On Thursday of this week I attended my monthly writers’ group in Adelaide. It’s one of two I regularly attend; the other is devoted to poetry only.
We usually gather for pizza at 6pm and then start into reading and critiquing each other’s work. The readings are based on a challenge set the month before. We limit the activity to 1000 words so that everyone gets a go at reading and having their work critiqued. A good attendance is about 6-8 people, but this week we had 12 eager participants, 7 of whom had risen to the challenge of writing a short story.
This was the fun part. The challenge we had appeared to be very hard, but we all found it very interesting. We were asked to take a poem written by a fellow student which was published in last year’s anthology. This poem had some interesting Nordic references and names, which made the task even more challenging.
The writing task was as follows:
- Take the first word of the poem and use that as the first word of the first sentence of the story.
- Take the second word of the poem and use that as the first word of the second sentence.
- Take the third word of the poem and use this as the first word of the third sentence.
- Follow this pattern until you get to the end of the story – or the poem – whichever comes first.
The variations were wonderful. Using the same words we came up with seven quite different stories. These included:
- A recount of a classroom teacher grappling with unusual student names in the class.
- A stream of consciousness account of someone justifying why she should murder her mother.
- An account of the arrival home of a Viking raiding party.
- An snippet from a Shakespearean like scene written almost completely in iambic rhythm (this was my effort).
Try it for yourself as a writing challenge. Take a poem – any poem – and try it. Last year we used a Robert Frost poem. Use one of your own poems. Whatever. You could be pleasantly surprised at the result.
Have fun with your writing.