Short: You’ll Love’em

Harry lifted his fork, took the bite and then chewed incredibly slowly. The longer he spent eating, he thought, the less time he would need to spend actually trying to make conversation with Rose. She wasn’t unpleasant, but they clearly weren’t a match. He knew that, she knew that, the waiter knew that. As he swallowed he thought up a fun anecdote, lifted his head and smiled briefly. Rose took notice, opened her eyes widely in anticipation and swept her hair from her face to make it look like she was paying full attention. Harry lowered his jaw, but as he was about to start speaking he realised she just wouldn’t appreciate it, not even a chance of ironic laughter. As the short eternity of his jaw just hanging open continued, he made his fork dive back onto his plate, fiddled around with it hoping to grab something, brought the fork back up and closed his lips around it.

Had she any energy Rose would’ve sighed in frustration, but it just didn’t seem worth it. It wasn’t that he wasn’t nice and all and Izzy wasn’t lying when she said he was hot, but it was an empty kind of hot. The kind of hot you’d get going to your grandparents bungalow. The kind of hot you think you must escape from basically as soon as possible. So Rose just sat there smiling. Two different dating apps, but she agrees to a blind date from mutual friends. Never again! Did they know her that badly? Oh, wait, what if she really was actually that boring? Come to think of it, it’s not like she had that much interest online based on how infrequently her phone buzzed. God, she was the boring one of the group. That was it. It was the only thing that made sense. Realising that her face might be displaying this potential revelation, she smiled broadly hoping for the agony to come to an end.

Man, why’s she smiling so much now? Is she okay? Maybe she’s ill. Ah, if she’s ill she’ll have to go home. Then I can go home too. I mean, the dessert here looks alright, but do I really want to be sitting here alone? Should I order it anyhow? What is the etiquette on that? All these thoughts raced through Harry’s mind in a second. He was now more interested on enduring the suffering if it could ensure a knickerbocker glory. Did he really want it though? The name’s great, but is it actually that enjoyable? He glanced over at Rose who had now finished her meal and was sipping gingerly the remnants of her white wine. White wine with a chicken meal…was that right? I always thought it should be red. Is this why it’s going wrong? Hell, it’s been so long since my last date that maybe it’s changed since then. Do I no longer know the wine rules?

Rose’s internal face displayed confusion, possibly even concern, without realising that she was still maintaining the façade on her actual face. Was he okay? He was looking very thoughtful all of a sudden. Should something be said? What if it’s nothing? What if he’s a bit, y’know, brain dead? Is that it, has he had an aneurysm? Oh god, what’s wrong with me that I’m hoping he has an aneurysm so that I can get out of this. Am I hoping for that? I mean, I appear to have gotten over thinking it was an awful thing to think pretty quickly. See, this is why I don’t go on dates because I’m often wishing that all the men have brain problems. I’m weird. I’m a broken person. I need help! Help me, Harry! Say something, tell me you’re okay!

Harry was lost in thought, no longer finishing off his plate, taking several moments to realise Rose was looking very intently at him. More than before, even. Had he dropped something? He slowly lowered his head and looked down his shirt, but it was clean. Well ironed too. Ha, good job, me. Way to show those creases who’s boss. Granted, it did take me ten minutes to iron one shirt, but it was definitely a quality ironing. Oh, wait, why is there a drop of water the…oh. Oh no. He raised his right hand and brushed its side against his lower lip, wiping away some dribble. Sure, nothing was going to happen with Rose, but he wanted to leave with some damn dignity. Ah, any sense of a smile on her has gone. Well, drool will do it. Well done Harry, you’ve done it again!

He did, didn’t he? He just drooled. My eyes aren’t deceiving me. That actually happened. Oh my god. Do I literally attract cave men? Is it my hair? Rose pat down her hair to see if there was anything wrong with it, but it was as she wanted it to be. My face? She brushed the palm of her hand over her face, making sure everything that should be on it indeed was. Urgh. Well, fine. Screw this diet. I’m having some cake because I might as well write off just about everything from this evening. Come on waiter, come here. Notice my pain. See me suffering. I am a grown woman on a terrible date sitting opposite said date who has just drooled onto his shirt. I need cake. No, I deserve cake. I require it. Get the hell over here.

As the waiter approached empty handed, Rose pondered momentarily if she had latent telepathy, but swiftly removed the thought owing to the fact that neither of them had touched their plates for a few minutes now, so of course the waiter would come over. Harry was preparing to shove his plate in the air, waiting for it to be removed from the table, much like himself. For a minute the two of them became totally engaged in the waiter, responding that they very much enjoyed the meal and similarly, they wanted to look at the dessert menu. It was a moment after that that they both realised they’d just committed themselves to staying even longer with each other.

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Unfiction: Porn as a silent weapon


We’re mostly conditioned to avoid discussing sex. Even sex education at school, where you’re supposed to be given a full and proper understanding about sex, is questionably delivered and taken in and then that’s it, you’re on your own (insert masturbation joke here). Sure it might come up in conversation every so often, but it’s not something you aim your conversation towards. This is despite the fact that not only do the birds do it and, I’m reliably informed, the bees do it too, but humans do it quite a lot. All the statistics are there, it proves that yes, humans do good at good doing. And then there’s porn.

Porn is a substantial business that has been really quite important in the expansion of the internet. Quality video streaming has been required and that know-how trickles down, whilst recently virtual reality headsets have benefited from the experience VR porn supposedly provides. Porn doesn’t get this big without being consumed, but as an extension of sex it too isn’t talked about. Until it is, but not really.

Within the last few years, the UK government banned certain types of pornography that was allowed to be produced in the UK and somehow managing to be misogynistic in some of the types too, proving once and for all that the government is pretty good at screwing people. (Incidentally, this also happened to be the forms must searched for by Brits.) It’d be all too easy to overlook this as a case of “Ew, porn, avoid discussion at all costs!” but quite a few things that are banned tend to force people to go to greater odds to get said things; low-level recreational drugs springs to mind, but even if we put aside this aspect, there’s something quite insidious here.

