fiction

The Flash Fiction Writing Sessions

gecko

The Flash Fiction Writing Sessions are for anybody to read and / or do. They can be done independently online or in structured group sessions delivered by The Safe House.

The sessions encourage structure and creativity in writing through presenting a stimulus and a guide on how to approach each specific writing task. Participants are encouraged to use each session to produce a short piece of creative writing.

For more information on the Flash Fiction Writing Sessions at The Safe House go here.


italian dog logoIf you are interested in participating in these sessions, either as an attendee or facilitator, or both (!), or if you would like to discuss developing your own Flash Fiction Writing sessions with us, just fill in the form below and we will get back to you with details of how to be involved in this part of the work of The Safe House.

This IS The Safe House 

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The Cardboard Library

girl moon umbrella butterflies adana1The Cardboard Library sessions are creative writing development sessions.

Participants are led through a series of stimulating journeys, both real and virtual, which form the catalyst for poetry, flash fiction and short story writing. The products from these sessions are collated and presented by The Safe House as The Cardboard Library, a hand-made occasional ‘magazine’ showcasing new creative writing talent.

italian dog logoIf you are interested in participating in these sessions, either as an attendee or facilitator, or both (!), just fill in the form below and we will get back to you with details of how to be involved in this part of the work of The Safe House.

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.

3. Irreclaimable Vagabonds

(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)

Roger_Fry_-_Virginia_WoolfIt is words that are to blame.
They are the wildest, freest,
most irresponsible, most unteachable
of all things. They live in the mind,
variously and strangely.
They hate being useful;
They hate making money.
They hang together,
in sentences, in paragraphs,
sometimes for whole pages at a time.
When they are pinned down
they fold their wings and die.
Our unconsciousness is their privacy;
Our darkness is their light. (from – Virginia Woolf’s ‘On Craftsmanship)

Activity

Take a set of words and ‘hang’ them together in sentences, a paragraph or even a page.

Stimulus

dump        heart          kids              happiest      Chicago      bone       defence     sombrero    cloud    dead       taught      rebel      pleasuresbooks for words

Guide

If you look at the extract above, taken from Virginia Woolf’s 1937 lecture on the craft of writing, you will see that she has some interesting things to say about words.

In her lecture, Woolf uses a number of human qualities to point out the difficulties that arise when we try to make words do what we want.

In this session, you are invited to take words that have not been pinned down into sentences and bring them alive using your creativity and imagination. The session is about creating a piece of writing that has meaning for you, the writer, and which could have meaning for a reader too.

Word count and process

wordThere are thirteen words to begin with. You could use less or more, of course.

The words we have used come from the titles of thirteen books we have been reading or dipping into at The Safe House recently.

You could use these words, or you could look at your bookshelves and find your own.

Take the words in the order you find them, or jumble them about. When you have a set sequence, put them into sentences in the order you have chosen.

lowYour sentences do not necessarily have to have logical meaning, of course, but it would be good if you could use the words as accurately as possible with regard to grammar and sentence structure. That way the reader will probably be able to get to grips with your sentences and your paragraphs more easily.

Take a moment. Read what you have written. Have another go.

Try it a few times with a different idea or theme in your head. Maybe take a title of one of the books and use that as a theme to create your piece around.

Later, spend some time re-reading, re-writing, deleting, revising, re-reading, re-writing, deleting, revising again and again for as long as you can. That way you can be as sure as possible that you have produced a piece you are happy with.

Concentrate on grammatical accuracy, but don’t worry too much about the actual meaning of the piece you are writing.

Let the reader worry about that!

italian-dog-logo2.jpegWhat 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!

 

 

 

Soup Like Windows

(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)

nb There are no images for this session. You need to create your own with words …

This session is about describing a scene. The stimulus is a descriptive passage from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel, Love in the Time of Cholera. Marquez describes the room where the dead body of Dr. Juvenal Urbino’s friend, Jeremiah de Saint-Amour, has been discovered.

Activity

Look at or imagine a scene and describe it in detail.

Stimulus

The stimulus is this paragraph from Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez:

“He found the corpse covered with a blanket on the campaign cot where he had always slept, and beside it was a stool with the developing tray he had used to vaporize the poison. On the floor, tied to a leg of the cot, lay the body of a black Great Dane with a snow-white chest, and next to him were the crutches. At one window the splendour of dawn was just beginning to illuminate the stifling, crowded room that served as both bedroom and laboratory, but there was enough light for him to recognize at once the authority of death. The other windows, as well as every other chink of the room, were muffled with rags or sealed with black cardboard, which increased the oppressive heaviness. A counter was crammed with jars and bottles without labels and two crumbling pewter trays under an ordinary light bulb covered with red paper. The third tray, the one for the fixative solution, was next to the body. There were old magazines and newspapers everywhere, piles of negatives on glass plates, broken furniture, but everything was kept free of dust by a diligent hand.”

