character

Rhyme in Dylan Thomas’s The Hunchback in the Park

The hunchback in the park
A solitary mister
Propped between trees and water
From the opening of the garden lock
That lets the trees and water enter
Until the Sunday sombre bell at dark
 
Eating bread from a newspaper
Drinking water from the chained cup
That the children filled with gravel
In the fountain basin where I sailed my ship
Slept at night in a dog kennel
But nobody chained him up.
 
Like the park birds he came early
Like the water he sat down
And Mister they called Hey mister
The truant boys from the town
Running when he had heard them clearly
On out of sound
 
Past lake and rockery
Laughing when he shook his paper
Hunchbacked in mockery
Through the loud zoo of the willow groves
Dodging the park keeper
With his stick that picked up leaves.
 
And the old dog sleeper
Alone between nurses and swans
While the boys among willows
Made the tigers jump out of their eyes
To roar on the rockery stones
And the groves were blue with sailors
 
Made all day until bell time
A woman figure without fault
Straight as a young elm
Straight and tall from his crooked bones
That she might stand in the night
After the locks and chains
 
All night in the unmade park
After the railings and shrubberies
The birds the grass the trees the lake
And the wild boys innocent as strawberries
Had followed the hunchback
To his kennel in the dark.

The Hunchback in the Park

Cwmdonkin-2014-4 orderly


Structure, form, whatever ..?


Seven six line stanzas. Straight up! Shows routine. Even in the midst of the disaster that is his world, the hunchback in the park still shows the human need to seek out order in the chaos. Dylan Thomas knew about this. He chose to write the poem this way to show that there will still be order, even in a life as adrift from the rest of humanity as the hunchback’s.

Mr Bruff talks for ages here about Simon Armitage’s Clown Punk and other poems, but then he does say some stuff about the structure of THITP* – His analysis of THITP starts at 07:56 and he reminds us how the poem is, on closer inspection, structured in a much less ordered way than other poems like, for example, The Ruined Maid, On a Portrait of a Deaf Man or Give.

He also reminds us that it is important to link structure to meaning when we are thinking about a poem. Thomas deliberately chose a random rhyme scheme within an apparently ordered structure of stanzas to highlight the routine of the hunchback’s life, but also the instability that he has to live with.

Cwmdonkin_Park trees


Character and Voice, yeh ..


Because, when we look closer, we can clearly see that the order in this character’s life does not go very deep. It is true that, at first glance, there is structure in his world and in the poem, but when we look a bit more carefully we find that the character is struggling to keep it together. At the same time, if we consider the structure of the poem again, we see that the poet is aware of this and angry, perhaps, at the way the park visitors treat this man and, maybe, at how society treats the vulnerable in its midst.

Minimal punctuation and enjambment give an impression of restlessness and almost constant movement, but movement that is driven by random needs. There is a rhyme scheme, but this is random too, and some of the words don’t even rhyme properly.

Thomas chooses his words deliberately to give us an idea of the way the hunchback lives, forever teetering on the edge; cold, hungry, alone, scared, in danger ..


Language – Who’s talking? How?


Third person, eh? Gives a perspective that almost ‘tells’ us how to feel. We should feel sympathy for the hunchback. He is shunned by all elements of society and we should be ashamed of the way he is treated. How did he get like this? What is his history? We can only imagine these things, but Thomas’s use of language and imagery make it clear that we should feel sorry for him.


What’s it about? – On the surface ..


Tea cosy pete COJS56787815

Well, duh .. a homeless guy, innit .. and how all visitors to the park turn their backs on him or even actively get rid of him, kind of assuming it’s somehow his own fault or even if it isn’t his fault, thinking that if they associate with him they’ll somehow become ‘infected’.

The hunchback shuffles around the park every day, trying not to be too conspicuous because he knows that everyone he comes across will want him gone. And even when it gets dark and the schoolchildren, the mothers, the nannies, the nurses, the sailors, the park keeper have all gone, he needs to keep his wits about him, in the dark at night. Who knows what might happen. He even imagines that a tall statue in the park might protect him against whatever dangers there might be ..


What’s it about? – Themes ..


Again, not hard to understand in the twenty-first century. Homelessness is rife; as individuals, we can be cruel and uncaring; as a society, we tend to look the other way. We often don’t take the time to understand and know people who are less fortunate than ourselves.

GCSE Bitesize sez ..