See the thing is, the ultimate question here, is who’ll stand up for spanking? The answer is simple: no-one. We don’t talk about sex and porn, so why on earth would we speak out openly in defiance of the government of all things about it? You’d be seen as foolish, but more than that as someone bad and shameful. This is a little ridiculous though because even if we don’t talk about it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen! So no-one stands up for it and like that, forms of pornography are banned. Simple stuff, no-one openly cares because oh god you’re talking about it and this is incredibly awkward make it stop. But hey, these types of porn weren’t banned from being viewed so it’s not a tragic loss…until we get to this week.


The upcoming plans are that some forms of pornography can only be accessed by age verification (which totally won’t be completely useless) and that some forms can be out-right banned from access if they’re deemed ‘harmful’ because children might see this and why the hell are children given unsupervised access allowing them to access porn in the first place? But that’s another discussion. So this new law could potentially have websites banned from access in the UK because of hosting certain sexual material. The thing is, the BBFC are given the task of deciding what’s appropriate or not for these matters and who are they to decide what consenting adults do, both in the production of and consumption of porn? Emphasis on consenting adults here as it goes to reason that anything else isn’t legal anyhow.

One of the problems above this here isn’t that a group are being charged to decide this it’s how it will be implemented, but that many websites don’t just contain singular material; it’s not for nothing that Vine partly became what it was/will continue to be because of porn, but look on it now and there’s an incredibly wide variety of material. The question then becomes, do you ban Vine? It’s not all porn, but it is on there. How would you be able to differentiate that material? How much and of what type of porn has to be on a website before the whole thing is prohibited from being accessed? Naturally that becomes significantly unfair when a relatively small part of a website or web service makes the whole thing prohibited, especially if the reason you are looking or using it isn’t for the porn.

These are all quite reasonable questions, but that doesn’t even address the half of it. Why only these forms of pornography being restricted? What’s so specific about them above everything else? What about the people with desires/fetishes that harms no-one who are unable to access content for no reason other than it has been decided that what they consume makes them indecent, undignified or gross? How else are you supposed to interpret that? You’re being declared as those things, but it’s sex and porn, so you just don’t talk about or argue it…you just go looking for it elsewhere, but you already looked at it so you’re probably on a list of people who are into Other sex acts.

It all starts to sound a bit conspiracy theory territory, but nothing I’ve written here is false and critically it’s actually happening right now. Like that, porn has become a way to divide people. Sure, this ridiculous restriction won’t really work, “So what’s the problem really then, Joel? I mean if people can get around it, what’s the big deal?” Well I still think it’s a pretty big deal anyhow if for nothing else it shows government intention and can be extended in the future to include more “questionable” materials, but when you start partnering it up with the ‘Snooper’s Charter’, which is terrifying all by itself, it gets into some seriously dark territory; not only is it decided that his material is supposedly wrong, but it’s also been recorded who has viewed it and various agencies can access this information…


Hopefully it doesn’t need to be said, but nothing good has ever come from a government being able to divide and highlight parts of the citizens it represents, with information to back it up, saying that “These people are wrong” simply because it has been decided that they are. The threat of this is, again, conspiratorial in tone, but we already know agencies were gathering this information, it was simply illegal before and even then they were not simply pushing the boundary, but leaping past it too. Now you have the scenario where this stuff is legal and if nature is consistent, they’ll be pushing this new boundary too, but even if they didn’t that’s a considerable capability to obtain so much data on private activity and let’s be super clear here, not using the internet when it has become so ingrained in society, culture and just about everything else is a completely idiotic consideration as a means of avoiding this.

These are simple measures of an authority wanting to maintain power and said authority, but even if you accept that with a deft touch these wouldn’t be completely terrible and merely only tragically bad, the foundation has been laid for where this stuff can get really insidious, where it goes beyond pornography. Hey, what of a simple suggestion and anything to do with [pick a religion here] is prohibited? It might seem like it’s really easy to pull out examples that seem simultaneously stark and ridiculous because of the implication, but it’s there. It’s right there. When you make The Other different only because you say so and then imply that they’re Other for things that have been deemed indecent, undignified and gross, nothing good can possibly come from that and history is keen to show us this time and time again.

So how does this change? How can these things be reversed? Well, a change of government would do that or at least any opposition to these things would be welcome, but in lieu of that my sincere hope is that since these have such vivid breaches of privacy, the EU courts would get involved and…oh. Dammit. And like that, porn becomes a battleground for political censorship where one side fields artillery and the other side hasn’t even turned up to fight because no-one wanted to take lead and say “I want to watch spanking!” So it’s not really about porn, it’s about what porn is about.


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Short: Broke(n) Hero

One prompt, from one person, once a week. Here’s last week’s efforts.

“The world’s greatest superhero is too broke to afford a costume. As a result, no one takes them seriously.”

With the remote in one hand and a nearly empty glass of scotch in the other, he was a bit confused as to where the daily despair came from. Usually it was the scotch (neat) but the news report and vox pop with clueless people going “Well, he does good, but he doesn’t look good, does he?” and “I dunno maaaan, he kinda looks like a fool but where would we be without him?” or “Hey, if you need help with your look, hit me up? I can be your fashion side kick, yeah!” weren’t exactly doing much for his self-esteem. It’s not like they weren’t grateful, but that just seemed to make it worse. So there he sat, in stunned silence as the TV kept on blaring at him, but all he could do was let it wash over him. He wasn’t even disappointed at this point, it was hardly news to him.

What can you do when you can do anything, though? Keep yourself quiet, was his answer. John Garner, strongest, quickest, most resilient person on the planet, best thought of himself as a humble member of society doing what he could. The problem really started when he discovered his capabilities. For a little while it was the best thing that could ever happen to him and those he could help, relieving him from the doldrums of office life; sure, it wasn’t the best paying job, but he could do that, save the city from destruction and be back in time for dinner without so much as a fuss. It began to take a toll on him though. These herculean acts started putting attention on him, attention he didn’t want. The office might have been a meaningless, sombre affair, but it was his meaningless, sombre affair that he could go back to after casually stopping an evil scientist here or a super-powered wrong-doer there. The stress of it all caught up, so he had to quit one and weighing up which was the better thing to be doing, it seemed like an obvious choice.

