Guest Author - Siobhain M Cullen
One of the most useful exercises a beginning Short Story writer can do is to write about what they know. Most of us have at least a few interesting childhood memories which we could write about.
However, in order to make the writing as vivid and realistic as possible, it is sometimes necessary for a writer to deliberately forget some things as well, such as a various elements of the learned writing style which they have grown accustomed to using in adulthood. When writing with the voice of a child, this may not be appropriate. The inner voice of a child is different to the one with which we have learned to speak and write as adults.
One way in which to temporarily free ourselves of our new assumed adult voice is through meditation. Here is a writing exercise to try.
Do not try to write the story as you go through the exercise, but have a pencil and paper to hand only for the purpose of jotting ideas and images as they come to mind.
Have a rough idea before you start, of a meaningful anecdote or rich memory you wish to commit to paper. Wearing loose comfortable clothes, sitting in a warm hushed environment that is still bright enough to see to write, try to empty your mind of day to day, monochrome, mundane thoughts. Some meditation enthusiasts find the solitary flicker of a candle useful as it focuses the mind on the flame, moving it on from everyday distractions.
Treat the experience as a rare reward, a few moments to yourself, thinking about what you want to think about for a change - perhaps memories that make you happy. As thoughts, ideas and phrases flow, jot them down, higgledy-piggledy - you are not going to write the story yet and can take all the time in the world to rearrange them later, to your liking.
Think about your message and what you are trying to say. Focus upon how a child would see, smell or hear the environment you find yourself in - blades of grass under fingers on a lawn, how tree bark feels under the hand or Fall leaves crunching underfoot. What does the smell of the Ocean remind a child,(not an adult)of?
When you are ready to commit your thoughts to paper, do another draft. This time incorporate the ideas into a rough story plan. Read it through, asking yourself all through the story "Would a child know that word?" How would I have expressed this idea at that age? Reach deep within to find and remember your child voice. Think smaller, but be sparing in the use of pet phrases or dialect that outsider readers might not understand.
Write, or (this where modern technology is a boon to writers,) edit it again and try reading it aloud, firstly to yourself and ,when you are happy with it, to an honest friend. Take on board any confusions or misunderstandings they may have - these are what the readers will see too. Adjust the writing so that its meaning is unmistakable from a reader's vantage point.
Now you have your story. Sadly, it is only the bones of the story! Some best-selling writers come back to their stories time and time again before they are happy with them! At least we have computers nowadays!
Childhood days of creativity and wonder just a hazy memory? Get back to touching base with the child within yourself - wreck a book, creatively! Seriously, Keri Smith's new book idea - a journal you can 'wreck' (that's customise creatively with bits of 'you' such as scrapbooking,photos,doodles,photos,patchwork and so on) has been a best-selling success!
Author's own example of Writing with the Voice of the Child below - Ugly Bugs' Fall