Tag Archives: creative writing exercises

#QUICKFIC 14/12/2018: The Winner

We throw a #QUICKFIC curveball, and you all more than rise to the occasion! Thank you, all, for the stories. You gave us dramatic car chases, a retiring santa, terrible families, a spot of framing for murder and other truly heartwarming tales. It’s been an absolute pleasure to read your submissions these past few months, and this week was no exception. Thank you for them all.

One last time, here were your prompts and then on to the winners we go:

 

Runner Up: Thom Willis

Going to Town

The scents of Christmas – cinnamon, pine, the muted sharpness of oranges – were starting to feel oppressive. He’d lost his taste for mulled wine this year, and the warmed-over dregs of a cheap rioja, with shards of broken star anise floating like driftwood on the surface, disgusted him. The snow settling outside depressed him, made him feel trapped and lonely.

“Humbug,” he muttered, pleased with that at least. His face itched in the glow of the roaring log fire. He had been unable to find his razor, and his fresh beard was irritating him as much as anything else. Soon he would be out in the fresh air, and he relished it. Only good part of the job. A thousand years he’d been delivering presents and still it surprised him how enjoyable that was.

Last year he’d almost died. A slip on a loose tile. He was always so careful but was now overconfident and simply ignored the warning signs that had always kept him safe. Slates were always bad. Slippery at the best of times, this one rattled down the roof and he heard it shatter on the ground long after it fell, even as he was still sliding to the edge.

He’d got to stop. He was old now. No one cared if he came or not. There were no adorable children to restore his faith in Christmas. Not now. This would be his last round. After that, if everyone believed it was their parents, well, they’d be right.

Runner Up: Jane Healey 

Sticks and Stones

Peter’s bones are slowly turning to cinnamon sticks; they crunch when he rolls his wrists, his muscles burning with the fiery heat of the powder seeping from the joints; they jostle against one another with a clattering sound when he breaks into a jog to catch the bus; and when he types the last batch of this year’s emails he does so slowly, carefully, so that the single sticks in each of his fingers do not snap and shatter. It’s Christmas party season now and he can no longer discern between the spice of his own sweat and the breath of those who have gulped down mugfuls of mulled wine, eats every minced pie he is offered gingerly because he fears that the taste means his teeth are turning to cinnamon too and disintegrating in his mouth; and as he stands at the back of the last office meeting of the year, gingerly cupping elbows that are crumbling into shards, stooping so that he cannot feel the scrape of his vertebrae against one another, the hot shiver of ground cinnamon cascading down his back, his manager turns to him and says, what we’re looking from you next year, Peter, is a bit more oomph, a bit more spark, a bit more – she pauses to bite into a slice of the festive cake that Peter’s work nemesis Samantha has made and brought to the meeting – spice. He nods and coughs, swallowing a jagged piece of bark.

Runner Up: Bridget Yates

Cold Shoulder

It was cold, bitterly cold as I expected. But it was working.

I ploughed on, the sun setting behind me and giving an eerie glow to the icy waste that was the road. And he was still there; his headlights clearly visible in my wing mirror.

It had taken planning and my heart fluttered in my chest every time I thought about what I had done, no -what we had done.

He had the body in the boot.

To say the situation had become unbearable was an understatement; she had made our lives a misery with all that crying and moaning . And when she fell down the stairs yesterday morning, well, it seemed a kindness to let her just slip gently away. And he had used a feather pillow .

But I needed the money to be able to keep the house.

So we decided to keep her alive so to speak and we put her body in the boot of his car.

He thought the plan was to dispose of her body by the roadside in the next State and then later abandon the car. But I had a different plan.

When we crossed the State line I would wait until he was close behind me and when there was more traffic around I would brake suddenly.

The cops would be called.

And he had a body in the boot of his car.

The Winner: Roger Evans

Cinnamon Scrolls

One day you may find, lurking at the back of a cupboard, a bag of cinnamon sticks smelling faintly of Christmas, with no memory of their purchase. Tight rolls of spice prompting thoughts of mulled wine and sweet confections. Pay good attention to this bag, as within such a treasure trove of flavour may lie a greater one.

For cinnamon can hold a secret, hidden from sight, waiting for the moment to bestow its fortune upon you. You see, rarely, very rarely, as the bark curls into its quills, the forest spirits bestow their luck upon one piece.

So hold each one gently before you consign it to the recipe, and see if will unfurl gently in your hand.  And read the message written within.

Good fortune.

Many congratulations to Thom, Jane, Bridget and Roger. Here’s to all of you #QUICKFIC writers, to the rapidly approaching new year, to the holidays and to all the brilliant flash fiction pieces you’ve written and have yet to write.

Happy Holidays! See you next year!

For a look back at our previous #QUICKFIC flash fiction competitions, click here.

#QUICKFIC 14/12/2018

Welcome welcome, to the last #QUICKFIC, Faber Academy’s Flash Fiction competition of 2018. I merrily skip off after this week and wanted to give you something a little bit different to celebrate the season and the end of 2018.