Guide

This is about using words to describe objects and their locations to create an image in the mind of the reader. Garcia Marquez describes the objects in the room where the body was found and is able to bring to our minds a strange, somehow exotic but gloomy room, disorganised and containing a mixture of very ordinary objects and unusual, specialist equipment that belonged to the person who used it. His language evokes an image in the reader and leaves an impression on us of who the dead man was.

Either choose a scene from memory, look at a photograph or describe what’s in front of you.

Write down the objects you can see, their shape, size, location. Choose adjectives to describe the objects and to convey the mood of the scene. Write these down too. You could build up a page of notes, listing objects, describing their locations and selecting adjectives to describe them.

Did you notice how Garcia Marquez tells us what time of day it is in the scene he creates for us? Decide what time of day it is in your scene and work out a way to use the objects to help you convey this to your readers.

Did you notice the first word of the passage by Garcia Marquez? It was the word ‘he’. So, the writer describes the scene from the point of view of a particular person. You could do the same. Think of a person or create a character and describe the scene from this person’s point of view.

Word count and process

The passage above is just under two hundred words long. You could aim for about the same with your own descriptive piece.

When you have created notes, and when you have decided on a character from whose perspective you are going to describe the scene, find a comfortable writing place and start fitting your notes into complete sentences.

Imagine your character looking at the scene and write about the sights as if his or her eyes are moving around, taking in everything that can be seen.

Take a moment. Read what you have written. Think of the words you have used. Are there other words you could use to say what you want? Change words, add words.

Take another moment. Do the same again. Then check your piece for spelling, punctuation and grammar. Does your description make sense?

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

The length of the thinking and note-taking process depends on the complexity of the scene you are describing, of course. The writing of the piece should maybe take not more than around 15 minutes. You might do it more quickly.

The more you write, the longer you should probably take with proofreading and editing. At The Safe House, we often think that the proofreading and editing stage of the writing process can take longer than the initial writing. However long it takes, it is a vital part of the writing process if you are going to let other people read what you have written!

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!

 

The First Time They Met

The First Time They Met

(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)

ceilingThis session is about imagining, creating and writing dialogue. That is, a spoken exchange between characters.

Young and talented Canadian creative writer, Christine Fichtner uses dialogue to great effect, in her piece, ‘The Attack’.

She uses tags sparingly and only for purposeful effect. Her use of dialogue exposes her characters and their relationship to the reader, creates tension and moves the story forward. And, to cap it all, she demonstrates precision control over the tricky task of properly punctuating speech.

There are plenty of resources that give advice on writing dialogue. Here are some of them:

writetodone.com

ywp.nanowrimo.org

fictionwriting.about.com

And here is the Wikipedia page on dialogue in writing.

en.wikipedia.org

Activity:

Simple and straightforward. Create and write a dialogue between two people.

Stimulus:

sombrero fallout

The stimulus is this brief extract from Sombrero Fallout by Richard Brautigan. (Click the image to enlarge)

Clock_tower

Guide:

Continue the dialogue between the two people. There is very little information here, so how you carry on is pretty open.

Take a look at the dialogue writing tips in the links above and then have a go.

Word count and process

About fifty words of dialogue? It’s up to you, really. It doesn’t need to be long. Dialogue is a part of fiction writing, not the main focus.

As always, you should take time to read what you have written, change words, add words, delete, edit and all that. But something you do need to do really carefully this time is to focus on punctuation.

Take a look at this link to help you with punctuating dialogue consistently and accurately.

theeditorsblog.net

dialogue

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!

 

Practitioners of the City

‘Practitioners of the City’

(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)

walkers are“Where does it start? Muscles tense. One leg a pillar, holding the body upright between the earth and sky. The other a pendulum, swinging from behind. Heel touches down. The whole weight of the body rolls forward onto the ball of the foot. The big toe pushes off, and the delicately balanced weight of the body shifts again. The legs reverse position. It starts with a step and then another step and then another that add up like taps on a drum to a rhythm, the rhythm of walking.” (Rebecca Solnit)

wanderlustActivity:

Think of somewhere you walk to often and write one single sentence about it.

Stimulus:

The stimulus for this session is the activity above along with the questions below.

Of course, you can ignore questions you don’t like and you can add questions of your own that you like better.

* Obviously, some of you may use wheelchairs to get about. At The Safe House, we are sure that, if you are one of these people, you can still take part in this session. Please, let us know if you have any comments about this.

