I recently attended a creative writing workshop held by Half Baked Beans in collaboration with Of heroes and villains on how to write a short story. The lecture lasted for about three hours with four writing exercises. Fun, creative and interactive, I had a great time with each one.
In the first exercise Deepali Junjappa, author of The twisted twenties and our instructor, gave us each a different photograph and asked us to write half a page scene without directly describing it. That way you had to tap your inner creative reserves and come up with a story, a scene or an incidence that is directly or subtly connected with the picture. Time constraint: twelve minutes that extended to fifteen.
This was the picture I got:
|Photo credits: Deepali Junjappa|
I loved that photo and it looks like it has been taken straight out of some movie. Other five Polaroid styled pictures were equally catchy. For this exercise, this is what I came up with:
‘I told you to leave early. Radio just announced a storm is on its way,’ my mother wails on the phone. I hug my bag closer to my chest and bury my freezing palms in my sweater.
‘I’ll be there in a minute,’ I tell her and disconnect to distant protests. The last thing I want to do right now is pacify a panicked woman. I need to get out of this place before both my migraine and the storm hits.
I walk down the narrow street smiling at a man lounging on a far bench. I find him sitting by that deserted bench every single day, amidst worn down buildings. It is our regular routine, smile at each other while I pass by every evening. Today I want to ask him what he is still doing outside and if he knows about the storm. But I don’t.
That is tentatively where I ended it. I had no clue where I was going with that narration and I was as lost as most others, but I managed to come up with something to start off with. Time was so little I spent the first minute panicked. The second in being convinced I’d never write a piece worthwhile. The third in calming myself down and studying the picture.
The expression of woman and a lonely man sitting at the back was what intrigued me. So I used them and to add a hint of tension, threw in a little storm thing.
All in all, I loved the idea of crafting a story around a simple photo and the fact that I didn’t chicken out. This exercise could have been much better had I been prepared. But maybe that was the whole point. Seeing how creative you can get when you’re least prepared and creating something quick with limited information and time.