As he finished his fourth glass of scotch for the evening, a simple task given the fact alcohol had no impact on him, he reached behind for the bottle only to put his hand on his mask it sat on. The blue plastic had been broken and scarred several times over and fabric was well and truly coming undone. He hadn’t used it for years, instead resorting to the mask of looking like an Average Joe. An unkempt beard, clean but messy hair, a narrow nose, soft eyebrows and brown eyes kept him from looking too distinctive. Besides, when you can run as fast as John could, it could be pretty hard to get a good look in to pass judgement. Except he wasn’t always moving at full speed, so shabby chinos and a short-sleeved white shirt that was missing its top button were what first introduced an assailant to a swift end.

When he first started out, with his government funded costume protecting who he was, he cared so much about what he could do he consequently tried equally as hard. As he felt the control of his life slip away from him though, his attention being pulled every which way, he started to care less. Of course even when he didn’t terribly care, he still sought out to try as much as he could because it was all the meaning he had left for himself. After so many incidents, his suit got worn out and he just didn’t care enough to wear it. His life had been consumed by this role that he no longer felt he was anybody except for being a hero. He stopped repairing the costume after a certain point, but this lack of ‘formal’ presentation caught wrong-doers off-guard and they were easily stopped. They didn’t take John seriously so he just stopped trying too, but instead of eventually being caught out at some point, he still effortlessly took down his opponents.

Besides the government cheques he got monthly, a ‘hero wage’, every time he met with a representative they offered to pay for a new costumed suit, but he declined just saying he’d sort it out in his own time, something that was never argued because who would argue with someone that powerful? By the time in the month he would maybe think about getting a new one sorted out, his wallet was empty. He’d even down-sized into a small flat not wanting to burden the tax payers with a high upkeep, but between buying an otherwise excessive amount of alcohol and meals for one, he didn’t have enough to go out and get costume materials and with that any interest he had in doing anything about the suit disappeared near instantly for another month.

Looking at the time he turned the TV off and slinked away to bed, lazily pulling back the covers and kicking off his shoes before getting comfortable within the covers. For a brief moment a glimmer of hope and aspiration overcame his thinking, but went back into the recesses of his mind as quickly as they had appeared.

The bad guys laughed at him when he apprehended them, the public thought he was a fortunate joke and he just didn’t have the willpower left to argue with either. Maybe they’d treat me seriously if I acted against the public, he’d think every so often, but his heart was just pure enough that no matter how low he felt, he’d never switch sides. That’s how things would remain then. Some people would try and rise up to try and prove they could best him and fail, the public would outpour thanks and appreciation and rely on John for what his abilities allowed him to do and he would swoop in and save the day with no effort required. He would often dream of being back in the doldrums.

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Short: The Hamster’s Pet

You know how it’s cool to have a space to just do your own thing? Well, on some Saturday afternoon’s, I attend a creative writing workshop to do just that. This is one of the pieces of work from one of the workshops. Not every piece of work in this category will be complete, although I might feel compelled to carry it on after the workshop. Hell, they might not even be good, but in the interests of showing a vague creative process and its product, well it’ll go up on here anyhow. And for good measure, I’ll try and explain the exercises that led to the work (and at this point, I’m starting to know a thing or two about those).

Just under two years ago there was a workshop with a fun premise; make a list of things you might find in a pocket. The list was expectedly varied, the item I remember the most being a fish in a bag. After the communally-built list had enough ideas, we had to pick a handful. Here’s mine: dragon egg, hamster, business card (not own), drawing of a ghost, Allen key, a shell. After this we had to try and make sense of it all through making a character who would possess these items. The notes I had were quite scattered, but for full disclosure:

The Hamster's Pet notes

Of course not everything you note down ends up ‘making it in’. Or maybe you just didn’t have the time to include it. Anyhow, before uploading writing that comes from these workshops, I’ve thought about going back and adding any content, besides just fixing up stuff here and there. I want to in this case, but honestly I don’t know where to go to next. At 350 words it manages to be a nice little contained scene, where you get an idea for the world and some of the weird stuff that goes on. There’s a lot taken for granted, but also some things that are just put in there to sound amusing because the thing is, when I’m writing in that space I don’t really think about what I would do afterwards, more just getting out anything that sounds good in my head. A process I’m sure most of the people who go to these workshops go through too. So here’s what I did. I hope you enjoy.

The Hamster's Pet

The Hamster’s Pet (31/5/14)

We had just arrived in Luxembourg when Maurissa insisted that we start trying to sell some of our goods before we went to the hotel. Bless her little heart. Well, relatively speaking it is obviously much larger than mine. Yes, anyhow, I distinctly remember seeing a flock of dragon-kin brushing past one of the taller buildings, yelping annoyingly as they went by. Fearsome, ugly things really, but there you go. In the time spent observing this, I had not noticed Maurissa had stopped and started speaking to a stranger. My elocution lessons were being shown to be unsuccessful.

“Uhhhh, well, y’see, this ‘ere dragon egg is from a rare breed, yes indeed! Bred by legendary dragon trainer Marsel Deronkus.” Her foreign accent was jarring, despite the cosmopolitan location.
“I very much doubt that, miss.” The stout, roundly man responded with as much sincerity as fat on his bones. Instead of walking away and going to the darn hotel as I was secretly pleading for us to do so, with the hand tucked behind her blue and red blouse, she clicked her fingers and looked steely eyed into the man opposite.
“I ummm, really think you’ll want this, sir. Only 5 gold pieces too!” Her pitch was as elevated as much as two octaves up, possibly three.
“Wow, what a deal!” The man sputtered out his words, in between his necessary heavy breathing, and forked over the gold. Job well done, I suppose.

