Storytelling tarot spread 

I’ve seen writing inspiration tarot spreads on pinterest and thought they were interesting. Then a while back a friend asked if I’d do one for her.

I had a look and couldn’t settle on a particular spread, they all had strengths and weaknesses and in the end I pulled together the strengths and my knowledge of writing to make my own.

Half focuses on characters, their motivations and their relationship. The other half is based on the story arc idea with a card for each key point in the plot.

The reading I did for my friend was really interesting with some great stuff for writing I think. I hope so anyway!  I was inspired to do my own reading which turned out to be very different even though there were a couple of the same cards.

hj 220716 edited

Normally when I read for myself, I just note ideas down but when I did this reading for my friend, I used full sentences and wrote all my thoughts which turned out to be quite helpful. So I repeated this for myself (PDF).

Following this, an essential step is to actually sit down and write… I did a writers block spread for my friend as well. For me, I’m going to try and create a writing plan or routine which sees me do a little each week. I’d love to say each day but I know that my unpredictable pain and energy levels will mean I don’t achieve that. And once I’ve missed one day, it becomes very easy to miss another and so on… I’m thinking it might be worth adding to my Friday check in /week ahead planning.

If i don’t get far with a plan, then I’ll do the writers block spread for myself but I think I probably know my own blocks; lack of self discipline, lack of energy at times, wanting to get something spot on first time but mostly just not sitting down to write. I have all the excuses… Pain, brain fog, using the computer can worsen my pain, using voice recognition software is frustrating… But I have the time, I have vague ideas and the inspiration from the above spread, I just need to actually turn on my laptop and start drafting and jotting down ideas…

Wish me luck!!

Historic Objects of Conflict and Desire

Today I went on a one day course with the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the Yorkshire Museum.  It was a writing course but the title was Historic Objects of Conflict and Desire.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect at all but it was a really good day.

We were given a short tour of the museum which focused on particular objects and a bit about the history of them as well as the people associated with them.  For example, we looked at a tombstone which was commissioned by an ex soldier in memory of his wife and two children, a betrothal pendent made from Whitby jet, the York Helmet etc.

One of the exhibits we looked at was made up from things found in the Roman baths that were used by the legions (townspeople used a different set of baths).  There was pieces of jewellery, a jet ring, grooming instruments, buttons and beads.  There were also gemstones which fell out of rings because the steam, and contrasting high and low temperatures, caused the glue to fail.

Once we’d looked at the artifacts and handled some of them we started to write.  After a quick warm up we were asked to choose one of the objects that we’d seen that morning.  I went for the gem that had come loose from a ring in the baths.  The tutor then guided us through some questions to develop a piece of writing from the perspective of the object.  I found the questions really helpful and will try and use them again as a prompt:

  1. What are you?
  2. What are you feeling?
  3. Where would you rather be?
  4. What relationships do you have?
  5. What do you dream of doing?
  6. What worries you?
  7. What would you like others to think of you?
  8. What is the best thing you’ve ever done?
  9. What is the worst thing you’ve ever done?
  10. What makes you feel guilty?
  11. What is your favourite time of night or day?
  12. What is the point of your life?
  13. How would you like to be remembered?

A gemstone in the sewer

I am a beautiful gemstone.  I am feeling lost, cool, dirty.  I would rather be surrounded by silver, not filthy sewage.  I am surrounded by others, also parted from their owner.  We are all discarded.  I dream of sparkling in daylight, shining in the sun.  I worry that I shall be stuck here forever, never be found, never reunited with my soldier.  I hope he misses me. I want others to see me, admire my smooth edges, the hues within me.  The best thing I ever did was bring luck to my master in the fight of his life.  I saw him glance at me, fiddle with me and his face grew braver.  The worst thing I ever did was relax.  I didn’t hold on tight enough and now I’m being punished.  I feel guilty, without me, how will he survive the next battle.  Without me, he has no luck.  My favourite time of day was the golden hour before dusk.  I would shimmer and glow and I know that makes my master proud.  He flashed me around, showing off his status.  The point of my life is beauty and luck.  I hope he remembers he.  I hope he remembers me with regret, with grief.