However you get about, the next time you do, you could think about these questions:

Where do you go? Why do you go there? Who do you go with? How do you feel as you walk there? Why do you feel this way? How often do you go there? How long does the journey take? Does the journey involve other forms of transport as well? What are the sights you expect to see when you take this walk? Do you take the quickest route? Do you always take the same route? Do you take a detour from the quickest route? Why? Are there parts of the walk that you particularly like? Are there parts of the walk that you dislike? Do you walk quickly? Or slowly? Do you usually have an animal with you? Why?

You could use any of these questions to stimulate your writing.

You, the writer, will decide.

Guide:

This is about your world. Maybe, when you go on the walk you could remind yourself of the questions before you leave. Then, as you’re walking, you could make notes, either in your head, in a notebook, on your phone, whatever.

When you are ready and in a good location, choose just one of the questions and write a sentence in response to it. A single sentence.

It could begin:

‘I go there because …’

Or … ‘I go with my … and we …’

You might start like this:’ ‘I sometimes take the long way round so that …’

Or you could write: ‘I always see the … with its …’

Or … ‘I don’t like the bridge because …’

Or … ‘I always feel … because …’

You, the writer, will decide.

Word count and process

It’s just a sentence, so we’re probably not talking much more than 50 words. It could be really short.

When you have thought about your walk and noted answers to some of the questions, choose one and write a sentence as your answer.

Take a moment. Read what you have written. Think of the words you have used. Are there other words you could use to say what you want? Change words, add words.

Take another moment. Do the same again. Then check your sentence for spelling, punctuation and grammar. Does your sentence make sense?

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

The length of the thinking process depends on the length of your walk, of course. And other things. The writing of the sentence should maybe take not more than around 10 minutes. You might do it more quickly.

underpassWhen you have written a sentence, of course, you could pick another question and repeat the process. That way your writing might build up into a longer piece. You could transform your writing by changing it from first person to third person. Write about your own walk from the point of view of an ‘external’ narrator.

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!

4. With Expert Eyes

  1. (A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)

yui
The idea for this session came from Maria Popova’s Brainpickings review of a book by Alexandra Horowitz called ‘On Looking’.

Activity:

Take a walk (real or virtual), and record sights, sounds, smells, from a particular point of view.

Stimulus:

The stimulus for this session consists of two UK postcodes.

They are:

  • LE1 3PH
  • LE4 5AQ

Guide:

Use the internet, probably Google Maps, and find the route from the first postcode to the second. Google Maps will give you two routes. Choose the second route, which takes you down Church Gate.

It looks something like this:route

Follow the route. If you live in the region, you could follow the route in real life. If not, you can still take part in the session by clicking the yellow man on Google maps. By doing this, you will be able to take the walk ‘virtually’!

Imagine, as you walk (or ‘walk’), that you are one of these:

Your dog

Your brother

Your mother

Your dad

A three-year-old girl

An eighty-three year old man

A builder

A bus driver

An architect

A skateboarder

A cyclist

A homeless person

A historian

A geologist

An entomologist (?)

A person in love (!)

A person who is lost.

01 church gateWhile you are travelling along the route, make notes, either in your mind, in a notebook or with a memo app on your phone about what, as that person (or animal), you might focus on during your journey. What would this person’s (or animal’s) attention be drawn to? What would be her, his or its point of view.

When you have finished your journey, take your notes and turn them into a narrative of the journey from the point of view you have been adopting.

You could begin by stating the day, or the time, or both:

‘It was a Wednesday morning, about eleven o’clock when I left the Clock Tower. I …’

Or you could write in the third person:

‘It was a Wednesday morning, about eleven o’clock when Florrie left the Clock Tower. She …’

You, the writer, will decide how your journey starts and ends.

Word count and process

03 st margarets way underpassWe might be aiming for a 500 word piece of writing here. Of course, it could be shorter or longer. You, the writer, will decide.

After the journey, find somewhere comfortable where you can read or recall the notes you made and also write the piece.

Try and keep writing for about five minutes and then take a short break. Then write for another five minutes and take a short break. Keep on until you are at your destination, or too exhausted to go on!

04 abbey parkHave a longer rest. Have something to eat, something to drink. Writing, like a walk through the streets, will take it out of you. You need rest and refreshment before you go on.

When you are able, spend some time re-reading, re-writing, deleting, revising, re-reading, re-writing, deleting, revising again and again for as long as you can.

When you have done this and you are feeling ready, spend time proof-reading again for any spelling, punctuation and grammar problems and to check it makes sense. Make sure you would be happy for other people to read it. Save what you have written.

What next?

Brian at VictoriaIf 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!