Maurissa lowered her head and retrieved me from inside the rim of her hat. Compared to her scruffy face, my wiggling nose and whiskers had twice the sense of decorum.
“Whatcha think, Olly, hotel time?” Oh, I forgive this all for her reassuring smile. I got a paw, scratched my belly and then nodded my head.
“I think it best. We rest up and then journey on this evening for some nice grub. Say, carrot soup for myself and something equally delicious for yourself?” Hmm, sweet carrot soup. Truly, a feast for the Hamster Queer Herself!
“Sounds great!” Another warm smile. She put me back onto her hat with the full delight of the sun on my back then bounded along to our place of rest, till dinner at least.

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Short: Shoes

You know how it’s cool to have a space to just do your own thing? Well, on some Saturday afternoon’s, I attend a creative writing workshop to do just that. This is one of the pieces of work from one of the workshops. Not every piece of work in this category will be complete, although I might feel compelled to carry it on after the workshop. Hell, they might not even be good, but in the interests of showing a vague creative process and its product, well it’ll go up on here anyhow. And for good measure, I’ll try and explain the exercises that led to the work (and at this point, I’m starting to know a thing or two about those).

This short is from the most recent workshop I attended, on Hopes and Fears. It’s hard not to look a little insularly about these things because they’re inherently so personal, but then that’s part of the creative process, isn’t it, to look beyond. The first exercise was to write down words we associated with fear. For reference, here’s what I came up with: anxiety, chaos, consequence, obstacle, unknowing, risk, loss, gain, experience, compulsion, drive, calm and confidence. Yeah, analyse that. Through sharing what we had all come up with, it was clear there was certainly overlap, though that’s not too surprising. The next task was to write about a character that had a fear, explaining what it was. This led into a follow-up piece where we had to put our character in a situation that forced them to address the fear.

Below then are the two parts, the first about the character and their fear, the second them facing it. It’s worth pointing out as well that thee style we were to write in, in both cases, wasn’t specified, so you get to see my character from two perspectives. Unlike the last short from these workshops I put up, there was no substantial content added “in post”, just the odd addition here and there and some grammatical clean-up. So, here’s a short about a man and his shoes.


Shoes (19/3/16)

I really hate shoes. It’s not that they make me feel uncomfortable…well they do, just not physically. Ever since I was little I hated socks. Bear with me here. I just wanted to see my toes wiggling. When you put socks on, you can’t do that. I mean, you know they’re there and hell, you can see’em, but they’re restrained. So I don’t wear socks. And that’s fine! Well, most of the time. But shoes, you kinda need to wear shoes. Can’t go on the underground without shoes or you’ll have no toes left! Because the thing is with shoes is that you know your toes are trapped. They can’t escape their leather prison. You can wriggle them, but you can’t see’em. If you lift them up they’ll touch the roof, but it’s not that high.

So, I buy oversized shoes that don’t fit me. They’re uncomfortable. Sure I take them off as soon as I can, but it’s not fun in the meantime. I walk around oddly, like I have a problem with my feet. And I do, it’s that they’re being covered by a trap that won’t set them free. And what if when you take them off you hurt your toes too, huh? It’s happened, I’ve heard stories!


Jimmy looked down at his feet, all free and full of life, his toes wiggling without impunity. Alas, the time had come. His phone informed him that it was once again 5.28pm. Work was at an end, but the journey before him was about to begin. The cold autumn night prevented the use of sandals, a minor miracle of modern footwear, and combined with the evening’s festivities of Daniel’s birthday drinks, he knew that a busy bar would be the location. He rationaled his reluctance by going through this same thought process, whilst his reluctant muscle memory guided his hands to his left shoe, sat patiently and terrifyingly motionless next to its sibling, in anticipation of wrapping it around his foot. A moment of respite, it wasn’t the pair of boots his girlfriend had bought him that he promised “Oh yeah, I’ll wear them more often, I’m sure they’re as roomy as you say!”

He looked around, hoping he had wasted enough time in his ongoing daily conflict, but it was alarmingly still 5.28pm. He cursed his quick thinking as his knee raised and connected with the bottom of his desk and his foot remained poised, as if it was the one that bore responsibility for his emotional reaction in this scenario. As the foot increased velocity and the toes, still wriggling, entered the event horizon of the shoe’s black hole, Jimmy started choking. Mercifully, it required all his attention and for a brief moment he contemplated hasty death and the freedom from shoe wearing that would provide.

Unfortunately the choking quickly suspended and a shoeless peace was not to happen. A glance at the phone revealed the passing of time. A sigh at it now being 5.29. He ever-reluctantly repeated the process, his foot and shoe ready to duel once more. The foot entered the shoe and slid on with relative ease, but the wriggling had stopped. “Oh god,” he thought as surely this time he’d cut his toes. He pulled out his foot immediately and ducked his head under the desk. There his toes were, limp from lack of movement and the knowledge that they had stopped wriggling because he had stopped them. The shoe went back on with unease, but constant wriggling was enough assurance that the toes were indeed still there, this time…

The problematic situation had reached its half-way point, but the calls from those around that it was time to get a move-on didn’t help matters. “They don’t understand,” Jimmy thought. “They’d probably be happy if they lost all their toes!” The right shoe was now in focus. It stood defiantly, like a horizontal monolith. There was nothing inviting about it. Still, there was no loose liquid in his throat to choke on and he really did have to get a move on.

It was do-or-die and with extreme malice, his foot rose aggressively at the same time his shoe was locked into position. They met in mid-air, but Jimmy was determined to win the conflict. With force his foot was shoved in, quickly dispelling and displacing the air in the shoe. He wriggled his toes defiantly. “Ha, screw you!” His colleagues looked bemused, but less so from the first time this had happened, many times before. Ready to go, Jimmy shuffled towards the group. This battle was a narrow victory, but it was just one in the eternal struggle.

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Creating Writing Workshop Plans Collection 2

“*Gasp* What’s that?”
“It looks like a bird!”
“No, it’s a plane!”
“Wait, it’s a collection of creative writing workshop plans!”
“…oh. Well. That’s a let down.”
“But look over there, it’s Superman!”

No, hell if I know.