We then carried on to other exercises which started to bring in conflict.  It turns out I avoid conflict in my writing as much as I avoid it in my life…!

 

Imagination Road

A leafy green lane bends and twists along the coastline. Sun weaves through branches to dapple the ground. Then gently the woodland fades and you can see into the fields and out to the evermoving sea. Round a corner a cottage appears, small and crooked, flowers intertwined with windows.  The building is older than time and has stories to tell if you stop and ask. Take a seat on the bench, half in the shadow of the drooping willow, half in the heat of the day. Take your pick, curl your feet under you and listen to the tales.  Once your mind is sated, unfurl from your resting spot and revisit the road. Let it guide you past the wonderous, past the awe inspiring and let it linger over the everyday.

What does Imagination Road look like to you?

#FLFiction14

I’m pleased with how well I’m engaging with my online writing course at the moment.  I’m hoping that I’ll get through quite a bit this week as I’m off work.

There’s a focus on character at the moment – we started by watching a video clip and noting down a few details about the people in it.  This formed the start of our character sketch.  After looking at some examples of character development we were asked to expand a little on it.

Character Sketch (first draft)

She sits, leaning forward on the metal bench.  Her fingers are anxiously rubbing at the purple silky sleeping bag cover on her knee.  She is clearly waiting for something, or someone.  She looks nervously left and right down the street, peering past the people who are cluttering up her view.  She sits alone on the bench but she is squashed into the corner, as if she feels she shouldn’t be sitting there.  As if she isn’t really allowed.

She sighs deeply, as if resigned to the disappointment that clouds over her blue eyes.  She reaches into the large shapeless canvas bag which has been sitting at her feet and pulls out a notebook.  Adjusting herself, she rests against the back of the bench, shakes off her shoes and tucks her feet underneath her.  Fingers flick through pages until they reach on which is pure, unspoiled and ripe for words…

Friday 19th June, at the park entrance

I really thought he’d show.  I know that’s foolish.  He’s disappointed so many times before but I believed him yet again.  If I head back now I’ll have to face the music, hear them say they told me so, laugh at my stupidity.  I don’t think I can bare it.  I don’t think I can return.

Her eyes drift away from the paper.  She casts a final wistful glance around then she slips her feet back into the ruby slippers, flings the bag on her back and the sleeping bag under her arm.  The path guides her towards the river, slowly winding aimlessly through oak trees.

She puts down her belongings and swings her legs over the riverbank.  Taking off the ruby slippers, a tear slowly rolls down her pale cheek.

Suddenly she comes to life.  Her ruby slippers are violently flung into the water and she is screaming, “Screw your over-the-rainbow shit.  I’ve fucking had it.”

#FLFiction14

Continuing with the online writing course, we are looking at where we write:

Worst place to write

It’s really busy and cramped, noise clatters around me.  The hostile metal of the station bench pushes against my bones, acting as a wick for the cold that surrounds.  Feet rush past; high heels click clacking as they rush for the train.  There is too much going on.  The thoughts in my mind are fighting against the pain in my joints.  Voices invade my space along with the bodies they belong to.  Pushing and jostling.  I move away from the torturous seat and go in search of coffee.

Best place to write

There’s some gentle background music.  Acoustic probably.  I’m cocooned in a blanket, cosy and warm as I sidle up to the radiator.  The chair hugs me, supportively.  I reach out for the pot of tea as I run words over my tongue.  Testing them.  Choosing them.  Rejecting them.  My laptop sits on the table next to paper and pen.  I flick between the two mediums although everything will end up electronic in the end.

Writing prompts

I came across some writing prompts today aimed at children.  Here’s a couple of things I wrote as a response:

The first time I rode a bike, I…

I have no recollection of the first time I rode a bike.  I suspect it wasn’t a particularly significant day in my life.  I do remember a day, probably around my birthday as it was gray outside, I was on the farmyard and my dad was behind me.  I was on a red bike.  I don’t really remember much else about it.

