I am a writer, one who is not too proud to say ‘Yes I’ve stared at a blank page’ now and again. We all have. The scary white space can stare back at you from your computer screen or roar at you from your notepad. You are not alone! All it takes to defeat the beast is to WRITE, I know, so easily said. I’m here to help. The writing process can be difficult at times, even if you don’t have a draft ongoing, keep your hand in with a few writing exercises. Glance down over these prompts and maybe one will grab you, nudge your elbow, encourage you to get a few words out, then one after the other they will cascade all over that white space. Well that’s the hope.
Here we go:
1. Change the year in which your action is happening
Now this one can be a simple shift from the 1990s to the 1960s. It could result in different clothes, a different attitude to sex, Elvis! Or how about a more drastic move from current times to historical, not a time travel machine, just move your whole plot to a different century. Jane Austen anyone? No? How about Robin Hood, you get the idea. You could shoot the other way and place your characters on another planet years into the future, it didn’t do Star Wars any harm.
2. Add a flashback
How did your heroine get that scar on her cheek? Why is your baddy scared of heights? How did the dysfunctional married couple meet all those years ago? This could be a minor word count to give a bit of depth and context to your character or a major part of the storyboard. It’s a great way to ‘show not tell’ your reader about something which may otherwise seem like a distraction.
3. Include a deadline to add drama
The train announcement says the train will leave in ten minutes, a man stands alone on the platform. If she isn’t married by age 25 she loses her inheritance. The bomb is going to explode in three hours. You know how it goes, you can have a five minute deadline last the whole length of a two hour film, it doesn’t always work. So make it believable.
4. A character misses an alarm call
Simple as…the alarm on the mobile phone doesn’t work. The hotel forgets to make the call. This simple trigger can bring about any number of results. Is it a good thing for your character, did they survive as the bomb goes off at work whilst they slept in? Maybe it ruined a relationship and they never saw each other again. Trawl your own memories of your own anxiety, or not, at being late for something. Capture that emotion on the page.
5. The obvious – a clock is ticking
In the dentist waiting room a ticking clock can seem like the loudest, slowest instrument of torture in the world. Capture that feeling of dread. You can use it as an indicator of great things to come, the countdown to the end of a symbolic victory on a sports field. If early on in the first chapter you mention the main character checks his brand new pocket watch on a chain, or his digital timer embedded in his arm it gives the reader a clue to the era in which your story is set. Steampunk novels use watches and clocks, alot.
I hope you can make use of these creative writing prompts to battle a blank space, or to move your story forwards. My examples are fairly obvious ones to illustrate the point, so try not to be so predictable and use time imaginatively. I’d love to hear how you incorporate your time related work into your story.
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