Creative Writing Course Exercise #1; By Issa Dioume

For my Creative writing course at the University of Edinburgh, I have had to do a lot of interesting exercises. I thought I could share one with the online community, for all who may be interested in trying things out in prose.
The exercise consisted of imitating the structure of Fibonnaci Spirals, to come up with a short-story. I did so in class. It brought about an interesting piece and had an interesting effect on my writing. I think it is one to try out. The basic structure of a Fibonnaci Spirals goes like this: 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21 for the first paragraph and 34, 21,13,8,5,3,2,1,1 for the second. (Numbers above indicate amount of words per sentence). Writing with constraints can bring about some very good pieces, I would advice all other writers to have a go at this exercise and see what comes of it. Furthermore, once you have respected the structure, you can tweak the prose and break away from the constraints in the editing phase, as you will notice I have done in some instances of my story below. Enjoy! Have fun trying this out! Let’s learn!

                                                            Fibonacci Spirals

Boiling. Sun. Clammy hands. Perspiring human frames. Ice cream evaporating off cones. The summer season has sunk its teeth in. A cigarette burgeons out an onlookers vibrant lips, drawing a red sun at its tip. Plumes of smoke escape from his lungs with every exhaled breath, they are welcomed with open arms by the quivering air.

Stephenson sits leaned back against the small bus stand box encircling him like a precious pearl in an oyster shell, eyes shut, breath wheezy, hands clasped into clumps of pink flesh, head drooping downwardly. He’d been running outside all day with his friends Tammy and Tommy, they’d never taken a break, not once. He wondered what would happen to them once the year drew its curtains. He would go far away, no longer be nearby. His parents’ jobs required it. Would they still be friends? Not solely today. He sighed. Tomorrow. After.

 

Brother [Poem] by Issa Dioume

I Write This For You

My dearest brother, for you I do grieve
As a days’ light was stripped away by night
Wrongfully, bereaved
Leaving you many a hurdle in sight
And your garden-tears briskly mourning eves.

Our Lady Fortune, this whimsical goon
Veiled by a jet-black restless cloaked-sky
Mindlessly, before noon
Coating our dear world’s hair, a darker dye
Has wrongly robbed one of life, much too soon

In what was pilfered lies what is gifted
Where fire has passed, so too must there grow ash
Salt waves, and sand below
When it’s dark and there’s no moon: you thrash
Yet wind still does blow and has just shifted

Therein lies hope in absence of hope-thoughts,
Therein lies sweet life in absence of life
Joy devoid of scope
Toils betwixt you and the now over strife
Beseeching brother to view past blue knots

Which ’round your hands dangle like wrung bangles
Woven with flows of thread binding you to-
– Your blue mind-street angles
Hiding from your sight red-roads where cows moo
Which all good memories do bespangle

Tear that grief away, let it fly today
And beneath souvenirs of him grinning
Like the cold heated-snow, you are brewing
Let it atrophy, and then I will say

My dearest brother, for you I do smile
Knowing you had the rarely chanced upon
Friend to rest on even just for a while
A most indissoluble truth beyond –

…. – even time and space,  now life’s breath is gone

Style Training With Ursula K. Le Guin, Exercise.2: Am I Saramago {2nd attempt}

Following Jane Dougherty’s advice (a talented fellow writer on this platform), I tried my hand at this exercise from Ursula K. Leguin’s book 📚 a second time. However, with a descriptive approach this time to see if it might work better. Also, I employed a lot of ‘logical connectors’.
Please tell me how I did!