I do know that having a bike was my escape.  In the evening, at the weekends, during school holidays I would cycle across the fields, up and down the yard.  When I was older I would go out on the lane, cycling up and down.  It didn’t really seem to matter where I was going, the destination wasn’t important.  What was important was that I was away from the house.  When I was old enough to cross the main road I would spend hours at my friends house.  We were geographically convenient to each other.  That’s not to say we weren’t good friends, we were, but I suspect we wouldn’t have been as close or spent as much time together if we weren’t the only people our age within cycling distance of each other.

I had forgotten how important a bike was to me when I was growing up.  I’d forgotten the carefree feeling of doing wheelies and staying out as long as I could.  I’d forgotten that having a bike was a reason to go out.  “I’m off to ride my bike” was better than “I’m going to hang around somewhere else”.  Essentially it provided a means of purposeful escape.

 10 things I want to buy

  1. A trip to Asia, I’m thinking Cambodia for my next big holiday.  I would go ahead and book it but I’m not really sure I’m actual fit for it.
  2. Trip to New Zealand and a ticket for a friend, ideally hire a campervan and just go from place to place.
  3. Health.  If you could buy health I would do it and would buy some for friends who are struggling.
  4. Warmth.  I guess this is really heating and I always feel guilty about the amount of energy I use on heating.
  5. Books. Because I always always want to buy books.  Books make me happy.  They are filled with possibilities and that excites me.
  6. Music.  There’s a few CDs on my wish list and I’m finding silence difficult at the moment
  7. New camera kit – a macro lens, film to play with, a creative photography course (as opposed to learning the technical side)
  8. A tattoo by Rebecca Louise Vincent
  9. Wool.  Knitting is helping my mental health.  It’s also helping me learn the importance of pacing so that’s a win too!
  10. Dairy free ice cream. I was never really fussed about dairy free ice cream but the last six months or so have seen me constantly wanting more.

Interestingly I didn’t think I wanted to buy anything when I started the list. That’s consumerism for you.

Origami

One of our assignments this week was to find a small ad and write about the seller.

***

The pain in her legs was excruciating.  She didn’t know how to describe it to people.  A sharp, dull ache which penetrated every moment of her day and more of her night than she’d like.  Jemma had been living, living, that was a joke, like this for years.  Slowly the pain had got worse until she struggled to make it out of bed.  It was a long time since she’d walked further than the few metres within her studio flat.  Her painkillers wearing off were like an alarm clock to her.  Every day at 8.30 she woke up.  By 9.30, she’d managed to have breakfast and shuffled over to the recliner chair.  She resented the chair.  She loved the comfort it provided and how much easier it made her live but she was 22.

Once in the chair, she began her mundane routine.  Every day was the same.  She would intersperse awful day time tv with her latest book.  She used to love reading but now she couldn’t afford to buy books so all she had on offer was the tattered selection the home library service dumped with her every fortnight.  Today’s unappealing novel was a diatribe about World War One.  Although it was better than the time she’d been given a travel guide to read.  That was torment.  She couldn’t get out of her flat, why would they want to torture her with the idea of a holiday?

Once a week, Jemma’s friend would drop round a stash of newspapers and magazines which she rescued from the recycling at the surgery where she worked.  Jemma was careful to pace herself; she had to make them last seven days.  Normally a collection of free local papers and gossip magazines, occasionally there would be something out of the ordinary.  Jemma now knew more about trout fishing that she’d ever wanted to and could tell you all about cat care!  Today’s magazine was quaintly covered in flowers and embroidery.  Not Jemma’s thing at all.  But she couldn’t afford to be picky.

She flicked through the pages, her mind spaced out on medication, until an article caught her eye.  She would read the entire magazine, letters pages and everything, but she preferred to at least try and start with something good.  This time it was a photo that caught her eye.  It was of a small bird made out of the most beautiful paper.  Somewhere deep inside Jemma there was a spark of interest and excitement.  The article was about the history of paper folding and instructions on how to make the bird yourself.  Reaching around the chair, Jemma found a piece of newspaper and began folding.  Moments later, she sat smiling at her creation.  It was the first positive thing she had done in months and she felt a fizz of pleasure.  Inspecting her work more closely, she found she’d used the small ads pages and there, on the wing, was an advert:

Origami over 40 Origami books plus Origami papers, £25

Why are titles so difficult?!