People, especially children, can be very cruel. There is not one example of the man going out of his way to be unkind or rude to anyone. He gets annoyed and angry when the children tease him – which is exactly what they want.

We should not judge people simply on what they look like. This man is and looks different. We get the sense that this is why he is alone in the park, not for anything he might have done. This is sad to think.

Morals. The final picture of the man – who is regarded as so worthless that we never know his name – retreating to his kennel in the dark is tragic, and provides a damning moral comment on society failing those who need care.’

GCSE Bitesize on THITP


It looks like this ..


The hunchback in the park
A solitary mister
Propped between trees and water
From the opening of the garden lock
That lets the trees and water enter
Until the Sunday sombre bell at dark.
 
Eating bread from a newspaper
Drinking water from the chained cup
That the children filled with gravel
In the fountain basin where I sailed my ship
Slept at night in a dog kennel
But nobody chained him up.
 
Like the park birds he came early
Like the water he sat down
And Mister they called Hey mister
The truant boys from the town
Running when he had heard them clearly
On out of sound
 
Past lake and rockery
Laughing when he shook his paper
Hunchbacked in mockery
Through the loud zoo of the willow groves
Dodging the park keeper
With his stick that picked up leaves.
 
And the old dog sleeper
Alone between nurses and swans
While the boys among willows
Made the tigers jump out of their eyes
To roar on the rockery stones
And the groves were blue with sailors
 
Made all day until bell time
A woman figure without fault
Straight as a young elm
Straight and tall from his crooked bones
That she might stand in the night
After the locks and chains
 
All night in the unmade park
After the railings and shrubberies
The birds the grass the trees the lake
And the wild boys innocent as strawberries
Had followed the hunchback
To his kennel in the dark.


It sounds like this ..


This is a reading of the poem by Dylan Thomas himself. He puts on one of those old-fashioned poetry reading voices that sometimes sound a bit irritating these days.

This is a more modern reading of the poem by Martin Sheen. The film was produced to celebrate the centenary of Dylan Thomas’s birth in 2014. It was directed by Bram Ttwheam.


The Poet


The Granger Collection - TopFoto

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) – Yup, he only lived to be 39. He was from South Wales but wrote in English. He left school at 16 to work in journalism and published his first book of poetry, 18 Poems, in 1934. He lived a wild, alcohol-fuelled life which continued as he became famous. He was a popular speaker because of his deep, rich Welsh voice and was famous for being a kind of stereotypical maverick poet.  He died on a trip to the USA in 1953 after a heavy drinking session.


What do you think?


Go here for a This IS The Safe House Flash Fiction Writing Session based on The Hunchback in the Park.


trees above duck

*The Hunchback in the Park

Maps through your Bones and Skin

(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)There are maps

This is a short poem by Christopher Poindexter.

It would be so easy to do an “All Curious Cats” analysis on this poem.

The poem seems to make the point that our past thoughts and experiences  act on our physical appearance and offer evidence, in the present, of our pasts.

Things in the past are connected to the present.

Task

Write a paragraph where someone talks about their past experiences and how they have made them the person they are today.

Stimulus

Take a look at the links behind these phrases.

Choose one of the people involved, or create a character based on one of these people. Write about how their experiences have changed them in some way.

Guide

The task here is to reflect on the experiences of the people involved and imagine how they have affected the character’s lives and perhaps still affect them in the present.

You could write in the first person, which means you will need to imagine how this person feels about his or her past experiences and describe them as if you, the writer, have been in their shoes.

Or, you could use the third person, in which case you will still need to use your imagination but you can also take on the role of omnipotent author and describe things that your character perhaps does not consciously know or feel.

Word count and process

watts quoteThe first thing to do is to look at the links and choose one. Read the information in detail and make notes about the things that have happened and the effects they have had on your character. Think about the physical, but also about the emotional changes that have happened. How has your character’s life been changed? Has his or her appearance changed? Has their work life  been affected? Have your character’s personal relationships been more difficult because of what has happened?

Take your notes and turn them into sentences. You could imagine that the person is talking to a friend and trying to explain what has happened and why they are the way they are today. Maybe your character is apologising for something that has happened as a result of their past experiences and the effect it has had on them.

Write as much as you can then take a break. Read what you have written and edit it. You might want to add bits of detail, delete things you have written, change the order of events. You might want to think again about the causes and effects you have described and rewrite all of it.