Lizard in the Luggage

(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)

geckoThis session uses a true story that appeared in an English newspaper a few years ago.

The task is to turn it into a piece of flash fiction.

The newspaper story is quite amusing as it is, but I don’t think it’s really finished.

What do you think could have happened next?

Let your imagination chase you up the wall!

Activity:

Read the newspaper story and then write your own story mixing facts from the story with ideas that come out of your head.

Stimulus:

The stimulus is this short newspaper story:

Lizard in Luggage

Two newlyweds arrived home from their honeymoon in the Seychelles to find a gecko lizard had stowed away in their suitcase.

Tania and Tony Lugg only spotted the small reptile when their pet cat started chasing it up the wall of their home. Luckily, the lizard escaped and remained safe on the ceiling until Tania and Tony got the cat out of the way.

They have now adopted him as a pet and named the insect-eating gecko Denis – after the island in the Indian Ocean where they honeymooned. He seems to be recovering from his ordeal and is settling into his new life in the UK.

Administrator Tanis, 28, from Bournemouth, Dorset, said: “We didn’t unpack for a couple of days, so Denis must have been in our luggage for nearly four days.”

www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/lizard-in-luggage-563398

Guide:

The newspaper article is just the beginning. The story you write could go anywhere. It might be realistic or it might be fantasy. I suppose it could even turn into a horror story!

You could also change some of the details in the story to fit with your ideas. You, the writer, will decide.

Think about these questions:

  • What did the lizard look like?
  • How big was it?
  • How did it react to being transported from its home?
  • What was its reaction to the cat? Why?
  • What did the cat think of the lizard?
  • What are Tania and Tony like?
  • Are they happy? Why? Why not?
  • What effect has the lizard had on their lives?
  • What happened when Tania and Tony went back to work?
  • Does the story have a ‘happy’ ending?

When you have spent a bit of time thinking about these questions, you probably need to decide whose point of view the story is from. That means, who is telling the story. Is there a narrator? Is it one of the people? Is it the lizard? Is it the cat?

This decision will affect how your story is written. Is it in first person or third person, or rather, ‘I’ or ‘he’/’she’?

You probably also need to think about whether you are going to give the lizard (or the cat) human qualities and even voices. If you do this, you will be using a creative writing technique called personification. This can be an entertaining way of telling a story about animals because it can help your readers to engage with the characters in your story.

Word count and process

The newspaper article is 133 words long. You could use some, or even all, of these words. It’s really up to you, but I think you could at least try and double the word count. That would mean you are aiming for just under 300 words. Of course, your story could easily be longer than that. It’s up to you … and your imagination!

The process should probably go something like this:

  • Read the newspaper article and then spend some time thinking about the questions in the guide section of this session. Get a good idea at this stage about what is going to happen in your story. You should try and be clear about how it will end. You could make notes to help you with this.
  • Use your notes to write the story in full sentences and paragraphs.
  • 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.
  • Leave it for a while and then come back and edit it one more time. You might want to add or take out some details at this stage, but hopefully you won’t need to make any massive changes to your plot because your ideas and your notes at the beginning of the process were good.

What next?

cat on the luggage

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 Kid’s Story.

(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)

This session is based on:

A Kid’s Story?

A Kids’ Story?

Our Kid’s Story?

Ah, Kids’ Story.

Kids, the Story.

Ah! Kid’s Story.

Well, a Kid’s Story.

owl talonsYup yup…

Activity:

Think of a time when you were nine

You were scared. A bully, a beast?

A dream, a reality?

Stimulus

Me and Isaac, and Yvette and Fin and Becky, did a Flash Fiction Writing Session a while ago. It was about a boy who got scared in a hotel room in Paris.

This is Isaac’s story:

OWL STORY

I was nine, nearly ten, in a hotel room at night in America. I was scared. I was scared because of noises.  The next day I saw an owl sitting on the window sill. I said ‘Oh! Thank God’.

Guide:

This piece is written in the first person. It makes us wonder how much of it is autobiographical.

You could write a piece in the first person like this or you could write it in the third person. That way you could create writing that gives the point of view of another person. It could be a real person or a fictional person. As the writer, you get to decide.

owl faceBut, be sure to remember:

  • Get it done and then work on the detail.
  • Re-read, re-read, re-read.
  • Spelling, punctuation and grammar are crucial.

Word count and process

Isaac’s Owl Story is 39 words long. We think that’s spot on and reckon a 30 to 60 word target might be good.

Later, you could make it rhyme and turn it into poetry.

You could spend forever just working on a sentence or two. It could be interesting.

Look for other Sessions from The Safe House on ways to edit and proofread your writing.

What next?

Send it to us at:

share@thisisthesafehouse.com

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