Beat the Block: 30 Writing Guidelines

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Sun May 27, 2007 9:01 am

Over the years I have used guidelines to help teach creative writing and also to stimulate my own work. (They don't always work - but they're worth a try if you're lacking inspiration.) I have found that they can be used for any genre of writing including: prose, poetry, scripts etc.

Originally I inherited a number of these from David Craig at Lancaster University, but then I started to make them up for myself.

One good way to approach this task is to let chance play a part - so why not close your eyes, scroll down, press your finger to the screen and see what you get. This gives the exercise an added sense of random inevitability.

I have no idea why the smiley things pop up in lists like this. Must be some kind of ghost in the machine.

Anyway, here they are: enjoy:

1) At last you meet them; they are not what you expected.

2) You are forced to chose between two seemingly impossible options.

3) Something from the past suddenly reappears. It affects your life dramatically.

4) You discover something startling about your mother.

5) You discover something startling about your father.

6) Imagine someone as different from yourself as possible. Then imagine that person in a crisis situation.

7) Extreme weather causes you to change your plans.

8) Write something about the sea.

9) Write something which involves fire.

10) Write something which involves soil.

11) You wake up in a strange place; you have no idea where you are.

12) You find yourself involved in a complicated legal issue.

13) It seems within your grasp - but it eludes you.

14) Imagine an event - then witness it through the eyes of a stranger.

15) You are accused of a crime you didn't commit.

16) Finally you get what you have been yearning for; it isn't what you expected.

17) Write something which features a river.

18) A smell evokes a powerful memory from the past.

19) A sound evokes a powerful memory from the past.

20) You receive a letter/email from someone you don't know. It throws your life into confusion.

21) Two people from very different backgrounds are forced to live together.

22) Write something which involves a fish.

23) You hear two people having a conversation. Soon you realise they are talking about you.

24) You are forced to do something you don't want to.

25) You attend an unusual wedding ceremony.

26) You take part in an outdoor ritual.

27) An old friend turns up unexpectedly; they have changed utterly.

28) Imagine a perfect place. Then imagine it spoiled. Then imagine the situation is retrieved.

29) Write something which involves an egg.

30) Concentrate on a object for at least 3 minutes; then descibe it fully.