This is quite a complex exercise as you are writing explanations for things that have happened in the past. You should probably aim for at least 500 words if not more. A thousand…?

When you have written your piece and are happy with what you have included and the order in which you have written it, have a look again but this time for issues of accuracy. Check for spelling, punctuation and grammar. In particular, check that your piece makes sense in terms of the tenses you have used.

Make sure you are happy for people to read your writing!

What next?

italian-dog-logo2.jpegIf you feel like it, or if you want some ideas about how you can develop what you have written, you could share it by sending it to The Safe House at:

share@thisisthesafehouse.com

At This IS The Safe House we will give you feedback to support you in what you are creating.

Innocent As Strawberries

(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)

abbeypark bridge and cafeThis session is about imagining the world from another person’s point of view and describing their thoughts.

Activity

Imagine you had to hide somewhere in a park. It’s night time. You have nowhere else to go. Where would you hide?

What would your last thoughts be before finally falling asleep?

Stimulus

abbey park map

Click on the map to go to Google Maps.

As well as the map of the park, the stimulus for this session is Dylan Thomas’s poem, The Hunchback in the Park.

The poem is about a homeless man who uses the park on a daily basis to pass away his days and to sleep. He is a lonely man, rejected by everyone who uses the park because he is deformed and ugly. He is an outcast. The poem describes how the poet imagines his feelings of loneliness and rejection to be.

At the end of the poem, the hunchback settles down for the night. He is frightened and alone. There could be people in the park who are out to get him!

Have a look at this for more detail about the poem.

Guide

abbey park - young people meeting by the lakeThis is an exercise in getting into the mind of a particular character.

You should read the poem two or three times. Read it out loud. Get someone else to read it and you listen while you’re reading the words.

Try to work out all the different types of people the poet describes who come into the park.

Think about how the ‘Hunchback’ feels when he sees these people. What goes on inside his head as he tries to keep safe?

Think about what we know about the ‘Hunchback’ from what the poet tells us.

Think about what we don’t know about him.

How old is he?
How long has he been living in the park?
How did he end up there?
Has he got any friends, family, children?
What has happened to him?

bandstand through treesImagine what it must be like to have to keep out of sight from everyone for fear of what they might do to you.

How frightening that must be!

Imagine how difficult it would be to get to sleep, no matter how tired you were.

Write down the last thoughts of the ‘Hunchback’ as he finally drops off to sleep at night in the park.

Word count and process

This could, of course, be a single word!

But maybe you could extend your writing a bit further than that. A sentence? Twenty-five words? You could extend it into something longer. You could be quite dramatic and it could become more of an extended internal dramatic monologue. 250 words?

You, the writer, will decide.

Abbey Park Bricks and LightsIt will be first person, of course. At least, it probably will.

When you have something down, take time to read what you have written, change words, add words, delete and edit.

Take a break. Come back to it later and do the same thing. You might feel like extending the piece a little bit. Do it! Write more!

Don’t forget to check your writing for spelling, punctuation and grammar. Does your writing always make sense?

Make sure you are happy for people to read your writing!

What next?

italian-dog-logo2.jpegIf you feel like it, or if you want some ideas about how you can develop what you have written, you could share it by sending it to The Safe House at:

share@thisisthesafehouse.com

Here at The Safe House we will give you feedback to support you in what you are creating!

“I Live With The People I Create”

(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)

The session this week involves a worksheet!

the mortgaged heartWell, sort of, but it goes on to give you practise introducing a character in fiction writing. The session also invites you to write some non-fiction in the form of a  review of this aspect of Carson McCullers’ writing.

Below you will find the opening paragraph to four stories by Carson McCullers. In these paragraphs, she introduces the reader to central characters of her stories through brief description and efficient yet compelling suggestion. Her choice of words and focus of attention enable us to create  pictures of her characters in our minds from the very beginning of her stories.

Activity:

In this session’s opening activity, every seventh word has been removed from the texts.

Can you think of a word that would ‘fit’ in each space?

Take a look at these:

Text 1:

When Hans was only a block ­­­­­__________  the hotel a chill rain began __________  fall, draining the colour from the __________  that were just being turned on __________  Broadway. He fastened his pale eyes __________  the sign reading COLTON ARMS, tucked __________  sheet of music under his overcoat __________  hurried on. By the time he __________  inside the dingily marbled lobby his __________  was coming in sharp pants and __________  sheet of music was crumpled.