I’ve always struggled with them…  Anyway, today was the day to submit my flash fiction piece.  I really struggled keeping it less than 1000 words and I think that probably shows.  

It’s exactly five minutes to ten when he checks his watch.  You wouldn’t know it was morning in the dusky grey wilderness he finds himself in.  Pine trees stand, bolt upright, their tops engulfed in heaven and their feet wrapped in virgin snow.  Ahead, he can see the silhouettes of his travelling companions.  He doesn’t know them well enough to make out identities from their backs; all present as harsh black outlines against the velvety white.  Standing still for a brief moment, he thinks about where he came from.  Where he ran from.  Another world away.

Even wearing the uniform of the wilderness, he is distinguishable.  His dark eyes and tanned skin juxtapose with the surroundings.  He walks confidently and every step he takes seems planned and sure, like he knows he’s going in the right direction even in unfamiliar terrain.  He rarely looks behind but you get the sense that he knows everything that’s going on around him.

Appearance aside, it is not unusual for him to stand apart in a group.  He is a man.  And every man is an island.  He doesn’t need anyone else.  He has never needed anyone else. 

Trekking through painfully cold wilderness he is surrounded by snow and ice.  At night, he rests in dug out pits in the snow.  Pressed against the back of a cave.  When he should be sleeping, he turns the talisman over in his gloved hands.  Folds it into his palm.  Feels it’s weight, it’s perceived and actual weight.  It’s such a small object but it changed everything.

***

Not so long ago, he was far from here, spending his days under intense sun in a seemingly bleak and scorched landscape.  He lived on the peripheral of an archaeological dig.  Always the outsider.  The edges melted in the heat.  It was no longer clearly him and them.  Boundaries were smudged.

He didn’t know why he’d done it.  But he knew as soon as he put it in his pocket that he couldn’t hand it back.  From that moment, every time he made eye contact, he felt the weight, amplified, pulling on his left side.  As far as crimes go, it was fairly minor but, and this was a foreign feeling to him, he felt he had broken the trust that was placed in him.  He shouldn’t have even been there.  As the lines had blurred, policies and procedures had been bent.  They had let him onto the site and treated him as one of them.

He had never known what family was but he sensed that he had lost the only chance he would have to find out.

***

 

Back in the snow, his acquaintances have stopped.  There is a face he doesn’t recognise.  They are talking amongst themselves in a tongue he only knows a little of.  He picks up odd words here and there.  Moving around the world means he can fill in the rest from the tone.  There is trouble.

The stranger explains and one of the men in black coats with a bag on his back translates.  Broken English conveys what he already suspects; they have crossed into conflict.  Somewhere along the way, they have crossed into an area of conflict.  They are off course and they are in danger. 

He finds he is the only one who is not scared.  He is the only one with nothing to lose.  He looks at the unfamiliar alarm in their eyes.  Momentarily, a thought of a past life, passes through his mind.  For a second, he recalls how it feels to think you will never see your family again.  It passes.  He won’t let himself linger on memories.  He doesn’t believe in regrets.  He believes in here and now.  And experience has taught him, that in war, money is worthless.

Stilted conversation is translated with nervous panic.  He knows this stranger is their best route out of here.  He calmly takes charge of the situation.  He starts to establish a plan.  A friend of a friend of the stranger can get them out of here.  There is a chance.  A chance which comes at a price.  And in war, money is worthless.

They were trekking in a barren, snow covered landscape.  They have nothing to offer.  Troubled voices in a foreign language clutch at failing ideas.  Slightly distanced from them, he watches the increasing terror.

