Now that we've had a brief discussion of Point of View, let us return seriously to choice of material. "Write about what you know about." What writer has not been told that. And yet how limiting it seems! Let me put it another way. "Write what you are!"
choice of material
And you are more than you know.
Yes, the exercises which follow will seem to require that you respond with autobiographical material. Do not be mislead. Autobiography is a separate discipline. Our goal here is short fiction. If some of it happens to be true, so be it.
Your material, as I have said, is who you are and what you know. It is appropriate that every writer start with his or her own life. But we ask not that you merely remember things. We ask that you see them again, and sometimes in fresh new ways.
The warm-up prompts.
How to do them:
These prompts are to be done as written images--short clearly written passages, usually a paragraph or two in length. In the Storyarts Workshop these are not written at all but spoken as "tellings" shared with the group. Later they may be developed into something longer, or simply left as is.
Prompt one. A sound you heard as a child.
How to do it. A sound you heard often, not a sound you only heard once. Some of the sounds used in Storyarts Workshops include train whistles, radiators, creaky steps, cattle, traffic, and music. Write a short list of such remembered sounds and choose from it. Avoid speech and especially direct quotations. This will come later.
Prompt two. A place you remember from childhood.
How to do it. Be a little creative here. Don't just describe the family home, or your school. Choose a single room, or part of a room. Remember outdoor places. Write a list of a dozen or so places and chose one to use as your "image."
Prompt three. A person you remember from childhood.
How to do it. Again, be a little creative. Exclude parents and siblings.Use relatives, shopkeepers, visitors, the family doctor. Try to choose a person you saw more than once.
Write these in your journal. If you are really ambitious you might do more than one sound, more than one place, more than one person. But keep them short and clear. Write in the first person, past tense, use complete sentences.
Now take a break. Get away from your desk a moment, come back and write "A Scene From Childhood." This can be autobiographical or purely imaginative, or a combination of both. The focus should be on the child's point of view, but you should not write as if you were a child. Don't try to turn the scene into a "story" with an ending that "makes a point." Just complete the scene. Expect to write several pages and don't be in a hurry to finish. When you do, submit the results to storyarts