(From ‘Poldi’ by Carson McCullers)

Text 2:

Her peaked, young face stared for __________  time, unsatisfied, at the softer blue __________  the sky that fringed the horizon. __________  with a quiver of her open __________  she rested her head again on __________  pillow, tilted the panama hat over __________  eyes, and lay motionless in the __________  striped chair. Chequered shade patterns jerked __________  the blanket covering her thin body. __________  drones sounded from the spirea bushes __________ sprayed out their white blossoms nearby.

Constance dozed for a moment. She awoke __________  the smothering smell of hot straw – __________  Miss Whelan’s voice.

(From ‘Breath From The Sky’ by Carson McCullers)

Text 3:

Hugh looked for his mother at __________  corner, but she was not in __________  yard. Sometimes she would be out __________  with the border of spring flowers – __________  candytuft, the sweet William, the lobelias (__________  had taught him the names) – but __________  the green front lawn with the __________  of many-coloured flowers was empty __________  the frail sunshine of the mid-__________  afternoon. Hugh raced up the sidewalk, __________ John followed him. They finished the __________  steps with two bounds, and the __________  slammed after them.

(From ‘The Haunted Boy’ by Carson McCullers)

Text 4:

The young man at the table __________ the station lunch room knew neither __________  name nor the location of the __________ where he was, and he had __________  knowledge of the hour more exact __________ that it was some time between __________  and morning. He realised that he __________  already be in the south, but __________  there were many more hours journeying __________  he would reach home. For a __________  time he had sat at the __________  over a half finished bottle of __________, relaxed to a gangling position – with __________  things fallen loose apart and with __________  foot stepping on the other ankle. __________  hair needed cutting and hung down __________  ragged over his forehead and his __________  as he stared down at the __________  was absorbed, but mobile and quick __________  change with his shifting thoughts. The __________  was lean and suggestive of restlessness __________  a certain innocent, naked questioning. On __________  floor beside the boy were two __________  and a packing box, each tagged __________  with a card on which was __________ -written his name – Andrew Leander, and __________  address in one of the larger __________  in Georgia.

These texts have been turned into cloze tests.

A cloze test is intended to assess a person’s ability to read and understand text and choose words accurately. They can also help to develop vocabulary. As well as these uses, they can become an interesting, and maybe fun (?), activity for practising intensive reading and sentence structure analysis, both of which are useful skills for writing.  Cloze tests are also a good way to practise proof reading for meaning.

Stimulus:

The ‘stimulus’ for this session is the four introductory paragraphs by Carson McCullers.

Here they are:

Text 1:

When Hans was only a block from the hotel a chill rain began to fall, draining the colour from the lights that were just being turned on along Broadway. He fastened his pale eyes on the sign reading COLTON ARMS, tucked a sheet of music under his overcoat and hurried on. By the time he stepped inside the dingily marbled lobby his breath was coming in sharp pants and the sheet of music was crumpled.

(From ‘Poldi’ by Carson McCullers)

Text 2:

Her peaked, young face stared for a time, unsatisfied, at the softer blue of the sky that fringed the horizon. Then with a quiver of her open mouth she rested her head again on the pillow, tilted the panama hat over her eyes, and lay motionless in the canvas striped chair. Chequered shade patterns jerked over the blanket covering her thin body. Bee drones sounded from the spirea bushes that sprayed out their white blossoms nearby.

Constance dozed for a moment. She awoke to the smothering smell of hot straw – and Miss Whelan’s voice.

(From ‘Breath From The Sky’ by Carson McCullers)

Text 3:

Hugh looked for his mother at the corner, but she was not in the yard. Sometimes she would be out fooling with the border of spring flowers – the candytuft, the sweet William, the lobelias (she had taught him the names) – but today the green front lawn with the borders of many-coloured flowers was empty under the frail sunshine of the mid-April afternoon. Hugh raced up the sidewalk, and John followed him. They finished the front steps with two bounds, and the door slammed after them.

