Writing Prompt – Thursday 28th May

Today’s writing prompt is about settings. Many writers do a great job with action and dialogue but don’t add the ‘word pictures’ that show the reader where the action is set and draw them fully into the story. The setting in some novels is almost like another character – e.g Wuthering Heights, Rebecca and Jane Eyre.

Is your character able to look out of a window? If so, what can they see? Are they able to leave the room they are in without permission? Make sure the view changes as the seasons move through the year. Maybe they’re in a room without a window – e.g. a prison cell or they can’t get to look out of a window because they are ill in bed.

For today’s exercise, look at a story you’ve been working on. Pick one of the settings and sit for a few minutes and visualise it fully. Then write down everything you can think of to describe it. Use all the senses. For instance:

SIGHT – golden wheat, green grass, grey clouds, a round window with spokes like a wheel. A patch of sunlight on the wooden floor at midday.

SOUND – raised voices in another part of the house, the scratch of a mouse behind the skirting board, birdsong, hoof-beats, the slam of a door.

SMELL – lavender on the sheets, fresh bread, leather, beeswax polish, horse manure, wet dog.

TASTE – fresh strawberries, sour milk, burnt toast, melted chocolate.

TEXTURE – velvet, silk, wood, stone, metal, glass.

Check that you have used all the senses when you write. Don’t weigh the story down with too much detail – a few brush-strokes are enough.




Writing Prompt – Thursday 21st May

Think about the role that weather and time of day can play in a story in terms of adding atmosphere and tension.

Make a list of the types of weather that you could use in a story – e.g. a heavy snowfall making travel impossible, a flood that prevents someone from leaving a place or a beautiful spring day that lulls a character into a false sense of security.

Make sure that the weather changes during the course of your novel – and that the characters’ clothes do too!

Remember to add a happy scene just before a major reversal for the main character so that the dramatic tension is heightened.

Look at places in your story or novel where some sensory detail about weather and time of day could add texture and suspense. Keep a special notebook for words and phrases and brief descriptions. Magazine pictures and photos may also inspire you.



Writing Prompt – Thursday 14th May

Now is a good time to re-set your writing compass. Think about:

  • where you are with your writing
  • where you would like to be by this time next year
  • who or what is stopping you

Think about the place where you write. Bear in mind that:

  • it is both an external and an internal space
  • the internal space may change according to the story you are writing
  • find a sensory short-cut to get to the place where the story lives – this could be a colour, a piece of music, a texture, scent or taste

Make a list of ten things you can achieve by this time next week. These don’t have to be big things:

  • do two pages of research that will add depth to your story
  • create a 250 word outline for a longer story
  • buy a new notebook

Take a first step towards where you would like to be next year. Remember that if you write 250 words a day every day then you would have 91,250 words by this time next year – enough for at least one novel!

Evesham Festival of Words Poetry Competition – How to write a poem

The theme for the Evesham Festival of Words Poetry Competition is THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX.

You can enter three poems of up to 40 lines each for a fee of £5.

Prizes are: 1st £100, 2nd £50 and 3rd £25.

The poems can be in any style.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Jot down everything that the idea suggests to you – no matter how bizzare. Take a large sheet of paper and just scribble them down.
  2. Think about children’s stories and fairytales that involve boxes e.g. ‘The Box of Delights.’
  3. Think of every single box that has featured in your life – e.g. shoe boxes, cake boxes, jewellery boxes… What else might you find in them?
  4. You receive a box in the post. What is it?
  5. ‘Watching the goggle-box’ – i.e. watching the TV. What do you remember about old TVs?
  6. Are you into gothic or horror? What might this suggest?
  7. Does the present lockdown situation make you feel like you’re in a box? Where would you go if you could?
  8. Did you ever play truant from school?
  9. How do you feel about ‘fitting in’ to a particular place or role? What if you don’t?
  10. What about musical boxes?

Don’t worry about getting your idea exactly right to start with. Spill the ideas onto the page and then carve the poem from the raw material. (You can do this with glue and scissors if you like). Another idea might be to find an article on the internet about ‘Thinking Outside The Box’ and create a ‘found’ poem using some of the words in the article, jumbled into a different order. A poem created like this may bear no resemblance to the original article. However, if using this method, I usually acknowledge the source from which it came.

Good luck and have fun.

Send your entries to info@eveshamfestivalofwords.org by 12th June – one poem per page please.

