Saturday, 30 April 2011

Creative Writing

Automatic writing.

For the past few weeks, I have attended a creative writing course on a Thursday evening. We started off by doing "automatic writing". We were given a phrase like "before I knew" or "now there was something to be done". Then write constantly, without changing anything. You have to by-pass your self-censorship and just write, plough on and not correct. Apparently this is a good writing exercise and with practice, the ratio of good to bad writing improves.

I find it interesting, that out comes a conversation I had with somebody a couple of years ago. I wrote about my general life experience, such as learning to drive, or moving house. After all you are not going to give away too much of yourself, to a new class, when you know you have to read it out.

I enjoyed contrasting writing when angry and writing relaxed. The short, punchy sentences, are contrasted with more poetic, descriptive sentences. Even with automatic writing, it is interesting how instinctual I was in this respect. Certainly when we were relaxed, we wrote less and took our time.

Writing based on a picture.

We have also done writing based on a visual stimulus. It is interesting what you are drawn to. I ended up picking a picture of an archway at the grounds of Attingham National Trust mansion and grounds. The amazing thing was, that a few weeks later, I actually found myself there! This was totally spontaneous and it was 4pm and my husband and I wanted to kill some time in a shop or cafe and saw a sign for the National Trust property. I instantly recognised the view as we drove through the arch.

Getting back to the actual creative writing. There were some autumn leaves on the ground and the tutor explained that if you are writing about change of seasons, that can also translate to a change of circumstances of a character, such as being between jobs. I wrote a third person descriptive as though I was stood at the arch way. Plus I described hearing a car pull up and was subsequently advised that this leads onto describing another character and who got out of the car. I was able to draft a bit of a story, in rough, describing how relaxed the character was, as she was on a rare day out, enjoying some time between jobs. Plus bumping into her nemesis from her old job, plus meeting American tourists. It is surprising how much of your past experience you can bring to your writing as I am sure most of us have met somebody you would rather have not. Or had the pleasure of chatting to somebody who is on holiday in your own country.

In class, I expected that the archway was by a car park, yet in real life, you drive through the arch as the arch is by a main road. You then have to drive quite far to get to the car park. It was interesting to see how similar, yet different the place was in reality.

Keeping a notebook.

We were advised to always carry a notebook. To write down something funny, or anything that you overhear. Plus you can write down descriptions, or collage ideas, be it people you see, or a place, so you can work things into a story.

I have found having time to kill, sitting outside Costa Coffee; or if I arrive early somewhere and sit in a car park, all good opportunities. It is surprising what I have noticed in a few minutes, something unusual tends to happen, or even something ordinary happens that I feel could be used.

Creating a character for a story

In many respects, I find it easier to describe what a character is like as a person, how he reacts to things etc, rather than what he looks like. Same with naming the person. After all, I wouldn't want to write a story about a roguish guy, who has the physical characteristics of somebody I know, or has the name of somebody I know. Nonetheless we were given a sheet of 40 questions. You would know the answers if the questions are about yourself, to do with what their handshake feels like, possessions, passions, health, making friends easily, siblings etc.

The thing that has surprised me: all too often a main character is a version of yourself! In many ways, you are drawing on past experience to write something. Then I had a crisis of conscience. I wondered if you have had to experienced something personally, in order to write a story centering around it. Or if a story is based in a place, do you need to have been there.

People were surprised by my concerns. We have all been stressed, so you can draw on how that felt, to write about a stressful situation, even if you have not been in that specific situation. There is always more to draw on than you think, especially in your imagination with regards to how you expect you would react in a situation.

In many ways you are potentially giving a lot of yourself away. Possibly the reader could wonder how much of it is autobiographical, even when you are writing about a fictional character. Yet you have the freedom to bring in bits of yourself, your past experiences, and it's all OK because it's in character!

Nonetheless, I am sure you need to do a good amount of research to write something properly. To fill in the gaps, make things plausible and realistic. Surely you should read up on a topic or meet somebody. Perhaps you could do that research as you go along, and it must be time consuming, but above all else interesting.

When we were told to write something and bring it in, I had no idea what to write. After all, we were not given a topic. Clearly the tutor doesn't want us all to be clones of each-other or her own writing style. Nonetheless a quick conversation at home, something that a friend of my husband had said to him, and something I saw on TV: I was off and my story had begun! In my story, I am very close to this character and inside his head, with his thoughts a lot of the time.

