Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Generation | Introduction | Diversions for Writers Block




Week 19 | Generation | Contents

Tuesday | Poetry | TS3L10T
Thursday | Music | Generation Xzibit


(Image above - What happened when I put the Silkworms RSS feed through Wordle, 'Equality Values Cultural Opinion)

The best piece of advice I was given about writing came from my former tutor David Morley – he said, ‘just write’. When stuck, confronted with a blank page or paragraph that has no foreseeable conclusion – don’t plan how to fill the void or try to see a conclusion, simply write. Otherwise, you may find after an hour of ‘writing’ you have written nothing, you may be jotted down a thousand first sentences and deleted them with button or score, they are sentences that count for nothing. What would have been valuable is 3 pages of stream of conscious nonsense, automatic writing and at some point begins with shape itself into sense – and it does often do that, meander from drivel and incongruency into something that can be used as a brick to subsequently build on.

However, there are lots of ways to spark inspiration – each writer has their own method of breaking out of a rut (some haven’t discovered it yet), although what often links these means is a sense of play. A commitment to a word is serious writing, it has consequence – however just playing around with words is liberation that leads to some interesting results.

A while back I was introduced to the work of the Oulipo group (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle) roughly translated, "workshop of potential literature". French-speaking writers and mathematicians which sought to create works using constrained writing techniques. Constraints that trigger inspiration, just as any game has its rules. My favorite of their studies was the n+7, where every noun in a text is replaced with the noun seven entries after it in a dictionary. Just like their cooking, this French method takes a long time, fortunately there is now a microwave equivalent available. The N+7 Machine, bang in a text, click the button and voila Рwhy not try it for yourself, use a sample of your own writing to experiment with different source texts and see what happens.

Another cracking website for machining yourself out of an uninspired spot is The Seventh Sanctum – a collection of generators that make random characters, plots, ideas etc. There are quite a few available, the below list is by no means exhaustive.

For characters….

Anthropomorphic Animal Generator

The educated male anthropomorphic black-feathered Bird. His wardrobe is strange.

For names….

Weird Name Generator

The Steel Sleeper

For settings…

Tavern Generator

The Owl's Stein

For plots…

Story Generator

This is a coming-of-age story with an emphasis on bigotry and making ones own destiny. The story is about a fearsome anthropologist and a monk. It takes place in a port city. The story begins with a compromise. The effect of globalization on religion plays a major role in this story.


It’s all quite good fun, although probably only best used as a leaping point from which you can impose some authority. Also, a point to bear in mind, we can't rely to heavily on these machines for writing because one day they will travel back in time and kill Sarah Conner.




James Harringman
Editor-in-chief

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