As part of the creative writing class (called Dream Workshop) I teach for CWC, I deliver a lot of hands-on activities. That’s because, for me, writing isn’t just about the act at sitting at a computer, pounding my fingers against a keyboard. It’s also about sketching, mapping, diagramming, and building stuff.
I find building stuff really helps keep my creativity alive. So much the better when what I’m building actually connects to a story I’m trying to write. While building a model or a prop, my imagination becomes inflamed and those dingy corners of my mind begin to percolate with ideas.
One of my favorite activities to work on with my classes is door-building. I’m obsessed with doors and take a lot of photos of them as I travel around. But it’s also fun to build them in connection to a story. For the students, it helps them visualize their stories, which means they are better prepared to add description and detail into their scenes.
Here are some photos of my most recent class. As always, the students’ creativity surprises me! I can’t wait to see these doorways come alive in their stories.
For two of the groups I was working with as writer-in-residence at ELC School in Thailand, we worked on miniature worlds. We began by designing a cast of characters, then had some of those characters miniaturized by shrink rays. After mapping out an epic journey across a single room in the house, I surprised my young authors by springing a climactic challenge upon their characters: a deadly creature.
Well, not SO deadly if you are normal sized, but for our miniature characters, beetles and centipedes and frogs could prove quite hazardous. This activity began with each student pulling a critter out of Bag #1. Then, from Bag #2, they picked out two “tools”—items such as toothpicks, buttons, clothespins, and the like. Using a brainstorming sheet, the students had to use their problem-solving skills to figure out how their characters could use the tools to escape the critters.
Here are some photos of their work in progress:
Now that they have been faced with the climatic problem and brainstormed the solution, the endings of their stories should be relatively easily to write! My time as writer-in-residence is finished at the school, but I’ve been promised that some of the stories will be sent my way so that I can see how they turned out!