It is interesting to bring in your work for feedback with the class. There is a lot of emphasis on how a story makes you feel. That a story must make the reader feel something. Especially in terms of liking, or relating to the character, or disliking the character. You find yourself asking questions about what the character does, because you expect him/her to have done such and such. It is good to get ideas, especially with regards to how your character relates to other people. No doubt attending a creative writing class, gives you the permission and courage to write something. After all, unless told otherwise, they assume your writing is fictional.

Thursday, 7 April 2011


You will be aware of a craze that has swept through department stores and gift shops during the past year or two. I find it interesting that the poster was not widely used during the war, but has captured many people's imagination several decades later. A little history keep calm

I think it is a shame that the original designer is unknown. These days the slogan is everywhere, on mugs, t-shirts and magnets, plus all over the Internet. No doubt you will have spotted many funny or rude variations of the theme. The more obvious one telling you to "Now panic and freak out".


As you can imagine, I was in my element, when I found this website. As somebody who likes parodies or retro things, I have to say, I lost myself in this site for a couple of hours recently. You are only limited by your imagination, your hobbies and interests.

Here are examples of two of mine: The first one is rather topical, in the world of blogging.

One hobby I have is knitting. At times it needs a surprising amount of concentration and patience. I have had one or two disasters, such as an exploding knitting needle, or running out of wool. I have to say, my Mum is always on hand to rescue me if I hit a snag. I thought it was fitting to get this printed on a canvas bag as a birthday present for my Mum and at the same time, get one printed for myself.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Google celebratory images/doodle

I am sure we all take it for granted, that Google regularly post a doodle image instead of the usual logo. They are displayed to celebrate an anniversary of somebody famous, a scientist or an artist.

I have to say, I like these images. It's always a surprise when I see one, rather than the usual Google logo.

Yesterday's design really grabbed my attention. It was to celebrate the ice cream sundae!

The ice cream sundae was apparently created in 1892. Still I am not sure why a 119th anniversary was the chosen anniversary to mark, because it is hardly a round number.

It is the image that I love, this has to be one of my favourite doodles (apart from the pac-man doodle). You can almost imagine that you are sitting in a retro ice cream parlour! Is it just me, or does the doodle make you hungry for ice cream as well?

I love the retro quirkiness of this image. It is pictures like this, that wouldn't look out of place on one of those metal signs that you can buy in gift shops. (I don't mean an image to promote Google, but an image of an ice cream sundae, with a similar background). If a similar image was available to buy, I would like one, to display in the kitchen.

Perhaps not all doodles have to be technologically orientated. Why not honour the ice cream sundae! Perhaps it is important for the little things in life to be celebrated, so we don't take them for granted without ever wondering how long they have existed, or when or why they were invented. Why not celebrate a little decadence, something out of the ordinary. The invention of the dessert may not be life changing, with regards to technological progression, but we all have eaten it. We all like to indulge in a little treat now and then. Be it after a shopping trip, or a meal out with family. The ice cream sundae is of course part of everyday language, we all know what the dessert is when you see it printed on a menu.

I can think of so many occasions when I have enjoyed an ice cream sundae. You can kid yourself that if you only eat ice cream you are not eating anything too calorie-counting. To have something nice and refreshing on a hot day is always a bonus, especially if you have the chance to enjoy a sundae and not just an ice cream from an ice cream van. To have a surprise when you taste the difference ice cream flavours, or crunch your wafer, those little nuts, or indulge in the sauce that goes with it. What isn't to like about the ice cream sundae?

One way or another, I bet the doodle has reminded people about how much they like ice cream. No doubt it has made us all look forward to a nice summer day, when after all outside, it is rather grey and overcast.

I have often been surprised how difficult it is to find ice cream sundae dishes to buy for your house. I don't mean that they are rare as in a collectors item. But when we got married in 2002, they were not on our wedding list, because the department store didn't sell them. It was a few years ago, that I managed to buy some. I hope department stores are stocking up with ice cream sundae glasses, because Google may be responsible for a shortage. I bet you'll spot a few people eating a sundae over the forthcoming weeks and months.

It's interesting how an image can take you down memory lane. To times when you enjoyed eating something, to imagine looking ahead to the first ice cream sundae of the year. In the UK we have started to have some nice weather recently.

I wish we could take a claim to fame about the ice cream sundae in the UK, but sadly we cannot.

History of the sundae
I wonder what other Google logo variations we will see this year.