. Say if it is from the beginning, middle or end.
Now write a poem using some or all of the above ideas, bearing in mind that you may have to edit them, or move them around. You don’t have to write the poem in your voice; perhaps you want to write in a different character’s voice – someone in the past, perhaps, or in the voice of someone in the picture?
4. Killer lines – Read through what you’ve produced so far. The first line doesn’t have to be the first line. ‘The back door may be the best way into the house.’ Which lines stand out to you as interesting or odd or surprising? Which have humour? Are any lines questions od direct address to the reader? All of these are good for first lines. A first line should grab attention and stop the reader in their tracks. Try these killer first lines and see if you can continue them: I wonder if the ground has anything to say. (Carol Ann Duffy) The fields are on fire. (Mine) What about the grass? (Mary Oliver)
5. The Editing Game – Now that you have chosen your possible first line, it’s time to edit even more. You have a word limit of 300. Try this for making those count as much as possible: Write for 5 minutes on one of your photograph prompts without stopping. Cross out 50% of everything you've written. Repeat!
Hopefully, these should give you plenty of ideas for getting started on your Malvern Civic Society Literary Competition entry - Good luck!
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