All men dream…

This is a quote a friend of mine passed on to me. (Possibly paraphrasing) wise words by T E Lawrence:

All men dream but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.

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Writing exercise 9: More starting ploys [I remember]

[Another way of finding a voice is using the phrase I remember, then removing it when the piece is done]

[I remember…]

I put my glasses on the bedside table. I switched off the light. Then on because I thought I heard a dull thud. I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. Trying not to panic, I scrambled around for my glasses. They were right next to me when the room went dark, and now I couldn’t find them. There was to be no sleeping tonight…

Writing exercise 8: Finding a voice [Emma said that…]

[Here the prompt is to imagine a person telling a story by starting with ‘Emma said that…’. Then after the piece is finished, you remove the first three words to yield a story. This one turned a bit dark by accident!]

There was no escaping this life we’re living. It was a trap from beginning to end, and there was nothing any of us could do about it. She couldn’t take any more of it; she craved for the light. Where was the light? Did it exist for creatures like us, creatures that even Lucifer in his dank, dark Hell spat on?

Writing exercise 7: Familiar words in unexpected places

[The idea is that you don’t necessarily have to use fancy words to describe something; you can just use ordinary words, in unexpected ways. Not sure I achieved it here.]

Through the night, the wind slammed against the house like a weighty sumo wrestler, mercilessly, as if beating it into submission. In the morning, we emerged from the basement anew to find the structure crumbled and crumpled, like an invisible hand had decided to toss it in God’s wastepaper basket.

Writing exercise 6: More character stuff

[Task was to try to add location, a bit of backstory, and character thoughts. I’m not sure I did a good job here, but you only get better with practice, right?]

Long brown hair flying behind her like a vigilante’s cape, she glided past me on her grape green bike. My eyes were drawn to her immediately for two reasons: the red bowler hat innocently crowning her elegant head, and her invincible smile. It was – and probably still is – customary, when cycling, to wear a helmet to protect the skull in the case of any accidents. What kind of protection could a bowler hat offer? This offensive hat seemed magically out of place, particularly because it did not move at all in the morning breeze.

And then there was the issue of her smile. She looked right at me with that smile and her deep brown eyes, all a-twinkle with the joy brought by the endless possibilities of life itself. She gave me a wink… I’m sure of it! Like a snake mesmerised by a flute, I watched her until the checked black-and-grey of her blazer disappeared round the corner.

Did such a creature even have a name? Did she speak to mere mortals? Was there ever a face so div- BEEP!

The angry horn of the car behind me interrupted the reverie. I shivered slightly at the shocking return to reality – or had the wind turned cold? It was hard to tell astride the motorbike that vibrated rhythmically beneath me.

Spitting out a venomous swearword, I sped away from the traffic lights towards the dull drudgery that was ‘work’. Work, home, home, work. Was that really all I was living for?

Writing exercise 5: Focusing on detail – part 2

Long brown hair flying behind her like a cape, she glided past me on her grape green bike. My eyes were drawn to her immediately for two reasons: the red bowler hat innocently crowning her elegant head, and her invincible smile. It was – and probably still is – customary, when cycling, to wear a helmet to protect the skull in the case of any accidents. What kind of protection could a bowler hat offer? This offensive hat seemed magically out of place, particularly because it did not move at all in the morning breeze.

And then there was the issue of her smile. She looked right at me with that smile and her deep brown eyes, all a-twinkle with the joy brought by the endless possibilities of life itself. Like a snake mesmerised by a flute, I watched her until the checked black-and-grey of her blazer disappeared round the corner.

Did such a creature even have a name? Did she speak to mere mortals? Was there ever a face so div- BEEP!

The angry horn of the car behind me interrupted my reverie. Spitting out a venomous swearword, I returned to the dull dregs of my solitary existence.

Writing exercise 5: Focusing on detail – part 1

[This was meant to draw on the notes we made in our notebook as well as adding detail to the character sketch from the previous exercise. I ended up tweaking the character sketch mildly and writing something completely new. This is the former.]

There he stood, his back straight before the raging sea. The wind slapped violently at his white attire – white trousers, white shirt. White was a brave choice for going outdoors, especially near sand and dirt; it could just get dirty so easily. However, this particular individual had nothing to worry about; the stark white of his shirt was dotted with various brown and multi-coloured stains. Clearly there was no concern over keeping the white immaculate as the day it was made.

