Do you find that you’ve got no ideas when you want to enter a writing competition? Or hat the inspiration for your novel has disappeared? Try this excercise to help you start to write again.
Turn on the radio and write down the first sentence you hear, then flip to another station and another and do the same each time. Then use those sentences as the first words in a piece of short fiction.
Here are three I wrote after a quick scan through the radio this morning. They’re not going to win any prizes but they got me in the mood for writing again.
‘One car every 106 seconds,’ that’s what she said, then she did the maths, ‘that’s five cars every nine minutes.’ I think she said that to make it sound more impressive. Five cars every nine minutes, 800 cars a day, 5000 a week – not quite what I expected – they clean the plant on Sundays. That’s a lot of cars, you might wonder who brought them all, but I don’t. It takes me 72 seconds to feed a car through the crusher and we’ve got two. We don’t run them together, one off one on. One working, one stripped down for maintenance. That way we run them 24/7. It’s more profitable that way. Now I’ll do the maths. 1 car every 72 seconds, one- thousand two-hundred a day, eight thousand four-hundred every week. By the end of the year we’re so far ahead you wouldn’t believe. And we’re just one yard. There’s yards like ours all over the place. Not like the car plants, there’s not many of them left. I recon in a couple of years we’ll be fighting over cars. Yards will be closing down. That or we’ll have to find something else to process. I wonder if we could get a plane through the crusher. I recon I could, with a few changes.
He really shouldn’t have done that, so I shot him. To be honest it wasn’t very convenient. I wasn’t sure where the key was kept. It took me a good half hour to find it. It was in the tea caddy if you must know. I was just about to give up and make myself a nice cup of Earl Gray and there it was, the key to the gun cabinet. But I thought I might as well still have my tea. So I made a pot and sat down with a slice of Mrs. Perkins’ seedcake, so all in all, it must have been almost two hours before I went upstairs. By that time, he was in the bath. Well I didn’t mind, I’ve seen all that sort of thing before. I was a nurse in the war you know. It was a clean shot, well of course it was, you can’t miss from that distance, can you? Not with a twelve bore.
He’s up there, if you want to see. Still in the bath. I’ll wait here if you don’t mind. I think I’ll make myself another pot of tea. This one’s gone cold. Will you want seed cake? It’s really very good.
‘Well I wasn’t surprised, elephants are always unpredictable,’ he said. But this wasn’t unpredictable, it was unheard-of. A once in a life time event.
‘So have you got much experience of disappearing elephants?’ I asked.
‘No, not so much your actual disappearing. And not your actual elephants. But I wasn’t surprised, not really. Like I said, elephants are unpredictable.’
I had my note book out, but it was empty. This should have been the headline story. The Scoop of the Day. But only if I could get some answers. So far I had none.
‘So if not disappearing elephants what have you got experience of?’ I asked, not really expecting an answer.
‘Ahh, now you’re asking sensible questions. It’s not your elephants that usually disappear, it’s the camels that usually go. We’ve lost most of them now, and we’re not alone. They’ve gone from all the zoos. They don’t normally disappear either, not completely. You get bits left behind. Just bits, here and there. Fur caught on the fence, maybe a hoof in a tree, or foot prints on the roof. You know the sort of thing.’
‘Anyway, like I was saying they don’t usually disappear, you can tell where they’ve gone. But it’s not like that with the elephants. There’s no trace of them. You could say the elephants disappeared. Definitely. But like I said, elephants are unpredictable.’.