Imagine your place on the bookshelf of the future

Chris Sykes, author of Complete Creative Writing Course

Writing from the place of your special world.

from Complete Creative Writing Course by Chris Sykes

All genres have their own ‘special world’ that immediately characterizes the stories in the genre of science fiction, murder mystery or whatever. Keeping the thoughts about the special world and its unique characteristics in mind, try the following exercise and write it either as a ghost story, murder mystery, sci-fi or other genre of your choice.

You are going to write a piece of genre fiction.

Study this list of jobs, professions and roles:

  • alien
  • astronaut
  • coachman
  • country squire
  • detective
  • doctor
  • explorer
  • ghost
  • highwayman/woman
  • housekeeper
  • judge
  • lover
  • lord/lady of the manor
  • murderer
  • policeman
  • prince/princess
  • scientist
  • soldier
  • vampire
  • victim

Pick a genre and keeping your choice of genre in mind, be it ghost story, vampire story, murder mystery, etc., choose one of these occupations or professions and get ready to write from the point of view of that person in the special world of the genre. This exercise has a series of steps and surprise is important in this exercise so make sure you cover up what is below before you continue. The exercise will work best if you do not know what is coming in the next step. It may mean that you introduce something in one stage and have to do a complete turnaround in the next stage. Go with it; see whether you can make it connect and work. Test yourself and your powers of invention. When you uncover each new request (labelled a, b, c, etc.) write quickly and under time pressure, say no more than 2–3 minutes each time (maximum 40–50 words at each stage), until you have reached the end.

  • Think about the occupation/profession you have chosen from the above list. Imagine a person fulfilling this role and living in the special world of the genre. What is their name and what do they look like? Write a brief description in no more than 50 words.
  • They eat something.
  • They drink.
  • They meet someone.
  • They get dressed (or undressed).
  • They travel somewhere.
  • They witness something amazing.
  • They have an accident, or witness one.
  • They chase what appears to be a woman or a man.
  • They make an excited phone call, or write a letter.
  • They confront someone or something.
  • They fall ill or nearly die.
  • They are rescued by another character from the special world (choose one from the above).
  • Bring the story to a conclusion.

About Chris Sykes

Chris Sykes is a playwright, writer and poet who has written for the BBC and has had his plays performed in the West End.  He also teaches creative writing at …

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