The walls clasp their hands to her mouth, press on her lips. No escape. No, not until she shows her teeth and bites. Elephants will easily stampede across the rough terrain and he, armed with nothing but guns and off-white thoughts, will feel his courage dissipate and scurry into the undergrowth like snakes. Water weaved above her head; the last thing she felt was the waves licking her body like fire.
The first word I picked was elephants. It was the first one to spring to mind, though looking back I had been watching videos about animal conservation this weekend so perhaps they had something to do with it!
‘Write down its opposite’: Admittedly I again went with the first word that came to mind: mice. That seemed to convey the opposite, plus there is a common belief elephants are scared of mice.
‘Then create a short story arc (one or two sentences) that takes the reader on a journey from the first word to the last.’: Because I had picked two animals, I decided to write a one sentence story in the natural world. I had this image of a herd of elephants crossing a savannah and poachers being forced back.
‘ The story must start and end on these two words.’: Instead of suggesting the poachers are being pushed back, I wrote that they scurried into the undergrowth like mice. The sentence seemed to work as a whole.
‘Change the pronouns.’: The elephants didn’t have pronouns but the poachers did. I changed ‘they’ to ‘she’. When I think of poachers, I imagine men so I decided to make this one a woman.
‘Change the narrative perspective to something you wouldn’t normally use’: I normally use first person present or past so for this I decided to go with third person future. It was really strange as I felt I had accidentally created another character, a God-like figure who could predict the future. It made the sentence sound almost fairytale-esque which I hadn’t expected. I also usually use female characters, so I changed the poacher’s pronouns again so it is a man.
‘Pick another word’: Water.
‘Write down its opposite’: Fire.
‘Then create another brief story arc which takes the reader from the first to the last word.’: I wrote about a young girl standing, knee high in water, and feeling freedom at last after escaping a blaze.
‘Kill off your character or choose a different narrative perspective from the first story arc.’: I chose to kill off the character which lead to a massive rewrite! Instead of being knee high in water, she was now completely submerged. I removed the mention of a blaze and used fire to describe the water, as I found that more interesting plus I liked keeping the girl’s backstory vague. We don’t know how she came to be there and I found that intriguing.
‘Choose a word, as randomly as possible, that does not appear in either stories.’: Huge.
‘identify its disintegrating antonym.’: I chose ‘smaller’ though ‘nothing’ was also an option.
‘Write another connecting story between the two.’: When I think of the word huge, I think of something insurmountable, something difficult. Yet I was conscious that my last two stories were quite sad, so I went for a hopeful theme. I imagined someone trapped who would eventually escape.
‘ Avoid adjectives. Be sparse.’: This was really hard as both my starting words were adjectives! I got rid of both yet wanted to keep that feeling of entrapment. So, whilst I couldn’t use adjectives, I used the imagery of walls having hands and physically keeping her in her prison.
‘Mix them up. The first is not always the start.’: I decided to put the third story first as I felt it was a strong opening and I liked the contrast of this suffocating space against the wild backdrop of the first.
‘If there’s an obvious connection, break it.’: Mice are now snakes.
Louise Hurrell (she/her) is writer based in Scotland. When not scribbling, she can be found at her local indie cinema or panicking about her next story/poem/random thought.