Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

Image from Jamie Cat Callan's website

Well, maybe not. Sliced bread is pretty awesome. You can toast it, butter it, slather it with P,B and J. You can make a sandwich with it. The possibilities are endless. Endless, I tell you. You can cut a hole in the middle and bake an egg in it. (Why one would want to do that I don't know.) You can hide a pill in it and fool your dog. Ya get my drift.

So what does bread have to do with it. Nothing. My critique group, Scribes' Tribe, did an exercise tonight where we used The Writer's Toolbox by Jamie Cat Callan.

When our fearless leader announced "Creativity Night", I groaned. I hate spontaneous writing. My mood has to be just right. I have to be in my favorite writing chair with my writer's hat perched atop my head (literally). My iPod must be plugged into my ears, and I have to be free to roam about the room and ponder that on which I am writing. I NEED MY SPACE and copious amounts of tea and chocolate.

Everyone else in the group seemed to take to the idea like butter on bread (see I worked it in.) Rather than be the proverbial stick in the mud, I decided to play along. I even took my laptop. I hoped the center where we held critique had wifi just in case I was bored to tears. I could surf the net while the other suckers members toiled over their miserable excuses for stories. (I kid. I kid. I love you guys! Smooch, smooch.)

I won't give the whole premise of the toolbox away, but let me just say it gives you ideas for story starters, obstacles for your characters, unusual situations, surprise characters and on and on.

There is a timer involved and Popsicle sticks and short spurts of speed writing. We provided chocolate, cupcakes and cookies to feed the muse while we worked. (Jamie, you might want to think about that in future editions.) Our leaders hauled in real tools like hammers, levels, chisels, screwdrivers and blueprints to set the mood.

Each member drew a starting sentence stick and the exercise began. There were a few whimpers and a curse word or two, but everyone, and I do mean everyone started writing or typing (and no, the center did not have wifi). We wrote without pause for three minutes, then stopped and drew another stick (no, I'm not telling you what it was. Go check it out for yourself.) We wrote for another three minutes. It seemed like we had about eight writing triggers (I got so engrossed I lost count), each with a brief intermission while we stuffed our faces.

When we finished the exercise, we all had complete or almost complete stories, and we took turns reading them aloud. None of them will win awards, but most of us came away with something we could work on. (And the best part was Candace didn't hit anyone with the hammer. Personally, I think she brought it to use on me. She'll deny it, but I know how she thinks.)

I came away with my first ever flash fiction piece. It even drew a few laughs from the group. (Yes, it was supposed to be funny. Thank you very much.) It still needs a lot of work, but it's 700 more words than I had when I went tonight. And I certainly came away with a character I would have never dreamed up on my own.

If you're looking for something to add a little zing to your critique group or even your own writing, give it a try. It is definitely an activity I will try again.


Babbles said...

Sounds like fun, at least the stuffing the face part. I had to do that all by myself last night. Ha!

Anonymous said...

Heh Heh Heh. You do know how I think! Hey, glad you enjoyed it. And I'm so glad I didn't have to hit anyone with the hammer!


Writer Chick said...

You and me both. Though I'd thought about asking you to use those pliers a time or two. But I'm glad I waited for the dentist.