Narrative Futures Writing Prompts
Recently, I presented a series of writing prompts and exercises linked to the eight brilliant interviews of Narrative Futures, a series created by Chelsea Haith of The Oxford University Research Centre for the Humanities (TORCH), featuring interviews with leading authors and editors in speculative fiction genres from around the world.
I originally delivered the writing prompts after each episode of the podcast; and here are the full writing prompts for you to share and enjoy. Click on the episode number at the top of each prompt for the full interview audio and transcript.
Pandemic writing: How close is too close?
1. What is the point?
What is the point?
Lauren Beukes says, ‘I don’t know how useful writing books is as a mode of action.’
I’d like to start off with that question that many writers face at least twenty times a day.
What is the point?
Some writers, like Beukes and many of the writers in this series, find fuel in addressing social issues and reimagining futures.
Some writers want to entertain. Some writers want to express themselves.
You can often find a blend of various motivations.
Whatever the reason you do it, writing is hard.
It’s an awkwardly slow process in a fast world. It is a lot of hard work and a lot of self-doubt for very little reward or acknowledgement. Your rewards are most often self-generated – a brief sense of satisfaction or contentment. You might argue that the publishing industry thrives on keeping creators insecure, disconnected, and disempowered.
My opinion is that the slow depth of writing creates empathy.
Art – creative, transcendent communication, storytelling, meaning-making – whether the ideas are challenging and subversive, or comforting entertainment, or both, is profoundly important, especially in times like these.
That’s my opinion. What’s yours?
What brings you to your notebook or your desk when there are so many easier things to do?
What brings you to this segment of this podcast?
Why do you want to write?
It’s not essential to know the answer to this question, but it can help on those more difficult days.
It can also go some way to giving your work a central theme or identity.
As your first exercise, write a note to your future self or your past self or an imagined or real writer who’s struggling with motivation. List the reasons why you write, why you bother.
Keep this note.
2. A world without men
For your second prompt, I’d like to pick up on Lauren Beukes’s ideas on a world without men in Afterland and turn them into a technical exercise.
Choose a scene from a book you’ve read or a film you’ve watched recently, or from something you’ve written yourself. The characters should include men, women and/or people of other genders or non-genders.
Now reimagine it without men.
You could approach this in various ways:
You could write a brief synopsis of a longer work, outlining how the characters and scenario have changed without men.
You could rewrite a passage of dialogue and action, changing the male characters to women.
You might rewrite a couple of pages of a script, removing or changing the men.
Feel free now to pause, write the piece, and then come back.
You might find it beneficial to do the exercises without the discussion in mind.
Consider how you approached the task.
What work did you choose?
Did the male characters disappear altogether, or were they transformed?
If they disappeared, what, if anything filled the spaces they left?
What does this new world look like?
Is it better, worse, the same? Beukes says ‘the patriarchy is a comfortable pair of shoes’ and that women and nonbinary people are people too, just as capable of being losers, corrupt or violent as men.
Consider your vision.
Do you think it’s achievable?
Has your writing been useful?