The bright fabric struck a harsh contrast with the olive darkness of his skin, although it successfully matched the streaks of grey-white in his receding hairline. From behind, it seemed he was of trim build, so nothing prepared the eye for the bulge that was his belly.

Beady brown eyes narrowed as he squinted against the brightness of the sun. They disappeared into the creases of his round face along with gleaming beads of sweat, their existence only remembered by the two grey eyebrows perched above them.

Smoke formed from the remains of a dying cigarette in his mouth, barely visible underneath a scruffy moustache. As he yawned, the cigarette butt drooped a little but stayed in place. It seemed permanently attached to his lower lip. Even as he spat out phlegm for the fish to feast on, it only twitched slightly, like a quivering compass needle.

He held a battered fishing rod in one podgy hand, while the other was attached to a shiny green beer can. Bringing it to his mouth, he gulped its contents down hungrily, crushed the empty can, burped, and tossed it indifferently by his feet. As he bent down to reach for another, his breathing became a heavy grunting, which gave way to a bout of coughing.

Still, mission accomplished: his hand closed around another beer. He plonked himself on the ground, deciding it was time to sit down. As his belly wobbled, he let out a weighty, existential sigh. Even his own body constantly reminded him he was a disappointment. Yet he’d given up caring.

Looking for writers for issue 1 of Freefall

Freefall is my once-forgotten webzine, which I finally found time to rediscover and redesign! As I now have an unforeseen amount of free time, I’m going to make a serious effort to keep it fresh. What I need from you peeps (whoever might be out there… ), is writing! Lots and lots of writing! And if you don’t fancy writing for it yourself, feel free to share with friends who might!

http://www.freefall-fiction.com/#!submissions/cfvg

Writing exercise 4: Ideal and non-ideal environments for writing

[The task was to imagine ideal and difficult conditions for writing spaces – I’ll let you guess which is which…]

He glanced over his shoulder for the third or fourth time in the past five minutes. His self-awareness began to verge on paranoia, he knew, but he couldn’t work like this! The deadline loomed and he’d written…how many words exactly? Oh… it was just the title. Sitting with his back to the room, facing the wall frustrated him beyond measure. Every few minutes someone would pass by to ask “how’s it coming?” or drop some entirely irrelevant piece of knowledge in his lap. Especially when he was in the middle of a thought! Argh. While his colleagues’ keyboards tiptapped away, he stared at the screen furiously. Eventually, he let out a sigh, stood up, grabbed his laptop and headed for the door. One day he would have his revenge…

The café buzzed with life. He smiled to himself, plugging his over-the-ear headphones into the laptop and finding some instrumental music. Slapping out a sentence, he leaned back in his chair, inhaling the scent of his freshly made coffee. He observed as people crowded into the shop or walked past the window, some of them giving him glances that said “what are you looking at?”. This was writing heaven; plenty of inspiration to draw from, and no one to recognise him (and hence distract him) aside from the café staff. What’s more, he’d been there so often recently, he had earned a free coffee! Could life get any better?

Writing exercise 3

[We were asked to edit the previous text to convey character – I’m not entirely satisfied with this, but I’m hoping to work on it more soon]

There he stood, his back straight before the raging sea. The wind slapped violently at his white attire – white trousers, white shirt. It struck a harsh contrast with the olive darkness of his skin, although it matched the streaks of grey-white in his receding hairline. From behind, it seemed he was of trim build, so nothing prepared the eye for the bulge that was his belly.

Beady brown eyes narrowed as he squinted against the brightness of the sun. They disappeared into the creases of his round face, their existence only remembered by the two grey eyebrows perched above them.

Smoke formed from the remains of a dying cigarette in his mouth, barely visible underneath a scruffy moustache. As he yawned, the cigarette butt drooped a little but stayed in place. It seemed permanently attached to his lower lip. Even as he spat out phlegm for the fish to feast on, it only twitched slightly, like a quivering compass needle.

He held a battered fishing rod in one podgy hand, while the other was attached to a shiny green beer can. Bringing it to his mouth, he gulped it down, crushed the empty can, burped, and tossed it carelessly by his feet. As he bent down to reach for another, his breathing became a heavy grunting, which gave way to a bout of coughing.

Still, mission accomplished: his hand closed around another beer. He plonked himself on the ground, deciding it was time to sit down. As his belly wobbled, he let out a sigh. Even his own body constantly reminded him he was a disappointment. Yet he’d given up caring.