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Find your story in a setting

This is a research exercise really – one that will help you find a story out of setting. You need three pieces of blank paper, plus coloured pens if that will help you feel imaginative. You also need to be physically in a setting that you want to explore in your writing. You can use this exercise to inspire a completely new piece of writing, or to go more deeply into writing you are already doing that is set in a particular place.

  1. Firstly, go to your setting and find a place to sit in it for a while – this can be an inside space as well as an outside space. You’ll be here for the best part of an hour so be comfortable, but also be mindful of the places that are ‘nagging’ at your mind … where do you want to be in this setting. Now, really explore this setting through your senses. Close your eyes and listen. Touch everything you can. Taste the air. Smell the ground. Notice everything. On that first piece of paper, write as many ‘research notes’ as you can about your sensory reactions to this place. If you read this back afterward, you already may be creating a mood, tone, or even theme in how you have noticed these things.
  2. On the second piece of paper, think about emotion and what could happen. From here is where a plot could come.  Make two lists – what are the worst things that could happen in this setting, what are the best things.  Pay particular attention to any topic that falls into both categories.  Let you mind go wild and write down any scenario you want. This is about ‘researching’ potential ideas right now, remember … potential stories.
  3. You may have a story formulating already, or even several stories. But this final task is to create a way into that story and to hopefully create a sense of movement/pull to the piece. Imagine you, or a character you are working with, are about to move towards something in this setting – it could be a different part of the setting, an object in the setting, a person, anything! What would you and your character choose to move towards and why!  Write that sentence. This is your first sentence.

Now, keep writing!  Use your sensory details and potential storylines to power this piece further.

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Setting is your friend

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