Doing my writing warm-ups, in the form of ten minute object writes, reminded me of a workshop session I ran for a writing group a few years ago and have also used with classes of children to help them explore their use of the senses in creating writing.
We tried something called ‘guided visualisation’, following a series of exercises based around a tray of 15 random objects I had gathered together.
The exercises invited no-pressure, anything-goes writing and the value of them was that each writer brought unique experiences to the object.
Some writers love these prescribed types of exercises, and others hate them. Whatever your feeling, it’s worth giving it a go once in a while, because sometimes the results can be exhilarating, sending your stream of consciousness into a completely unexpected direction.
Exercise 1: "Object Tray Game" – Uncover the tray and give 1 minute to try and take in as much information as possible. Write down everything you can remember in as much detail as possible. This is not ‘Kim’s Game’ though, so don’t just try and memorise the objects – you are trying to write details about each object.
Exercise 2: Ten lines – Choose one item from the tray. Look at your item until you are certain you have memorised everything about it. Then put it back and start writing. Do not look at it again until you are certain you have described everything about it in the best detail you can manage.
If you've done a good job of paying attention to detail, you should have no trouble writing ten lines or more on the description of a simple item. If you're having trouble getting that far, take a help card and use the hints.
Replace the object with another. Again, look at the object, hold it in your memory, and write every detail of your chosen object, no matter how minute. When you've finished check to see what you got right, what you got wrong, and what you overlooked entirely.
Exercise 3: Take a picture of a character. I just print some random pictures from a Google image search. Imagine that you're going to have to identify them in a police line-up, or better yet, describe them to a police artist. Take in as much about them as you can in one minute, then put the picture aside and write down as much as you can about the person.
Repeat with another picture.
Exercise 4: Choose an interesting setting that you know quite well – the shopping centre, the park, an old Victorian house. Try and really pay attention to the surroundings. Do your best to notice everything, not just with your sense of sight, but with all your senses.
Exercise 5: You should have a good idea of a person, a place and some objects by now, so put them together to create a scene in which you use everything you observed. Put some action in there. Put dialogue. But your main issue in this exercise is to create an absolutely over-the-top all-senses-engaged presentation of two people and the space they occupy.