Now under normal circumstances here is where I’d go through the rules and most of you nod impatiently because you’re old hats by now and know what you’re doing. This week there’s a twist, so pay attention!

  • You’re about to see three different prompts, numbered 1, 2 and 3.
  • This week you can pick whichever prompt you like the look of the best and write a piece of flash fiction 250 words or less on it.
  • You can only choose one though, so choose wisely! No multiple entries please.
  • Give your piece a title, copy it into the body of an email and tell me the wordcount and which number prompt you wrote the piece based on (this is important!)
  • Send that email to academy@faber.co.uk no later than 2:50 pm today

At 3:30 we announce the winner of this bumper crop of books:

Got it? Three prompts, choose your favourite, write a piece and we’ll choose our favourite, then all our days will be merry and bright. Here are your prompts:

1. 

2. 

3.  

 

Go go go! Write away!

By entering Faber Academy’s flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC , you’re granting us non-exclusive worldwide permission to reprint your story on our website should you win.

#QUICKFIC 07/12/2018: The Winner

Thank you, lovely writers! I asked you for silliness, and silliness you did provide. Thank you everyone, for making me laugh hard enough that there was nearly a small incident involving a very full coffee cup and electronics. Here’s your prompt once again:

A quote from Jan Austen's "Emma" reading “Silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way.” against an image of a tree in the process of losing its leaves, with the contrast turned up and the image overlayed with a pink and orange colour gradient until the trees look like etchings - Faber Academy's Flash Fiction Competition #QUICKFIC

And without further ado, here are your #QUICKFIC Flash Fiction Competition winners:

Runner Up: Sarah Nash

A New Woman

“Enough is enough,” Jane says to her reflection in the bathroom mirror. “Thirty years in the same firm and never noticed. I am fifty tomorrow. Time for action. I shall take the morning off.”

“Never see you on a weekday,” says Tracey at Cut and Dried. “Same as usual?”

“I rather fancy going pink,” says Jane.

Tracey nearly drops her scissors, but seasoned pro as she is, rallies immediately.

“All over or just a touch?”

An hour later Jane strides, pink-rinsed, down her local high street. To her surprise, no-one laughs.

She decides (who is this new woman?) she needs a new face to go with the new hair and finds herself in the cosmetics hall of her local department store.

“Can I help?” asks an elegant woman.

“I wish I knew,” answers Jane honestly and submits.

On the way out, mascara-laden, she feels as if two spiders have landed on her eyes and tries not to blink in case they wreak havoc over her face. She pauses in shoe sales and remembers a survey (French of course) that stated women are more successful if they wear lipstick and heels. She licks her shiny lips and shops.

At noon precisely, Jane strides into Mr Carter’s office. (In reality, she teeters.)

He looks terrified.

She is Modesty Blaise, Wonder Woman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She is unstoppable.

“I want a promotion and a raise. Enough is enough!”

He surrenders.

Winner: Mary Thompson

John Coltrane, he is not

My beau’s penchant is the saxophone, and every Friday, after dinner and a small glass of Malbec, we retire upstairs where he extracts his instrument and begins to play. I want to be seen as a supportive lover so I perch on the end of the bed and murmur words of encouragement while he balances his sax on his extended belly, blowing into it as though it were a breathalyser. John Coltrane, he is not.

One day I’m on the top deck of the 133 with a banging hangover when he calls.

‘Not feeling well,’ I murmur. ‘Mixed my drinks and didn’t eat.’ And my head lolls back on the seat.
‘Hang on a second,’ he says.

Almost immediately I hear the sax. Its nail-hammering tones are so loud a baby starts wailing at the back of the bus. I try to switch the phone off but drop it under the seat and the screen smashes.

’Fuck!’ I scream, but he keeps on playing, even after I’ve exited the bus and staggered the five minutes to my flat, run a bath and watched the bubbles rise, dropped the phone on the floor again, submerged myself in the bubbles, lowered my head under the water so I can’t hear the damn thing any more, only I can as the crazy, fucked-up noise reverberates right through the bath tub.

Until finally, eventually he stops.

‘How was that?’ he asks, as I pick up the phone with a soapy hand.

Congratulations to Mary and Sarah! With that, I’ll send you all on your way for another week.

Until Friday!

For a look back at our previous #QUICKFIC flash fiction competitions, click here.

#QUICKFIC 09/11/2018

Happy Friday! Welcome back to Faber Academy’s flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC

Quick fire refresher:

One prompt. One 250 word story from you. Send it in the body of an email (including title and word count) by 2:50 pm today to academy@faber.co.uk. You might win these books: 

"The Book of Chocolate Saints" by Jeet Thayil and "In My Minds Eye: A Thought Diary" by Jan Morris -Faber Academy's flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC

The days are getting shorter, it’s dark and cold and everyone is reaching for the tissues, but not in the Academy office! We’re bringing back that summer feeling and switching  things up a little. This week your prompt is not a picture, or a first line, or even an extract. It’s a playlist full of cheerful songs designed to make you think of warmer, golden days gone by:

Have a listen, get inspired and see what words you can produce.