For a full list of rules see www.eveshamfestivalofwords.org.



Writing Prompt – Thursday 30th April

This photo is the railway line towards Evesham (with Bredon Hill in the background). I’m standing on a bridge looking down on the track.

During this time of lockdown there are fewer trains. Also, if you go on-line to book tickets you are likely to be asked if your journey is necessary.

It made me think of escapes by train going back in history – for instance those who escaped from prisoner of war camps with false papers, Jewish people trying to reach safety and French Resistance spies travelling from one place to another.

I’ve also thought of journeys by rail – those I have done frequently and those I have dreamed of doing – like going to Venice on the Orient Express.

For this week’s prompt, try writing ‘TRAIN’ or ‘RAILWAY’ in the middle of a large sheet of paper. Then create a mind map or spider diagram and see how many ideas you can generate.

Have fun with it and see where the idea takes you!


Writing Prompt – Thursday 23rd April

If your writing space could be anything or anywhere today – what would it be? Allow yourself to dream. Are you in a log cabin in the mountains or a shack on the beach watching the sea?

If you’re finding motivation or inspiration difficult after four weeks of lock-down – then try one of the following:

  • Take a look at the work of Austin Kleon (www.austinkleon.com) and his Blackout Poetry. (For this you just need a page of newspaper text and a marker pen). Blank out all the words you don’t need and create a poem from your chosen words. (David Bowie used to begin writing song lyrics like this).
  • Take a poem or flash fiction story you wrote a while ago. Cut it up and glue the pieces down differently. Has it given you a new perspective?
  • Write the numbers 1 – 20 down the side of a piece of paper. Pick a word and write it at Number 1 – or 20 – whichever way you want to go. Don’t think too hard about this – keep scribbling the next word you think of – and the next – until you have 20 words. Then see if you’ve got a story thread that you can follow. Keep going.

Writing Prompt – Thursday 16th April

Imagine you are planting a seed in the ground. What does the seed look like – is it large or small? What colour is it?

Imagine this seed is your latest creative idea. What is it going to turn into?

Alternatively, what if it does something unexpected – what happens next? (Think ‘Day of the Triffids’).

Did you have a patch of garden to cultivate when you were a child? What did you grow?

Do you remember growing things at school – e.g. cress in an egg-shell so that it looks like green hair.

Put the word ‘seed’ in the middle of a large sheet of paper. Create a mind map. See how many ideas you can develop from it.





Writing Prompt – Thursday 9th April

For this week’s prompt, imagine you are in a cherry orchard surrounded by the scent of the blossom. The spring sunshine is warm on your skin. The sky is blue. You can hear birdsong and see butterflies and bees amongst the blossom. Close your eyes and imagine being in this place. Build a full sensory picture of it. When you open your eyes write down everything you can remember.

Create a poem or flash fiction story from the words you have written.

Then think about a character who lives in this orchard. (They can be whoever you like and from any time in history). Create a character study for them. What do they most want? Who or what is stopping them from achieving this? Create the first few paragraphs of a story.


Writing Prompt – Thursday 2nd April

This door is at the church in Stow on the Wold, Gloucestershire. It is said to have inspired Tolkien!

  1. Imagine one of your characters has reached this door. Who are they? Do they want to be there? What do they expect to find on the other side of it?
  2. Think of a doorway that led to somewhere that was important to you as a child. What was it like? Create a story of 250 words from the memory.
  3. Did you play with a doll’s house when you were a child? Who lived in it? Could you create a life-sized version of it?

Have fun with this exercise and see where it takes you.

Begin by free-writing – this means setting a time-limit and just keeping your pen moving for that time. Don’t think about it or censor what you write.

Read what you have written and extract the good bits.


Writing Prompt – 26th March 2020

A year ago I spent a few days in Bath, UK celebrating my birthday. Our B & B was an easy walk from the city centre along beside the canal. As I’m unable to go anywhere this year, I’ve been having great fun reliving some of the memories and creating stories and poems from them.

Here are this week’s ideas:

  1. Create a story inspired by this photograph.
  2. Create a spider diagram/mind map with ‘WATER’ as the central word. How many ideas can you develop from it?
  3. Think about your own memories of being on a boat – e.g. rowing boat, ferry, cruise ship. What happened? How many different ways could you write about this experience – e.g. letter to a magazine, poem, article, short story or scene from a novel or play.

Have fun – keep writing. Keep in touch and let me know how you’re getting on.