(From ‘The Haunted Boy’ by Carson McCullers)

Text 4:

The young man at the table of the station lunch room knew neither the name nor the location of the town where he was, and he had no knowledge of the hour more exact than that it was some time between midnight and morning. He realised that he must already be in the south, but that there were many more hours journeying before he would reach home. For a long time he had sat at the table over a half finished bottle of beer, relaxed to a gangling position – with his things fallen loose apart and with one foot stepping on the other ankle. His hair needed cutting and hung down softly ragged over his forehead and his expression as he stared down at the table was absorbed, but mobile and quick to change with his shifting thoughts. The face was lean and suggestive of restlessness and a certain innocent, naked questioning. On the floor beside the boy were two suitcases and a packing box, each tagged neatly with a card on which was type-written his name – Andrew Leander, and an address in one of the larger towns in Georgia.

(From ‘Untitled Piece’ by Carson McCullers)

Guide:

The cloze tests are exercises in thinking carefully about grammatical accuracy and how it affects sentence structure and meaning.

If a writer chooses a word that doesn’t ‘fit’ grammatically, the text will read badly and may not even make sense.

Unless you are doing it for effect, inaccurate grammar is frustrating for most readers!

Sometimes, it seems, there is only one word that is possible in the cloze tests. More often, though, there is more than one possibility, sometimes perhaps only two, but often there are quite a few different words that could go in each space.

What does it depend on? Why is it that sometimes there is only one possibility and yet other times there are many possibilities?

Word count and process

You can do the first activity on the computer by copying the edited texts onto a word processing document. That way, you could fill the spaces electronically. Instead, you could print the texts onto paper and use a pen or pencil to fill in the spaces.

Either way, the task is to complete the texts with one appropriate word in each space. Simple!

Here is the suggested procedure for the whole session from the beginning:

1. Copy the texts or print them.
2. Fill in the spaces with just one word in each space.
3. Check your answers with the original texts by Carson McCullers.
4. Think about the differences between your words and McCullers’ words.

You could make notes on some of these things:

  • Are some of the differences due to grammatical error?
  • Are some of the differences related to context or mood?
  • What are these differences?
  • Why have they come about?

5. Write a few sentences in response to the questions below:

  • Who are the people McCullers describes?
  • What words or phrases does McCullers use to help us picture these characters?
  • What do the characters look like? How do you know?
  • What aspects of the characters’ personalities does McCullers describe?
  • How do you feel about the characters?

6. Turn your responses into a paragraph.
7. Write a paragraph to introduce a character of your own.

rugged lion

Image by Isabel Ayre-Lynch

If you complete the process described, your paragraph for part 6 might be between 100 and 150 words. You could certainly write more, if you became interested in the analysis.

The shortest of McCullers’ paragraphs is 75 words long, the longest is 190. This seems to be a good range for the word count in part 7.

Completing this whole session might take you quite some time. If you take it on, you will need to take plenty of breaks. Maybe you could do it bit by bit over a period of time – A day? A week?

Have a look at this session for stuff related to routine:

Day By Day – A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House

Of course, you could just do bits of the session and that would be fine.

I Live With The People I CreateWhat next?

If you feel like it, or if you want some ideas about how you can develop what you have written, you could share it by sending it to The Safe House at:

share@thisisthesafehouse.com

Here at The Safe House we will give you feedback to support you in what you are creating!

2. A Walk In The Park

(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)

struggle to sketch the flow

OK, so this session is all about going inside your mind. The stimulus will be a few simple prompts which may, or may not, be linked. You then go inside your head and imagine the scenario. The aim is to try and get a rhythm going and to get words down. For this reason, you should try to be aware of time as much as you can.

Later, you could look at other Flash Fiction Writing Sessions for ways in which you could put your writing from these prompts together to work on a piece of narrative writing.

We are talking about descriptive writing here so you have to create lots of images of random things like size, physical appearance, colour, texture, smell (!).  Sometimes you might think about describing emotions as well.

If you’re going to write in the third person, you’ll have to use your imagination and think about how your character will perceive the surroundings.

Maybe you could refer to the Flash Fiction Writing Session, Elsie Ethel Court, and describe your surroundings from the point of view of the person you wrote about for this session. You  could also try and use the prompts to help you to imagine how Elsie would have perceived the scenario(s).

Activity

Write either notes or full sentences in response to 8 short prompts.

nb: You need to decide whether your character is you or somebody else before you start writing your responses to the prompts!

