One Core Essential Of Narrative Energy, And A Writing Exercise

man dancing with feathersYesterday, at the National Arts Gallery in Ottawa, we were walking up the ramp along the glass wall to the galleries behind two young boys with their mother.

An elderly, very smartly dressed couple started down the ramp. The man stopped as he and his wife were about to pass the boys. He leaned towards them. Pursing his lips, he started to whistle.

We all gaped at the twitterings and tweetings that came out of his mouth. For a moment we were in a glorious bird-filled forest rather than the Gallery.

As the man walked away, the older of the two boys asked his mom: “Is that man really a bird?” She said “No, not really,” and turned to pull the other son away from the glass wall. The boy thought a little, then turned to his mother with a huge grin: “But he would be, if he could fly.”

Surprise is a core essential of narrative energy. Surprise yourself, surprise your story.

Dive into the spirit of any idea or thought – however ‘weird’ or impossible it might appear – that suddenly presents itself to you. Seize the surprise. Anything’s possible when you’re dreaming up a story.

The Exercise

Below these instructions is a starter phrase, then a list of words. If you can, try not to read the words in advance!

Begin writing as soon as you’ve read the starter phrase. No pausing. Write fast. Once you feel you’re hitting your stride, start adding in the words (one by one, and in the order they are given) at random moments and, if possible, mid-sentence.

Starter phrase: If only Beatrice had explained things properly, I would never have…






Hope you had fun with this! Let me know.


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