Some ideas for writing

Where do ideas for stories come from? Just about anywhere is probably as good an answer as any. That's not, however, terrifically helpful when you're expected to produce a text in the very near future and you're stymied. A writer friend of mine, Richard Yaxley, and I have come up with this list of three ways that may get you started:
(If you wish to skip the theory and get straight into a unit try Working With Visual Stimulus.)

Ways of exploring texts

 Gaps and silences – those parts of a text which a writer has chosen to leave to the readers’ imaginations. Writing the scene in which Horatio tells Fortinbras what has happened to Hamlet would be filling a gap.

Extensions and transformations – to extend a text means to go beyond the end as chosen by the writer. In Polanski’s film of Macbeth the final image is of Donalbain going to meet with the witches.

A transformation involves changing the text type. For example, West Side Story transforms Romeo and Juliet.

Textual intervention - a way of challenging existing texts to create original work. It means that you need to regard texts as:

        dynamic and able to change, rather than fixed and concrete

        open-ended, rather than finished

In practical terms, intervening means examining the theme, or a character or characters, or a style or symbol, or example of language - any aspect of the text - by choosing a genre and writing imaginatively.  This process means engaging with a text actively - as a creator - rather than passively, as a reader.  It means being imaginative AND critical, and setting up 'a conversation' with the text.  Rob Pope, an expert in this field, has said that:
'The best way to understand how a text works is to change it: to play around with it, to intervene in some way (large or small) and then to try to account for the exact effect of what you have done."

Look at how these methods are used in the unit below:

Working with visual stimulus

There are two main ways you can work with visual images:

What’s in the image?(gaps & silences)

This method is based on answering key questions about an image. The key words that begin these questions are:

What, Who, Where, When, and Why/ How.

The sort of questions formed using these words are:

        What is happening here?  Or, What is the image maker trying to say?

        Who is involved? Who is spectating? Who is being criticised, or praised?

        Where is it happening?

        When is it happening?

        Why is it happening? Or, How is it happening? Or, How is it being done?

Text can be created from any visual image by asking questions based on the key words. Look at the image below:

Like parachuting, it's akin to flying. The photograph is courtesy of Great Barrier Reef Holidays.What is happening here seems obvious.... but
Who is jumping? (male? female? age?)
Why are they doing it? (bravado? sheer fear? a challenge?)
Who is watching? (friends? girlfriend? parents?)
How are they feeling? (elated?, relieved? in a blue funk?)
What season is it? (summer?)
Where is it? (Cairns, Australia.)
How would I feel in this situation? (probably scared...)


   So let's imagine some answers to those questions and create:

                                           G   is what I desire to do,

But I cannot, no wings, fly, except
   under the influence of

(Okay, it's not great poetry but it was a quick piece of work. The point is that questioning the image suggested some ideas.)

What if...?

We can also work with images by changing some of the elements. We ask what if...?

What if  the jumper was female? Is she a daredevil? Should we be questioning this - are we sexually stereotyping this situation? Who is watching her?
What if the rope was in fact a vine? Is this some ritual? Why is a bungy jumper reverting to the primitve form of this sport?
What if the jumper was fully clothed in winter gear? This seems a strange time to jump? Is this recreation?
What if there was no bungy cord and the outstretched arms were wings? We have remarkably transformed the image but it still is the basis of our new text.

So what can we do with this fanciful stuff...

'...It was far more fierce than the pain of her Menses. Not like that at all. There was no welling of consciousness in her that some thing was about to happen to her body. She remembered that. And she remembered how her mother had prepared her.

Could she ask her mother what was happening? Could she tell her? Neritta owned her mother’s beautiful face but had not inherited, thank goodness, her weight. Though her mother moved well for her size, seeming to float in those cavernous gowns she favoured, there were recent times when Neritta had looked on her with revulsion. She was fat. Bloated. And she had begun to look at Neritta in a most strange way, with something almost like fear. She looked like she wanted to speak….Then, she would go away. Of late they had grown apart; what would be the point of a another drop into silence.


The bell that would unleash her fellow seniors was due in a few minutes. Neritta did not want to see them. Her face, she was sure, showed the signs of her recent struggle. This was the face that had graced the school magazine two years running’, the girl voted most likely to succeed. She earned more, modelling, than her mother did at her office job. Arjon, her boyfriend, walked tall and proud when he held her arm.

   As she left the grounds it came again. The pain. It lifted her off her feet, flung her skywards.

And this time she had been seen. She felt the hands – how long had she rolled and cried out. She would not look at their faces. The hands had voices:

‘Are you all right…?’ Female.

‘You need to lie down, dear…’ Male.

‘No, don’t get up.’ Many voices, mixed together.

‘My God, what’s wrong with your back.’

She shook herself free of this crowd and ran. She found a dark, cool, alone place. Then she felt it. Blood running down her back. It was warm and slick, and the loathsome fear came uncurling in her belly again. She slipped into unconsciousness.

 Strange dreams. She was there on a hot night when she was very young and had slept, as many did, on the flattened roof of her home. In that zone between sleep and dream and wakefulness she heard wing beats. Felt the air stir, dared not open her eyes.

Her mother’s voice. Speaking to whom?

A man.

“She may not be afflicted.”

“I wish it was not an affliction. It should be a gift.”

“It’s death,” said the man.

Had the man been her father? He’d been gone now for so long she did not remember what he looked like. There were no photos in the house...'
: Stephen Kimber, 2000.

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