His hand goes to his pocket.  It turns over the cold, hard charm.  Taking it stole a life from him that he could have had.  It seems frivolous to part with it.  But parting with it could save their lives.  He takes his hand out of the glove and, keeping the amulet in his pocket, runs his fingers over its smooth, familiar surface.  The small piece of treasure cost him hope.  Hope he didn’t know he had until he lost it.

***

 

Months later, he will remember that moment and he still won’t know if he did the right thing.

Flash Fiction

I’m on week 4 of my creative writing course and this weeks assignment is about flash fiction.  We have been building up story ideas and characters for the last couple of weeks and we are now required to turn this into a story of less than 1000 words.  The prospect is horrifying me.  I already have about 650 words from previous assignments…  Additionally, as I was building up the following I had started to create a story which is probably far too complex to fit into 1000 words.  And I hadn’t fully figured out an ended.  I had a vague direction I would like to take the story but not a concrete conclusion.  I have a lot to figure out before it’s due on Sunday!

The character development isn’t flowing prose so shouldn’t be read as such.  We were asked to think about various aspects of our character to help us get to know them.

Beginning

It’s exactly five minutes to ten when he checks his watch.  You wouldn’t know it was morning in the dusky grey wilderness he finds himself in.  Pine trees stand, bolt upright, their tops engulfed in heaven and their feet wrapped in virgin snow.  Ahead, he can see the silhouettes of his travelling companions.  He doesn’t know them well enough to make out identities from their backs; all present as harsh black outlines against the velvety white.  Standing still for a brief moment, he thinks about where he came from.  Where he ran from.  Another world away.

Character development

His age is difficult to pin down.  If you were giving the police a description, you’d probably say 30s to 40s.  You’d say he was slightly taller than average.  Dark eyes and dark hair against tanned skin.  He looks healthy, strong, like he’d embrace manual labour.  He walks confidently and every step he takes seems planned and sure, like he knows he’s going in the right direction even in unfamiliar terrain.  He rarely looks behind but you get the sense that he knows everything that’s going on around him.

He has picked up phrases and slang from all over the world.  Even he hasn’t figured out where he came from originally.  His accent is peppered with hints of different countries and different regions.  He fits in everywhere and nowhere. 

His clothes adapt to his surroundings, a human chameleon.  Surrounded by desolate snow plains, he is a silhouette of dark clothes, a warm padded coat with fur around the hood.  His hood is pulled up against the bitter biting air.  On his back, he carries his home.  His life.

He is trekking through painfully cold wilderness.  Despite being surrounded by snow and ice, he barely has access to water.  His shelter changes every night.  Dug out pits in the snow.  Pressed against the back of a cave.  He takes what he can get.  He scavenges what he can throughout the day and raids a stash of energy bars when it gets tough.  He can go without food when he has to.  He is mentally and physically strong and a little bit of hunger won’t change that.

He is a man.  And every man is an island.  He doesn’t need anyone else.  He has never needed anyone else.  He has always moved from place to place making new acquaintances as he goes.  He doesn’t have friends but scattered all over the globe are people who would do him favours, who would welcome him into their home.  He is a loner who everyone is drawn towards.  Except on that dig… But that was an anomaly, equilibrium was quickly restored.

He was happiest in the sun.  In South America, working alongside archaeologists.  He found the work satisfying.  It was methodical.  He could almost see it as a stable career direction for himself.  If he could change one thing, he would go back there.  Sleeping in below freezing temperatures, his dreams of a previous life under the brilliant rays keep him warm.

Next to his heart rests his most treasured possession.  A small map of the world that has been creased and refolded so many times that the UK barely exists.  He’s had it for as long as he can remember and it’s travelled round the globe with him.  An anchor.  A guide. 

He lies.  He lies frequently.  It’s not that he’s a liar as such.  It’s just he frequently finds himself in the kind of situation where it is best to alter the truth.

His doesn’t believe in regrets.  Life happens and you get on with it.  That’s his philosophy.  At least it was.  He finds now that he gets pangs inside his heart.  Either he is slowly suffering heart problems or he is experiencing regret.  He’s not sure which he finds less terrifying.