In my case, the 85% of the creative writing exercises I do are not going to result in something good that I would take into consideration as a story or a play. Anyway, I am also convinced that they are worth it because there will be that 15% of exercises that I will keep on writing when going back home after class, and that’s already very good. I am also sure that 100% of the exercises we do, even if we write very bad stuff, are useful. In my Creative Writing class at Sarah Lawrence College, our professor didn’t make us do exercises in class, she just wanted us to submit whatever we wanted to write on daily basis.
This is of course good because we didn’t have any rush or pressure to write and read our stuff aloud right after that. But after my experience at Uni of Westminster, I have learnt how useful can be to do some exercises in class – pressure and anxiety are not always bad for writing. One of the exercises that we started in class was about getting inspired from a newspaper. Professor Musgrave gave us some copies of the Evening Standard and we had to find any story that we found interesting.
After that, we needed to change a detail in the story and try to imagine a play that we could write about it. I chose an interesting article about Patsy Kensit, Liam Gallagher’s ex-wife, who declared that her son with the singer is not interested in using his father’s fame to have an easier path. He wants to become a theatre actor but he’s not interested in fame – all this seems quite an interesting thing, since she is telling it to the most-read transport newspaper in Britain. Anyway, I learnt that their son is called Lennon Gallagher, which is quite an amusing name as well. The story caught my attention immediately – gossip, rockstars and ridiculous names? It feels exactly like my kind of story.
Professor Musgrave told us to change a detail in the story and I decided to put it like this: Patsy Kensit was not his wife, but a groupie who never told him about his son. Then one day her son told her that he wanted to study acting and she wanted him to have the best future so she needed to pay for one of the top theatre schools – but how? She decided to tell Liam about it in order to make him pay for his son’s study fees.
This exercise was very helpful not only because it’s about getting inspiration from reality and true facts, but also because it’s about taking an existing idea and pushing it somewhere else. This technique is called SCAMPER, ant it’s about changing an existing idea – whether it comes from real life, other stories, novels, things you heard and so on. The word SCAMPER is made of:
Substitute: can you change the who, the time, the place, the events and the themes of the story?
Combine: can you separate the different element of a story and combine them with other elements of other stories?
Adapt: can you change some story elements in order to get a different outcome?
Magnify/Modify: can you modify something, make slight changes in characters, events time, place…?
Put to Other Use: can you change what characters do with items in the story?
Eliminate: can you remove some locations, characters and events? How does this change the story?
Rearrange/Reverse: can you change the timeline of events and what kind of impact could it have on the story as a whole?
All these actions mean that you can manipulate, change and direct a story where you want, despite its origins. It is very interesting, and I think that the idea I had about the rockstar father could work for the play I am going to write for the project. Who knows? I have started to think about an outline, and I am starting to feel very intrigued about it now… let’s see.