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.


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


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.


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:


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

‘Smash yr face into my textbook’

(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)


Many of us are constantly embroiled in creating stuff for other people to judge us by. This is part of our contract with the world of measuring, judging and accrediting worthiness. We engage in it, even though it messes with our mind and eats at our soul. Is there another way?


Take a break from your studies.

Read Dominic Nolan’s poem (below) and create your own piece of writing to describe and define your own take on the pressures of the ‘hand-in’ deadline.


It’s not an essay deadline until somebody’s in tears

Smash yr face into my textbook – 4th edition.
a lot of extra material added.
i am hitting the bong and it is my homemade bong and i am 22,
now i am 23
let’s take these bread-knives and cut each other up.
you hold my legs down first and saw them both off
then i’ll take ur feet too, take my left arm and chop
and I’ll do you the same until we both all right
lock eyes and saw slowly off our dominant hands until
plop — plop —
we just stumps with a head, smash them up and scoop out
20 grand, put it thru your processor
double-spaced, font size 12, stapled,
on my desk by Monday​

(Dominic Nolan)


its not an essay deadlineDominic Nolan’s piece depicts a violence which might seem to the outsider to be the dead opposite of academic life.

However, the result of the research, the planning, the drafting and the writing of an academic piece that is to be assessed and then given a grade will affect the rest of your life.

It is tough, and the potential for violence in this context is evident in the distressing and insanely destructive exchange between student and tutor, assessed and assessor, described in the poem. With its text-speak spelling and belligerent refusal to entertain capital letters, the poem describes a possible result of the interaction and the mayhem and madness that the pressure to ‘achieve’ can cause.

Word count and process

Dominic Nolan’s poem is 121 words long. You could aim for something similar in length.

Think about your own deadlines. Are they achievable? How do they make you feel? How are you doing right now with regard to achieving them? How are you handling the pressure? Are you in contact with others who are under similar stress? Are they dealing with it as well as you are? What else could you be doing with your time? How will it feel when it’s all over?

Write notes on your feelings in response to these questions.

windowsMaybe just note single words, or brief notes on a scene that is part of how you feel. Describe the room you are in with a single word. Describe the objects in front of you in single words. Describe your emotions in the same way.

Take a moment. Read your notes. Think of the words you have used. Are there other words you could use to say what you want? Change words, add words. Jumble the words up into different orders. Experiment with the language you are using and the context you are describing.

Move away from the spelling, punctuation and grammar requirements of your academic studies and think about creating a piece using the type of language and spelling you would use with more spontaneous forms of communication. Be imaginative with your situation.

The length of the thinking and note-taking process will vary, of course, depending on how easily ideas come into your head. Aim to do this quickly, though.

Remember, you have more important stuff to do and a deadline to meet!

You should try and produce a first draft finished piece of around 120 words in about 15 minutes.

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

italian-dog-logo4.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:


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

Thanks to Dominic Nolan for allowing us to use his writing in this post … ; )


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).


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!


  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.


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:


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