This week I was lucky enough to be invited to run a writing workshop for the Women’s Institute. I called the workshop, Everyone Can Be a Writer and used a couple of activities and some recommended reading to get the group thinking about how to start writing. This was a workshop aimed at new writers, with the key message being that writing isn’t always about getting published. Often, it is about enjoying the process and taking some time out. Just like reading the paper on a Sunday or doing a daily crossword puzzle.
One of the activities I used is one I have used in workshops previously, it’s a great way of getting students of all ages writing. I ask everyone to pick two books, or films if that is easier. This is often good for children who might not be confident readers, or anyone who just prefers the cinema or TV to a book. The idea is that they will take one character and put them into a location or scene from the other book. I always give a few examples:
- Miss Marple is on the orient express, Poirot has been murdered… (Miss Marple and Murder on the Orient Express)
- The Famous Five go to Hogwarts… (The Famous Five and Harry Potter)
- Jay Gatsby is mistaken for Sherlock Holmes… (The Great Gatsby and Sherlock Holmes)
- Dumbledore fights Darth Vader on the Death Star… (Harry Potter and Star Wars)
- Catnyss Everdeen moves to live with her dad, she falls in love with a vampire… (The Hunger Games and Twilight)
- Paddington Bear is sent back to Earth to see if it is ready to be re-inhabited by humans… (Paddington and Wall-E)
I like to give five minutes for group discussion about other ideas and scenarios. This can help build interest and if anyone doesn’t have an idea they will usually have one after this discussion.
Depending on the level of ability and/or confidence you can vary the amount of time given for the actual writing. When I was running the Creative Writing Society at Newcastle University, the group went over thirty minutes because they enjoyed the idea so much. With new, or younger writers, I tend to start with ten to fifteen minutes.
When I did this as part of the regular workshops for the society, I then asked the group to go away and continue working on the idea they had started in class, or one of the other ideas they had come up with in the group discussion. They then brought their work into the next class to share and work on editing.
Please feel free to use this idea at workshops or in the classroom, it’s a really easy idea but always sparks the imagination.