Hello again! Last time I put one of these up I said that they would be sporadic in nature, that these plans were designed for group workshops (although I’d provide alternatives where I could think of to do exercises solo), that it’d be a critical reflection of what went right and wrong and some other stuff. For the probably important pre-amble, take a look at that link for all the glossy details. That said, there’s two things that should be seen again, plus one new detail, so here they are.

The aim of these workshops is to allow people of any skill level and interest to write creatively for fun. Whatever aim you have going in to wanting to write creatively, well, these workshops should cover that general ground.

Given that I had had a couple of attempts at delivering workshops by this point, my timing was vastly improved. Perfect? Probably not, but that’s okay. What I will say though is that a minute here or there I won’t comment on, but if you do want to see thoughts on losing/making up for time, I make mention of it a few times in the previous collection. I suppose that’s both my way of saying “I don’t want to talk about that aspect any more unless I have to” and I got better, nar nar ne nar nar.

Note: Any time marking (in minutes) with [Group] before it means it’s specifically for structure in a group environment and can be safely ignored if working on it solo.

Let’s do this thang.


– WORKSHOP 3 – (Weird) Science

0.00 – .15 : Arrival and icebreaker exercise; defining science fiction. Everyone has a minute to write down their own definition for Science Fiction followed by a discussion of these and those from actual SF writers. The idea here isn’t to imply a correct answer, but that due to the number and variety of the definitions, it allows the genre to be quite wide. Reminder: Make mention of the ‘scale’ of SF, from hard (makes scientific sense) to soft (anything goes) and somewhere in between (made up for the fiction, but makes sense in-universe).

[Notes – It’s really very important to make sure that when you’re going to be writing in one genre that you pin down what that genre actually is. SF is generally quite the broad church, so making sure everyone was clued into that was naturally so important for getting the best out of the workshop. Besides, throwing in some definitions from SF authors probably didn’t hurt with emphasising that point too. Those who were at the workshop enjoyed this little discussion before we got going, its easing in definitely having the desired effect (yay)! When I initially wrote this it was with the group tag, but whilst the discussion element will be missed doing this solo, looking around and reading different thoughts is a good substitute.]

.15 – .35 : Alternate Thinking, Main Task 1. A largely open task split into three quick-fire parts. Five minutes will be spent on each. How they’re written is likely guided by the task, but ultimately up to the individual, be it reading like a short-story, a descriptive synopsis, etc. The focus is on simply getting the idea down.

1) Something Different – Write about the world without a certain person or piece of technology. The emphasis here is on difference and the scale is up to the writer – would they be living in a different location, how would that affect them? What would we do without toasters? The age-old “What if Hitler didn’t come to power?” etc.

2) Something Alien – Describe an alien life-form, but explaining why this life-form is as it is using ‘hard SF’ rules; if it has four legs, why does it need them? What habitat does it live in or come from? Reminder: All life-forms come in different shapes, sizes and intelligence on this planet, let alone any other! (Also worth noting, we don’t even know of every species on this planet!)

3) Something Shiny – Using ‘soft SF’, come up with a new piece of technology/equipment. What is its function? Is it expensive, cheap, easy to move, life-changing, life-aiding? As an added challenge, try and apply hard SF rules and think of the implications of this development, or perhaps what was required to get there.

[Notes – So, why these? Good question. If SF is a broad church, it helps if you dip into some of these different areas and why not these scattered thoughts? Again, I try and design these workshops to be enjoyable but in-keeping with theme, so I tried to think of some of the most common SF areas and pitch something very brief around them; it was a case of intentional throwing everything at the wall and seeing how much stuck for who. I was not intending everyone to find every one of these short tasks easy, but by keeping it brisk it allowed for some quick thoughts down, brief descriptions and a bit of ungrounded writing. This was the “free your mind” moment of the workshop and I hate myself a little for quoting that, but hopefully you get the point. It was to set-up the main writing task, but it had an unintended impact which I’ll note later.]

[Group] .35 – .45 : Sharing. A chance for everyone to share one of the things they wrote about.

.45 – 1.00 : Main task 2a, character, setting and vehicle. Participants will be tasked with coming up with a short story that will be based on a journey or some sort of exploration and will come with the strict requirement of including a vehicle in some sort of capacity. How each person goes about adhering to the ‘hardness’ of SF is entirely up-to-them, as well as the tone and style.

Some context though; a lot of sci-fi stories have a vehicle as a core element to the extent that the vehicle is often treated as a character itself (which is taken to logical extremes with organic and/or sentient craft) and serve to highlight either a reaction to that universe, an extension of characteristics for the owner or act as a sort of emotional touch-stone for those using it (by providing human characteristics).

Besides that, there’s the obvious aspect that you need a vehicle to move and exploration is a core tenet of SF stories so the two go hand-in-hand. Additionally, sometimes the vehicle is fused with the catalyst for the plot (eg. Time travel). The most famous vehicles are often symbolic for the story/franchise they represent and will tend to be widely recognised in wider culture, even by those who haven’t actually consumed the source material.

And finally, to quote Doc Brown, “The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a car into a time machine, why not do it with some style?”

Examples include, but are by no means limited to:

The DeLorean – Back to the Future, any Enterprise – Star Trek, the Millennium Falcon – Star Wars (and literally any other craft from it, really), Serenity – Firefly, Red Dwarf and Starbug –Red Dwarf, the Planet Express ship – Futurama, sand worms – Dune, the Nautilus – Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, V8-Interceptor – Mad Max, the T.A.R.D.I.S. – Doctor Who, USS Discovery – 2001: A Space Odyssey, any of the Thunderbirds.

Part A:

Before the break participants will have to come up with a main character(s), a setting and a vehicle. There isn’t supposed to be a focus on the plot at the time, but obviously as these components come together a plot is likely to be formed. Alternatively, there’s already a plot in mind and the components are formed as a result of this.

[Group] 1.00 – 1.10 : Break.