UrsulaKLeGuin
[ A picture of the writer behind the book herself: Ursula K. Le Guin]

My attempt:

“Her coat was of a blushing rose colour when I saw her exit the supermarket at the end of the street and take a sharp left turn as she headed for the trams but it was not the kind of rose that you see on the fully dewed petals of pink morning roses when the entire world is still basking in the assuaging cradle of dreams but more like the kind of rose you see in those bright almost fluorescent bubblegum commercials with a kaleidoscope of different flashing lights that stab aggressively at your eyes from all imaginable angles and that have this sort of particularly attention-grabbing attribute to them that just reels you in and makes you drool at the mouth despite you trying to patiently remind yourself that on the contrary you don’t even like gum all that much anyway because you have always  found the texture disgusting and furthermore you consider the sugary taste overwhelmingly sweet yet somehow or another those cursed commercials still easily succeed in making you entirely forget all that and have you believe you can almost just vividly taste what the person behind the glaring screen currently enacting his or her role for the advertisement can taste as he or she chews on their big pink fleshy piece of rubber with a big glistening grin splashed across the canvas of their face while they repeat the catchphrase of  whichever brand sells the advertised item which you know is likely distributed by big bucks companies who hold no regard for how many rivers of poor countries they have polluted solely in order to manufacture their cheap product in heaps and get them into the hands of zombie consumers such as yourself who mindlessly consume whatever they advertise to you hence why you are wholly aware of all those things and why they plague you so with guilt as you make your way towards the cashier with your stupid two dollar packet of chewing gum thus basically admiting and bending the knee to the fact that despite everything they always succeed in making you wholly forget your feeble values when their blinding ads flash across your Tv screen and your mouth inevitably begins telling you that it craves that cheap piece of chewy plastic since all those chewy things look so appetizing and tempting and oh so gorgeous in their pinkish dressing after all”

– Issa Dioume

Style Training With Ursula K. Leguin, Exercise.1; Part.2

The second part of this first exercise follows similar instructions to the first with the added suggestion that the writer must describe an action or person feeling strong emotion. And to translate – through the movement of the prose- the emotions ( From: Steering the Craft, A 21st Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story)

Here, for my second piece of writing following the given instructions, I imagined a scene where a character is engulfed by an all-powerful feeling of grief and must overcome it. I attempted to portray, through the sound and rhythm of my prose, the pain felt by a character upon receiving a tragic news, as well as to make the tension of the moment be felt, and her bravery for powering through it all:

FIGHT!

What went first when the grave news was delivered by Thaltybius was the bottom-half of my face.  My lips hung limply like two pieces of raw flesh glued onto a pristine white dinner plate.  My jaw, incessantly clamped and released in sporadic spasms, quacking loudly, teeth grinding onto one another.  Tears streamed down freely, cascading on the bumps of my cheeks, unrestrained.  Too necessary to be restrained.  My eyes stared out before me at the great nothing, dead.  Two useless globes of grief.  Seeing but not truly seeing.  Present yet not truly present and haunting in their absence.  My mind was elsewhere, with him.

Next, it was my body that gave in.  Crumpling and crashing loudly on the ground like a tree whose trunk has been split open and cruelly chopped down by a Lumberjacks’ unforgiving axe.
Then, I lay there, feeling all the years of held-in pain catch up to me. He had been the only reason I had managed to keep it all stowed within, and now, now…well, now there was nothing.  Only pain, sorrow and an absence that made itself felt.  When I met him, I had been but a lonely little girl, lost and confused in world of infectious folly.  And he had arrived with his smile and blind confidence and he had been there when I needed it, always.  My pillar.  My centre.  My power.
The strength with which I wielded my spear in battle came from the knowledge that he would always be there, waiting with his smile that could launch a thousand armies in his name, had he attempted to use it as a weapon of mass persuasion.
Around me I could hear the screams of comrades begging me to get myself together and to quickly devise a new battle plan.  But, their pleas were directed at the wrong person.  The cause that was theirs was no longer mine.  It appeared all so insignificant now.