Stimulus

  1. You are in a park. Describe the park.
  2. You are standing on a path in the park. Describe the path.
  3. You walk along the path. You see animals. Describe the animals. Do they notice you?
  4. You continue along the path and you see, on the floor, a key. Describe the key. Do you pick the key up and take it with you or do you leave the key where it is?
  5. Either way, you continue walking along the path. You come across an obstacle. Something is in your way on the path. What is it? Describe the obstacle. Is it easy or difficult to get past?
  6. Somehow, maybe easily, maybe with great difficulty, you get around or under, or over or through the obstacle and you continue along the path. Somewhere in sight, there is water. Describe the water.
  7. You continue along the path and, in the distance, you see a building. Maybe a house, but not necessarily a house. It’s a building. Describe the building.
  8. You walk along the path to the building. You go inside and sit down. Describe the scene.

Guide

Like I said, this is about using your imagination, but it’s a good idea to try and harness your imagination just enough so that you can get it down. That means you need a decent place to sit where you can produce words.

Then, you need to have some kind of way of measuring time because there are a total of 8 prompts and you could easily get a bit disoriented, if you don’t have some kind of structure to the task you are about to engage in.

Think about adjectives, obviously, colours, of course, but also about the senses. Although you probably shouldn’t get too obsessed with what everything smells like! Unless … Well, you need to not get too bogged down. Keep your mind moving and get words down as quickly as you can.

Don’t worry too much about telling a story.

Other Flash Fiction Writing Sessions can help you make what you create here fit into a narrative. Now is the time for sights, sounds and all the rest. Straight out of your head and into written words.

Here are some things to bear in mind:

  • Keep to the time scale described below as much as you can so that things stay quite spontaneous.
  • If you save what you write, you can edit and change stuff easily.
  • If you want to go more slowly, you can adjust the times, of course.
  • You could even get someone you know who can get words down quickly to do the note taking for you and then you can write it up in your own time later. ; )

nb: Look for other Safe House Sessions for ways to proof read and edit your writing.

Word count and process

Don’t worry about word count, but for this session the process should take you about 20 minutes once you’re settled and ready to start.

Have 2 minutes thinking and writing time for each prompt. That makes 16 minutes in total. You could quite easily spend longer, I guess. Or less, I suppose. But this would be my recommendation.

If you give yourself 20 seconds to think before you write anything for each prompt,that would make another 1 minute and 40 seconds. If you keep going that is just under 20 minutes creating and writing time.

Spend another couple of minutes reading what you’ve written and making sure you will be able to understand it later.

Put the pen down. Sit back. Relax. Phew!

What next?

If you feel confident, you can take your notes and you can spend time to put them together into a narrative. Here you need to think about time and tense in order to construct your sentences so that they have proper meaning for your reader. Narratives are often constructed in the past tense. But:

‘Time is the Avenger. Never the Stranger.’

So concentrate when you’re at it and read your stuff loads while you’re writing it.

Look for other  Safe House Sessions for ways to work with time.

If you feel like it, or if you want some ideas about how you can develop what you have written, you could share it by sending it to The Safe House at:

share@thisisthesafehouse.com

Here at The Safe House we will give you feedback to support you in what you are creating!

 

 

A Bit of People Watching

download(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)

This  session involves going out and about. You could go by yourself or you could go with somebody else. You could go with more than one person, if you want to.

“Don’t forget your phone!”

Activity

Go to the nearest bus station, find a seat and look around. Pick a person and, using your imagination and your phone, send yourself a text describing this person.

Stimulus

3 people at the bus stationThe ‘stimulus’ is a real person. If you don’t want to write about a ‘random’ real person, you could ask another person to ‘pose’ for you. If you choose this option, get the person to sit or stand in a place where you can see them and imagine that you don’t know them at all. Of course, if you choose this option, you could both do the activity on each other!

Guide

This is an exercise in creating a character. Write the description and your answers to the questions in a text. It is a fiction piece so you need to make stuff up as well as describing what you see.

Focus on one person at the bus station and write this person’s:

  • Name
  • Approximate age
  • Gender, height, size, health, voice
  • Place of birh, education, beliefs, lifestyle, habits
  • Temperament, mood, attitudes

Then, think about these questions:

  • Where is this person going? Why?
  • Where has this person been? Why?
  • How does the person feel about the journey? Why do they feel this way?

Send this text to yourself. Go home.

Word count and process

The first draft in this session is a text message. You will be using ‘text speak’ and all sorts of abbreviations so a word count is difficult to estimate. Be as brief as you can.