.10 – .35 : Main task 2b, writing. [Notes – I’ll explain this one here as to avoid extending that wall of text and instead for making a new one here. There’s quite a bit to break down, both in reasoning and execution. Why a vehicle then? Well as I mention in the script for the plan, SF vehicles tend to be characters in their own right, so it’s an interesting challenge of having to write about an innate object (usually…) but more importantly, it opens up the setting because it could be anywhere, any when. Sometimes creativity is bolstered by restriction, that you have to try and find a way around a problem and in that solution you find creativity to make your way around, but complete openness can sometimes be too open and leave nothing to work with.

At least having a root, a vehicle in this case, helps keep it somewhere between the two, something someone in the workshop actually mentioned as a benefit, so a biscuity reward there for me, I think! So by making sure that the setting, main character and vehicle are determined as a separate entity to the extended writing makes sure that whoever is writing has a chance to develop a world, catch their breath, and then just tell a story within it.

This is where that comment from the previous task comes into play. So during the sharing of stories, all of which were really interesting and went in directions I wasn’t expecting, which is exactly what you want, two people said that a world they had created in the short exercises they went back to to explore in this extended writing. As such, they already had a setting and a vehicle and main character were easily derived from there.

I had never considered it a possibility, despite me saying in all my workshops that if people want to continue with one thing, be it a requirement or optional, that in this particular workshop it could be worked that way. I am absolutely happy that people got more out of that quick set than I anticipated and that they bought into the workshop which no doubt helped with a confident coming into this main task. Otherwise it was just open prose, but with a more specific aim in mind.]

.35 – .40 : Mission statement. Participants will be asked to come up with a ‘mission statement’ for their story. A lot of SF stories, particularly serial ones, tend to have a short introduction to the story/universe. Also known as, “The first line of a blurb,” but mission statement sounds cooler. [Notes – Hmmm. Firstly, the three opening narrations used. Secondly, HMMM. The aim here was to lend the writing some of that sci-fi style, but in practice it was a little unwieldy. People were still writing and I don’t blame them, if you’ve really got stuck into something you either stop or carry on, not stopping to do something related, but could just be used to carry on instead. If I were to deliver this workshop again I would absolutely not run this part. Granted it’s only five minutes, but I’d rather not have disrupted writing time for something that felt fairly unnecessary. A nice idea, but maybe for another time.]

[Group] .40 – 2.00 : Main sharing. An opportunity for people to share their longer pieces of work. For those who do not wish to do so, they will be encouraged to share their mission statement or one of the earlier ideas from the first task.

Overall notes – Phew! There’s a lot in this one. Most of it I was happy with, the mission statement, as mentioned above, being the lone exception really. More importantly though is that everyone had fun; a few people were won over by SF too! Perhaps a bit too zealous with how much I wanted to do, it ultimately worked well and kept a good, brisk pace about it.

Were I to do it again, which I very much would like to, I’d certainly consider adding to the quick exercises at the beginning a general ‘World building’ task. Given how much set-up was taken from them for the main exercise, having a specific one might help further. It probably also took me around 2 hours to make this workshop. Most of that was fitting in the extra details, like finding quotes and putting in examples. I think Fury Road earlier in the year had a big influence on the main writing exercise, whilst the first exercises came to me quite quickly.


– WORKSHOP 4 – Small Stories

[Group] 0.00 – .10 : Arrival/Icebreaker. Participants will be given a few seconds to think of their favourite knick-knack and how/why they have it.

.10 – .25 : Exercise 1a: Building the list. The emphasis in this workshop is to build a low-key story, one that’s a fairly intimate look at one person and their behaviour, but has minimal impact on anyone else.

We all have possessions of various sizes and monetary value that are important to us for whatever reason. Channelling this idea…

Building the list:

Participants will be asked to come up with three lists that will be added to a large piece of paper. The lists will be: possessions (including furniture, knick-knacks, stationary etc.), events (including ‘firsts’, moving out, family bereavement, seeing an old friend etc., but excluding own birth and death) and first names. Once the lists are complete, participants will be asked to match up one from each (eg. Paper shredder, marriage, Phoebe).

[Notes – Getting the obvious out of the way, this is a collaborative exercise, but like any that involves list making do have a go at making a list yourself and maybe ask for some input from people around you. At the bottom with the overview notes, I’ll include the list that was made during this workshop too. As for the list itself, I was originally going to keep it to knick-knacks, but felt that that’s unnecessarily restricting when you can get the same material with any item really.]

.25 – .45 : Exercise 1b: Follow-up. With their combination picked, participants will have to write a short piece as the person they picked a name for, explaining why the item is connected to that event and any emotions they have about that (e.g. If they received a knick-knack as a present for a birthday, did they like it, was it a joke they found funny, etc.). There are no specific requirements here, it is up to the participant how they wish to approach. It is not important that this portion of writing is finished, but there should be a clear emotive connection established. It’ll probably be handy later…

[Notes – The purpose of having a clear emotional connection or imprint between character and item is important for the follow-up, but it also served as a means of focusing in the writing. Otherwise, like the list making, a simple exercise that had people both make a character and make us sympathetic to whatever it is they’re connected to.]

[Group] .45 – .55 : Sharing. A chance for anyone to share what they’ve done, as well as provide feedback.

[Group] .55 – 1.05 : Break.

1.05 – .35 : Exercise 2. Participants at this point will have a chance to go two ways based off their previous piece of writing. They can opt to write about:

1 – The character no longer has the item in their possession. It is up to the participant to explain why this is and their character’s reaction to this as if explaining it to another person (of their choosing). The form is up to the participant.

2 – They can pick a new combination from the list.

(3 – The secret option. A combination of the two above. Can it be done? Who knows?!)

[Notes – The making sure of an emotional connection then was important for seeing what would happen if you split it, if that was chosen of course. I think it’s naturally quite intriguing to see what happens to a character after a change of state, something you may not necessarily have time to do in smaller, one-off workshops where you tend to see just a scene in that character’s existence instead. The extended time for writing allowed chance to take stock of what was done before and then naturally move it forward. It’s also just nice to have one, unbroken task and the paper in front of you. Worth noting that it only occurred to me during the workshop that there was no reason why someone couldn’t have simply picked a new item and event with their previous character. So if you’re looking for additional options, there’s one!

