|It's a writing exercise - take me seriously!|
Had a great time at Vannguard Writers yesterday. Our group tried out a writing exercise with props. I'm lucky Dad is mad as a hatter and has all the hats to prove it. I gathered a collection of some of his more unique hats, adding them to my trinkets and secret items. No way was my budding author of a father missing out on this, so he came along too.
We had army hats, french hats, cowboy hats, police hats, old lady hats, gangster hats, tram conductor hats, sporting hats and even a Viking helmet.
I also spread out on the table many little trinkets like trophies, medals, crosses, wands, glass, old keys, children's broken toys, event tickets, foreign money, obscure messages scrawled on notes, carefully recorded scientific formulas, photos and many more everyday and unusual items. Then the writing exercises began:
|My dad Smithy, his hat and his trinket... wait... how'd you get a gun in here?|
Build a mystery character
Members broke into pairs and chose a hat. They were asked to come up with a character that would wear that hat. Several times I had to remind the participants to stop plotting; this exercise was about character not plot. The groups were asked to choose one item/trinket off the table for their character. It's natural to want to jump ahead and try to come up with a story so you're read to write, which is why I decided to mix it up a bit.
It's now that I tell the writers their character is not going to be the protagonist of their story, but a dead body found by the main character. I ask them to explain the circumstances of the discovery of this body and to try and make the trinket item a clue.
My partners in crime, Robert and Dean, came up with a young man wearing a stylish fedora, but with broad shorts. He was a goofy character last seen alive at a beach party. Nobody there knew him. Our protagonist was walking his spaniel on the beach before work when he stumbles on the body. He finds in the boy's back pocket a key. Our spooked protagonists recognises the boy as one of the teens he was arguing with the night before because their music was too loud on the beach out the front of his home. To make things more difficult for our businessman, he rushes home, calls the police and of course the body is gone when they turn up. He's having a bad enough day, but it gets worse. His teenage daughter did not come home last night and when the police track down the identity of the missing corpse-boy, they inform him the young man is wanted as a suspect in a string of kidnapping murders involving teenage girls. Now our protagonist has a reason to act. He realises he forgot to mention the key and now he has a clue to track down the location of his daughter before it's too late.
We also had some interesting plots about a Chinese peddler killed in the gold rush and an ex-pat living on a Thai plantation killed by a Brazilian spy with his own binocular chord.
Donate a character
The next exercise had us each picking our own hat and a trinket. We had to come up with a profile and background for that character, finishing off with: His/her most treasure possession is... (the trinket item). I'm a little bit evil, so I mixed it up again and our homework this week is to choose someone else's character to write about. We ended up with a comical homeless woman who makes dolls out of plastic bags, Thor the Skullcrusher Viking, an arrogant French Legionnaire who ogles women, a very touching digger reminiscing about the war, a charming historian with a sense of humour and a phoney Confederate soldier.
|Thor's all smiles now, but wait till you see him swing that axe!|
It was a fantastic day, I don't think I've ever laughed so much. I have no idea which character I'll write about yet, but I know I'll have a clear picture of them when I do, all thanks to my brilliant friends from Vannguard Writers. Wednesdays with my group have become my favourite days.
|Our cast of writers (sadly a couple could not make it)|
Do you belong to a writer's group? Are you trying to create one? Just wish someone would invite you to one? I'd love to hear your experiences with writing groups, maybe we can help other writers unsure of where to begin.