  • Spend about 5 minutes observing the person and making things up in your head. You could imagine that this is a bus station in another part of the world and so the person’s destination could be absolutely anywhere.
  • Write your text and send it to yourself. This shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes, but it depends how fast you can text.
  • When you get home, sit at the computer and write your text out in full. This time you should try and use standard grammar, spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, etc. You could add more detail here, if you like and also change it into the past tense so you can fit it into a story later. This should take about 10 minutes. Try and keep your description under 50 words.
  • When you have done this, spend time proof-reading for any spelling, punctuation and grammar problems and check it makes sense. Make sure you would be happy for other people to read it.
  • If you spend 5 minutes doing that, you should have been creating and writing for about 25 minutes in total. Apart from the time it took you to get to the bus station and back, of course.
  • Leave it for about half an hour and then come back and edit it one more time.

What next?

If you feel like it, or if you want some ideas about how you can develop what you have written, you could share it by sending it to The Safe House at:

share@thisisthesafehouse.com

Here at The Safe House we will give you feedback to support you in what you are creating!

1. Elsie Ethel Court

(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)

bridge over river

This session is called ‘Elsie Ethel Court’.

If you read on, you’ll soon see why. It could be an exciting session if you have a person you think about a lot and if you’d like to create something in writing to express your thoughts about that person.

I suppose the first task is to find a person to write about.

Alive? Dead? Family member? Friend? Famous? Not famous? It doesn’t even have to be a person you like …

Activity

All you do is write a short piece about a person who is important to you.

Stimulus

photo booth

The ‘stimulus’ to this session is a photograph (see above) and a short piece of text. The text is under 250 words, it took about 10 minutes to write + 5 minutes proof reading / editing time. It was done using random thoughts and a sort of ‘stream of consciousness’ method.

Born in 1900

She was born in 1900. Amazing in itself. She’s dead now, of course, but I remember her every day. I called her ‘nana’. She came on a Friday with Old Jamaica chocolate and a comic. I went to her house often and did weeding and decorating. She lived in Leicester. She went to London only once, in 1927, for her honeymoon. She didn’t like it and never went back. She spent summer holidays on the east coast. 2 weeks a year. She worked in a factory opposite Abbey Park. She used to see Engelbert Humperdink come and pick his girlfriend up from work. She took me to the park often. It was there that we met Walter, the swan that was afraid of water. She knew the park keeper and we chatted with him.

Someone once said she thought the whole world was out to get her. And, I suppose, she had a sort of nervous outlook. We used to watch a bit of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd on the telly. There was a programme that showed clips that she liked. We used to watch it together. “He’s like a fart in a colander,” “You’ll never have any money as long as you’ve got a hole in your arse,” “Flazing dog!” These were the things I remember her saying. She was short, very old. She always seemed old to me. But I always remember her. She was kind, generous and wise.

Guide

abbey parkThis isn’t really fiction. Is it memoir? Is it biography?  I don’t know, but it is a piece about a person who is important to the author. It has two paragraphs. You could choose to follow this ‘model’ with fairly short sentences on random topics or you could write about a person who is important to you in a different genre. A poem, a story?

Use an image of the person to help you think of what to write. Think about:

  • Facts about the person’s life
  • Opinions about the person – your own or other people’s
  • The work, hobbies, interests the person has or had
  • How you are connected to the person
  • Things the person says or said
  • The person’s habits and personality traits.

Word count and process

  • Aim to take around 5 minutes thinking about the person then about 10 minutes writing a first draft. If you’re following the ‘random’ or ‘stream of consciousness’ method, you should just keep writing whatever comes into your head for the full 10 minutes, pausing as little as possible. Don’t worry, you can edit it later.
  • When that’s done, you should spend enough time proof-reading for possible spelling, punctuation and grammar problems and maybe a quick edit for meaning so that you are happy for other people to read it.
  • If you spend 5 minutes doing that, you should have been creating and writing for about 20 minutes in total.
  • Leave it for about half an hour and then come back for another go.

A minimum of 25 words and a maximum of 250 would be fine. Of course, this is a real person you’re writing about so you could probably pretty much go on for ever and ever, but:

“Be careful. Don’t forget to eat!”

What next?

moon 1

If you feel like it, or if you want some ideas about how you can develop what you have written, you could share it by sending it to The Safe House at:

share@thisisthesafehouse.com

Here at The Safe House we will give you feedback to support you in what you are creating!