We had started this war in the name of freedom.  A rebellion against the old ways.  At least, that was the surface of it.  To us, it was an affirmation.  A fight for us to be together.  And now he was dead so it mattered no longer.  I looked up to Bron’seilk who stood by my side and she stared back.  I saw my pain reflected in her eyes. Yet, deep within I saw something else, something different, something I no longer possessed.  Determination.
Bron’seilk forced herself to smile at me and I could see how hard it had been for her to do so.  Her eyes were moist and vibrant.  Ready to pour their content at any instant.
‘Fight!’ she said, ‘Fight for all the lovers of this dreadful world.  Fight to give them a better chance!  And, fight so that this may never happen again!’.  And her words seemed to reverberate within me, as without noticing, without thinking it, my body had abruptly risen to its own two feet.  I maintained my gaze on her for a while.  Then, nodded.  She was right.  I would fight, to my last breath.  With all I had.  And, when all this would be over, I would cry as long as I would need on her shoulder. And, I would lend her mine, for as long as she would need it.

I shifted my focus back to the matter at hand, and immediately began to hatch out new plans[…]

Style Training With Ursula K. Leguin, Exercise.1; Part.1

The following written piece which you will read is a result of my first attempt at testing out an approach to writing advised by the exceptional Ursula K. Leguin. For the first exercise, Leguin chooses to focus on the sound of prose and its importance. Reminding us that prose does not have to be poetry to sound great! She gives a few examples of texts where the sound of prose aids greatly to make the reader feel what is going on and to set the entire atmosphere of the piece. How for example, certain sounds or alliterations are used to translate ideas of sadness or of  joy or of action. And explain the intricacies of the ‘movement’ of prose.

Here is the result of my first attempt of the first exercise of  
Steering the Craft
[…] by Ursula K. Leguin, she suggested two plot possibilities to try out the learned techniques (Climax of a ghost story or Inventing and Island and events which occur on it) :

Georges, Shipwrecked

On an island in the far-off ocean called Pumpernickel, a lone man washes ashore.  Time passes unperturbed until, finally, he wakes.  George was this man’s name.  And George was a man of little words.  He had been a fleet admiral on one of Her Majesty’s many vessels when suddenly, a storm broke out, sinking his ship and throwing him along with his crewmates overboard and to the mercy of the oceans capricious currents.
And, as George rose from the sandy beach to take in his surroundings, he wondered how he had survived and whether any other survivors had been carried to this little piece of land.
George was a tall and lanky man.  He often stood a head higher than most of the men he had come across in his lifetime.  But now, George had no one to be taller than.  And the absence of other human beings was a feeling quick to wash over him as he circled the islands’ coast for hours before returning to the same spot having met no one other than, his own shadow.
He was left with no other option but to accept the unavoidable:  He was alone, and he was lost and soon he would be hungry too and in dire need of shelter.  He knew he had to make a swift decision as the sun was dimming on the horizon and its light would slowly dwindle until naught remained but the afterglow.
So, George opted to build a house first for rain might come during the night and without a roof he would get wet and getting wet would give rise to sickness.  Which would in turn leave him in no state to be rummaging around the island for nourishment.
George built himself a small hut out of palm leaves and sticks in front of the entrance to the islands’ forest.  As floor and bed, he used sand which he brought from the beach.  And in the comfort of his improvised hut, George lay comfortably resting on the sandy floor.  He employed carefully the time before sleep arrived to take him away from this nightmare, by trying to guess where he might be.  He had been sailing on course for the West indies and had just about completed half the journey before the storm broke out.  But, the storm had carried them way off course for a while before the ship sank.  So, he could not ascertain where he had been.  And putting his memory through hard and strenuous work he attempted to recall all the courses Her Majesty’s vessels took when heading for the West Indies. He hoped one ship might pass by the island on which he was marooned for provisions or a quick rest.  Then, perhaps, he might be rescued.
George shivered.  Not from the cold.  He knew how unlikely that scenario was.  Yet, he hoped all the same for a miracle.  But he was tired, and his bones still ached from the ocean waves his body had been rumbled through.  So, he went to sleep hoping that night would bring him many a solution.

By Issa Dioume

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