Also worth noting that it was asked when this part could be set, namely if they could lose the item and then have it returned to them (essentially, writing backwards but still telling it chronologically). Again, not something that I thought of but definitely a cool idea that might be worth recommending or pointing out as an available option.]

[Group] .35 – 1.55 : Sharing. Participants can share any piece of writing they’ve done in the workshop. Feedback, too. [Notes – Worth remembering that longer periods of writing require longer sharing.

[Group] 1.55 – 2.00 : Farewells.

Overall notes – When I was designing this workshop I was aware of two things. The first was that it was going to be the last before before Christmas and I wanted to work that in in some way. With my general loathing of “Christmas specials!” I wanted it to be indirect, so I opted for looking at gift giving, a big aspect of this general holiday period, which neatly tied into my second thought of wanting to keep this a fairly simple workshop. After the Music Evokes and Weird Science ones, I wanted to bring things back down to normalcy, keep it small-scale. I often find the most interesting stories are not the expansive ones, but the quiet, intimate looks that get very character heavy.

Working through it I wanted to also mirror my original workshop and the one from the beginning of the year. It was then a conscious decision to have list making leading directly into building a character again. At any rate, it’s quite fun to just be let loose and be told you have a ton of time to just write, with a few guiding points here and there. It was also my quickest workshop to make, somewhere in the region of 45 minutes. Simplicity can work wonders sometimes.


Overall overall – These two workshops were a real sign of confidence for me. There was a refinement to them, their timings (both sticking to them and knowing when to be loose and to allow a little and where to take back some). It certainly helps that not too long after the Weird Science workshop was first made I ended up making a special workshop on how to make creative writing workshops, although whether or not you can say “Let them write for an hour” is a result of carefully plotting how to make exercises and put them in a neat structure is up for debate! Anyhow, I’m not sure when I’ll next be leading some workshops, so until next time, too-da-loo!

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Short: Crocodile Blitz

You know how it’s cool to have a space to just do your own thing? Well, on some Saturday afternoon’s, I attend a creative writing workshop to do just that. This is one of the pieces of work from one of the workshops. Not every piece of work in this category will be complete, although I might feel compelled to carry it on after the workshop. Hell, they might not even be good, but in the interests of showing a vague creative process and its product, well it’ll go up on here anyhow. And for good measure, I’ll try and explain the exercises that led to the work (and at this point, I’m starting to know a thing or two about those).

This short is from one of the first workshops I attended. Notably for me, it was the first one I attended with my own note book to write in. Exciting stuff. The workshop started with an array of pictures on the table. They all depicted various scenes and were of various ages. We were tasked with picking one that appealed to us and I was immediately drawn to a picture of a child being handed an inflatable crocodile by a man in what looked like 30s or 40s London.

We were then asked to explain around the picture, to which I wrote that the person looking on, taking the picture, was the mother of the child and the wife of the man. These pictures and scenes were intended to be, if you’ll forgive the pun, a snapshot into the life of those involved. The exercises were built around drawing out details and filling them with a life around them. Some of the material people came up with was funny, some sad, some interesting. As for mine? Well, I really enjoyed that workshop and what I produced. I was more than happy to go back home and finish it up, the result of which you see below…


Crocodile Blitz (5/4/14)

May 10th – It’s bin a long time cince Daddy left home. Mummy has bin relly upset. She crys when she comes into my room and sees the big, green, silly crodile crocodyle he got me befour he went. I think it’s relly funy, but I miss him. I hope he’ll come back soon.

June 2nd – Tomorow its’ my birthday! I am very excited! Mummy has started smelling funy though. It was very suny today. We went to the park.

June 4th – Daddy sent me a postcard! It said that he was safe and that France was very nice. Mummy still has the postcard. She keeps it in her room. I would like it back.

July 9th – When I came back from scool I herd Mummy talking to two grown ups. I went upstairs and started doing my work, but then I herd Mummy start shouting. It was a bit scary. Mummy slammed the door after they left and came upstairs and gave me a hug. Her face looked upset. I think she just missed Daddy. I miss him too.

July 20th – Daddy likes warm weather. I think he would like it here right now. I hope it is nice where he is in France.

August 23rd – I have had a very nice summer. It was very warm and sunny. School will be starting soon. Mummy has helped me with my spelling so I cannot wait to show my teacher!

September 4th – Mummy had the wireless on all day. I came back from school and she hadnt’ moved at all! I saw a dish with grey stuff in it that she tried to hide from me. I think it was making her smell so I don’t now why she had it.

September 6th – One of my friends at school said that their house was almost knocked down! That sounded really scarey, but she was safe.

September 9th – I heard a big bang during the night. Mummy rushed in to make sure I was okay. I thought it was exciting, but when we looked outside the houses at the end of the street had fallen down. People were crying and upset. Mummy wouldn’t let me stay out for long. I still had to go to school. One of my friends was not there. They must be ill! I am very tired today!

September 10th – My teacher didn’t come into school today. We were taught by the head teacher! He is not as scarey as I first saw him. We were also mixed with another class from the same year because they had a smaller class today. It was very exciting, but the room was full.

September 11th – We had the same class today like yesterday. My class had a couple of friends missing. It was not as exciting. The head teacher looked a little upset at the start of the day as well. I bet he just got out of the wrong side of bed!

September 14th – Two grown ups came round to the house today. It was very scarey. They said they wanted to take me away, but I did not want to go and Mummy was holding me and began crying and shouting at the mean people. They left after a bit, but Mummy kept hugging me for a long time after. They did say they would come back. I don’t like them at all!

September 16th – The head teacher said that a lot of the classes were going to be mixing together. Alot of my friends were not at school today. The head teacher said that they had gone away or were going to soon. I wander why me and Mummy didn’t go away?