One more programming note before we go though. Thanks to copyright, we can’t re-print any of the lyrics to these wonderful songs. Please don’t include them in your story, as that means it can’t go up on the website and that means you won’t win.

Until 3:30 pm! 

By entering Faber Academy’s flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC , you’re granting us non-exclusive worldwide permission to reprint your story on our website should you win. 

Wednesday Writing Exercise: Character Studies

We’ve got two creative writing exercises for you today, both designed to add wonderful flesh to your characters’ bare bones. They’re brought to you courtesy of author and Academy tutor, Richard Skinner.

If you don’t have a work-in-progress, or you fancy doing a little palate-cleanser

rswritingexercise1

A couple are taking part in a pub quiz. The woman wants a baby, but, unbeknownst to her, her partner is about to end their relationship.

Write a scene of dialogue.

If you do have a manuscript on the move

rswritingexercise2

Make a character you’re having trouble with write a letter to you, the author.

 

Richard Skinner

Richard Skinner is the Director of Fiction at Faber Academy. He’s a tutor on our six-month Writing a Novel course, now accepting applications for October, and also teaches our Start to Write one day courses.

For more creative writing exercises, why not play QuickFic with us on Friday? Write a short story using a new prompt each week for the chance to win books!

Wednesday Writing Exercise: Achieving the Impossible

What can we say? We like to aim big.WednesdayWritingExercise_carousel_icon

Giving your main character a goal is an essential way to drive plot. Their motivations can change over the course of the novel, but they should always be there. Katniss wants to protect her sister, and then she wants to survive. Pip wants Estella to love him, and therefore to become a gentleman. Later, realising the error of his ways, the thing he wants most dearly is Joe’s forgiveness. These desires propel the characters into action, and action propels the novel.

This week on our Edit Your Novel course, the students are talking about middles. Middles are hard bits, aren’t they? They can be too saggy or too short, they can lose direction or a sense of imperative. With that in mind, our first writing exercise is for those of you who might be stuck in the middle of a project.

If you’ve got a work-in-progress on the go

Spend some time thinking about each of your characters and what they’re trying to achieve at this point in your novel. What do they want? How do they plan to get it? Is it out of their reach, and will that stop them trying? And if it isn’t out of their reach, how can you take it away from them?

And if you aren’t working on something at the moment

wedwriexe1102correct

 

500 words on this chap please. Where is he going? Where has he come from?

Enjoy this? Join us each Wednesday for new creative writing exercises and prompts. You could also check out our QuickFic competition each Friday – write a 250 word story on our chosen writing prompt for the chance to win a stack of books!

 

QuickFic 06/02/15

Good morning, QuickFic-ers! It’s 9:50am, which means a brand-new writing prompt just for you.

BUT FIRST! A brief reminder of how this thing works:

At ten to ten every Friday morning, we give you a prompt. You write up to 250 words of fiction about that prompt, give it a title, and send them to us at academy@faber.co.uk by 2.50pm.

At 3.30pm, we announce a winner, and the winner wins a stack of wonderful books. You can see a picture of those at the bottom of the page.

Anyway. Let’s get going, shall we? This week’s prompt is THIS:

qf10blog

Oooh.

And those books that the winner will win? T’is these:

qf10_bookspic_799

 

L-R: The New York Trilogy, Open City, After I’m Gone, Hidden Symptoms, The Hard Problem

See you back here at 3.30!

If it’s writing competitions you’re after, we do this every Friday. We also give you a new writing exercise each Wednesday, although all you win for those is the joy of a page full of words. And what better prize than words??

Wednesday Writing Exercise: Only Children Weep

WednesdayWritingExercise_carousel_iconYesterday, the news broke that William Heinemann are to publish Harper Lee’s second novel, Go Set A Watchman, over fifty years after the publication of To Kill A Mockingbird.

The novel follows a grown-up Scout as she returns to Maycomb, and in a statement, Lee explains that she actually wrote this book first. On reading it, her editors persuaded her to explore the possibility of a young Scout as narrator, and To Kill A Mockingbird was born.

With that in mind, we have a couple of exercises for you.

 

If you have a work-in-progress

Take the main character and write 500 words from their POV at an entirely different age.

So if you’ve a child narrator, write about them as an adult – what do they think when they look back on the events of your novel? How has it changed them, and where are they now?

And if you’re writing an adult main character, take them back to childhood. What is their life like; how do they see the world? Where do they imagine they’ll be in twenty years time?

If you don’t have a manuscript on the go

Find your favourite novel and choose a key character. Write 500 words from their POV twenty years earlier than the events of the novel or twenty years later.

Where are they now? What are they like? When they look back or forward, what do they see?

 

On completing this exercise, what do you learn about your character and their story? Has it made you realise that certain events or characters are more or less significant than you originally thought?

Check back each Wednesday for more creative writing exercises. And for a writing prompt with a prize, have you played QuickFic of a Friday? Do – we’d love to see you.