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"Chloe Harris" really is the pseudonym for two writers, Noelle and Barbra, who've joined forces to write intriguing and sexy stories. A quintessential eccentric southerner, Noelle seems to find a story in almost everything. Ever ambitious to change her stars, she has a degree in Communications. Barbra lives together with her cat ('Princess Mimi'), who isn't very happy that she is spending so much time on writing. But this folly of the living can opener with opposable thumbs is mostly tolerated.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

PD Classic: Stolen Car - Brainstorming

A Whole New World in a Stolen Car- A Brain Storming Exercise

by Noelle

From time to time, we all need something to help us brainstorm and break us out of the dreaded writer's block. Not too long ago I was asked to lead a writing group with co-workers at my day job. Each month we'd have an assignment then each member shared their scene or essay or poem based on that exercise with the rest of the group.

Many of the assignments I pulled from The Writer's Idea Book by Jack Heffron but my very favorite exercise I developed from, of all things, a song by Sting. Everyone had a blast with the exercise and the scene I wrote lead to romantic suspense in progress.

There is a song on Sting's 2003 release Sacred Love entitled “Stolen Car.” In the song, the car thief imagines himself in the shoes of the car owner, seeing himself with a wife and kids at home and a mistress he takes out dancing.

The exercise worked like this, each member asked a friend, family member or co-worker the following questions and the answers could either be about their own car or they could make up the answers in any way they chose. 1. Describe a car 2. Describe something in the Glove box (not the registration) 3. Name the CD/Song in the CD/MP3 player 4. Describe something tucked in the visor 5. Describe something under one of the seats and which one 6. Describe a smell or smells in the car.

Each member shared the answers they received then each chose one to work with from all the entries. A couple of interesting things happened. First we got some very different descriptions. Some that were surveyed were totally literal: 1. A 2005 Toyota Camry with a leaking sunroof 2. A school fund raiser coupon book. 3. A mix CD with sunny driving music. 4. City Map 5. Half eaten goldfish crackers under the backseat 6.Smells a little musty from the leaking roof. *

And others tapped into their fantasies: 1.1956 Jaguar roadster 2. Dolce Gabbana shades 3. Bran Van 3000 -Glee (I still have no idea what that is) 4. Travel brochures for Belize 5. 9mm in a locked box under the drivers seat 6. Warm leather and sunshine. *

The most interesting thing though was how very different the writing could be when two members picked the same "stolen car." One member saw a Barney Fife-ish sheriff in a very small town in Arkansas where nothing ever happens finding the 1956 Jag abandoned on a deserted stretch of highway with the driver's side door still open. The items in the car were clues to the mystery. Another saw a female MI6 Agent driving the Jag down a mountain road in Turkey going undercover to catch a terrorist.*

If you're not writing a contemporary, you can tweak the questions and broaden it to “any type of vehicle” to encompass everything from a horse drawn carriage to an intergalactic trading vessel. Then ask someone to name three random items in the vehicle, a sound and a smell.

One of the best things about this exercise is that with different answers to the base questions it's ever changing and can be done over and over. Regardless of how simple or fantastic the answers you get, it’s a fun way to get the creative juices flowing for either a group or on your own.

*All examples used with permission


Sharon Bernas said...

Love this idea, Noelle, and it sounds like a great exercise to share with my critique group as well. The possibilities are endless!

Noelle said...

Thanks so much Sharon! Please keep in touch and let me know how it goes with your critque group!