September 19th – I don’t usualy go in the under ground, but there was a really loud sound that made Mummy take us to it. I was playing with the crocodyle and brought it with me. Everyone under ground was anoyed because there was not much space and it took up a lot, but when someone got angry, Mummy took them to the side and when she came back, the other person did not seem as angry. It was a bit exciting at first, but we were in there for a very long time and no one else seemed to be very happy about being in there. Many people looked scarred and unhappy. When we finally left, another building on our road had fallen down. I hope our house does not fall over. I really like it.

September 20th – Mummy explained to me that there are some bad people in the world who want to hurt us. I don’t know what we did to make them so angry, but Mummy was very serious when she was explaining this to me. When I asked about Daddy, she stopped talking and started crying. I gave her the biggest hug I could and that made her happy again. I am glad that I could make her happy!

October 11th – The grown ups from before came around again. I let them in as Mummy was making some food and they said that they wanted to make sure I was safe and could live somewhere else where it was safe. I said I would only go if Mummy wanted to go, but they said that only I could. I shook my head and told them that I would not go without Mummy. Mummy came out and spoke to them with her puffy stick and told them to go away and puffed some smoke in their face. They said they would come back again and left. They seemed pretty angry, but my Mummy is the best.

October 15th – My class is really small now. I don’t have many friends left here any more which is sad. My spelling is definitely inproving though!

November 20th – It is getting cold here. I wonder how cold it is in France for Daddy.


December 25th – I got another postcard from Daddy! He said he had been moved to the south of France. It is very pretty there! He had a photo of him and his friends and there was lots of snow that made it look very nice. They didn’t have smiles, but I think they were having fun. Also, I moved the crocodile onto my wardrobe so it guards the door. I thought it was good, but Mummy seemed surprised when she came through the door.

January 1st 1941 – It is the new year! I will be eight years old this year. I think that is very exciting! Mummy said that she hopes Daddy is able to come home this year and I do too!

May 27th – I am writing this at school because our home was damaged by the bad people. We were not in at the time which is very good. The front of the house was hit by something called sharpnel and we were not allowed in for ages. Our living room was a bit broken but everything else looked okay. Mummy is at the church which has a shelter with a lot of the things we own until our home is fixed. She said that “luging around this crocodile is rediculos” but I think she was happy to do it. I do miss my bed a lot.

July 6th 1946 – I found this diary of a child in some of the stock underground in the Church. I do not know to whom it belongs or if it is even belonging to the child of a parishioner. So many people came and went during the war that it seems hardly fathomable that I shall be able to return it to its owner. Nevertheless, I shall keep it here in safe keeping along with this note such that if its owner does, somehow, find themselves reunited with this bastion of youth and innocence that they might once again utilise its empty pages.

February 9th 1948 – I couldn’t help but hasten myself to the location of this diary after a most joyous conversation I had with Mr. Stennis. The man, whilst clearly damaged from his valorous efforts during the war, spoke at great lengths about his family and how his most delightful daughter, Clarissa, had a large green crocodile that she insisted they bury in their garden after it had become broken and deflated. It is a shame that there are no pictures in this treasure, but one must imagine that this is no mere coincidence? An act of The Holy One (Blessed be He) to which I am sure there is little doubt. Next Sunday, I shall be sure to make sure to show Clarissa this book. Or, perhaps, I should do it sooner? I must admit that I find this rather exciting!

February 10th – I must confess to some disappointment. Mr. and Mrs. Stennis had not made it clear that their daughter Clarissa was away at school and had merely come back for the weekend. They could not recall seeing this article before and when I offered to let them read of its pages, they declined. My excitement seems quelled, but I shall hold onto this until I next see dear Clarissa.

June 4th 1961 – It is a most peculiar thing, memory. I could not remember why, at first, I felt such a need to speak to the delightful Miss. Stennis. It was only after the parish had left that I found myself mysteriously peering into the drawer that contained this relic. I should say it was forgotten, but clearly it was not! I am not sure why I waste time writing this, perhaps because it will be my last chance to write in this tome, but I felt the need to. I depart immediately in hope of finally returning this to its rightful owner!

June 18th 1961 – I read through these pages and remember the childhood that has long since been. He asked me if I had read through this yet earlier at Church, but I confessed the sinful truth, that I had not. He understood why, but I could feel him pleading with me through his words that I do so. So, here I am. This remains a fine specimen and the memories rekindled are loving ones. That things have changed so much with time, both with understanding and circumstance, I feel are worth written down here such that someone may know about me all there is to know.

Once my father, Andrew Stennis, returned from the war, he was a broken man. I did not realise it at the time, but the scenes he must have faced must have left him questioning his own purpose and reason for living. The horrors he witness bring a grave chill to me and I know that my imagination is but a distant call away from reality. Yet, he loved me more than I think he ever did before he left. He is a man that can only offer loving kindness, a facet I am glad remained unchanged by conflict, but for a man of such stern beliefs to see what he saw, to do what he did…it is unsurprising how angry he can get. I choose to believe it is anger built from love and fear of loss, but perhaps time will prove the truth. Whatever that may be.

My mother, Jennifer, seemed similarly impacted by the way. Though it saddens me to read some of what I’ve written with the naivety that I then had, her reasons for anger and sadness were mine shared; my father was not around and their bond of love had been shattered by the hatred around us. Her smoking and eventual drinking almost devoured her soul and whilst it remains whole again now, I dare not think what could have been. When they told me of how they met, how they fell in love and that that was it, they knew their lives were to be with each other, it makes sense how badly she took it and the extra burden that was on his mind. I believe that whilst he was fighting for his country, he was chiefly fighting for three.

It is hard not to laugh at the things I wrote. My spelling was simply atrocious! Yet, the constant excitement and unknowing became me. I live now deep in books with the hopes of educating others in the vast fields of science. It seems fitting I suppose that Biology is where my heart lies. That stupid crocodile crocodyle! I cannot believe I took it with me into the Underground so many times. I mock it, but at the time it was very much as part of the family as thee. It is though nice to have this part of my life documented, as badly and as well as it is in equal measure.

You know, I think I might go and show this to them. Will it turn us back into the family we were twenty years ago? I doubt it, but if only for a few moments, then I shall be happy.

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