Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Workshop: Magic Spectacles

This workshop is one I occasionally do in person, especially with young people. I find it works particularly well with a prop. As such I usually take a pair of 3D glasses (the kind you get at the cinema) or some swanky sunglasses (my Prada and Versace ones go down well), depending on the age range. But this also works well on myself, in allowing me to indulge my imagination for a while.

First of all you introduce the glasses. If you're taking part in the workshop yourself, this is the point where you pick up your glasses, without putting them on yet, and take a good look at them. Otherwise, if you're leading the workshop, you show the glasses to those present.

Here's the most important thing to imagine at this point: these glasses are magical.

It's up to each individual writer at this point to decide on their magical properties, however. Do they let you see into the future or the past? Do they reveal a person's true thoughts? Are they X-ray glasses? Rose-tinted spectacles? Do they make the wearer see everything in black and white? Are they beer goggles? Flying gigs? An infrared visor?

Once you've decided on their magical properties, put them on. What can you see? Are you seeing the world as it will be in 1000 years time? Do you see dinosaurs, and if so, what kind? Who do you see? How do they appear?

When you put the glasses on, remember you're becoming a literary character--a persona. So don't get too hung up on the truth here.

Now I want you to introduce a person to the space you're in. If you're in a room or outside, think about how that person might enter the scene and what impact their entry has for you and whatever else is there with you. You begin to have a conversation with this person. An argument, in fact. You want something they have, or vice versa. There must be a conflict.

Now think about what you want vs what you actually need. Is the money you want really what you need, or do you just want security? Do you really want those swanky shoes, or do you just want to be attractive and loved? Your offering need not be as cliched as my own.

Finally, think about how you might work with the other character, or somehow defeat them, to resolve the conflict and get what you really need (although you don't necessarily get what you want).

Once you've tried this exercise a few times, think about the different spectacles we use in everyday life. Think about the shades we see through. Most importantly, think of your own writer's vision. How do you see the world? Can you try to see it in a different way? Try writing from a completely alien viewpoint and see where you end up.

If you try this exercise and you dare, please email a copy to me and I'll pick the best to post on here, along with my feedback.

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