I’m excited to share the winning short story composed by L.H. Westerlund written for the contest associated with Quarantine Writer’s Block: Exercise 1. This short story seized an every day object sitting on the desk and turned it into a curiosity adventure. Enjoy!
It looked inconspicuous. It looked like a hair accessory, that was the only way to put it. A soft fabric circle curled around an elastic, meant to be used to tie your hair up. It was made with half grey, half pink but in matching white-plaited fabrics and it stretched readily around the cord inside if pulled at.
But it lay on the working desk of the single most prized student of the greatest crafts magician of all time – well, excepting the mentioned disciple if the master was to be believed. And perhaps he unceremoniously should be.
The delicate, almost invisible white pattern going across the two colours, the gentle curve of the fabric and the hidden stitches from where it had been sewn together told nothing about the power it might hide within. The fabric was soft and felt maybe slightly warm to the touch, but was it all a trick of the mind? Was this merely something the crafter had left behind, dislodged accidentally by a hand running through her long hair as she worked?
Or was it the product of some new spell? An artifact of unspeakable power using magic most mortals could only dream of wistfully? Who knew what magic it could contain!
The fabric item lay there peacefully, mocking with its secrets. There was no way to tell. None at all… except perhaps… A shout.
“Kiera! What’s that on your desk?!”
L. H. Westerlund is a Nordic author, engineer and playwright living in London. She is currently working on several new novels, including “The End of Elena Heart” which will be available at the end of the summer, and a sequel to the children’s-series “The Truth About Monsters”.
Visualize an object in your mind, or better yet, look for something “weird” you own.
Nana’s embroidery project from three summer’s ago that she gave you for your birthday? Perfect!
That Betsy Johnson cat locket ring you picked up for 50 cents at a yard sale? Golden!
That polaroid you found on the sidewalk while jogging last week? Best one I’ve heard yet!
Grab it, mentally or literally. Now, forget its past. That object is now foreign to you. Write 250+ words of new, completely fake information about that object and how it relates to a story. Think about the setting transitions the object goes through. What characters handle it? What experiences does the object witness (though it has no eyes)? To follow up with the previous examples:
Who were the people in the polaroid and how did it end up on the sidewalk?
Who bought the cat ring for who? And what was put inside?
Why did that embroidery project go terribly wrong and what shenanigans did that embroidery circle get into?
Who bought the cat ring for who? And what was put inside?
How To Use An Object In A Pre-Existing Story
In every story there are objects that characters interact with and often we forget how critical we make objects for the progression of a story. Be it a quest for buried treasure (object) or the consequences of a cursed [object], there are objects that come into play each with its own unique role. To use this exercise, you could consider one of these objects in your story as your object of focus.
Arthur is not king until he has his sword and unites the Britons (every King Arthur legend ever)
The one ring to rule them all must be thrown into the fires of Mount Doom. (Lord of The Rings, JRR Tolkien)
Trisha uses her Walkman to survive the Maine wilderness. (The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Stephen King)
Arts & Crafts
I have found that in severe cases of writer’s block a physical representation of the object is very helpful. In this case, break out the arts and crafts. No matter how bad the representation, having something you can physically interact with while brainstorming will help immerse you in that world. The act of creating the object can be its own helpful therapy. Also, the models that you make bring your story to life in your own mind, and could help ease writers block on their own. Put them on display in your writing zone.
Collage & Antiquing
Some authors will hunt for objects in antique stores – in the time of quarantine, antiquing is not really an option (except online). Pinterest albums and other collaging methods are much friendlier. Finding an image to create a sketch from or even print out as your representation is useful!
Write Around The Object
Now that you have the object, physically, mentally – whatever way works best for you – start thinking. Sometimes, I prefer thinking of minor objects in a particular scene I’ve been trying to write because it helps lead me into writing the scene I’ve been blocked on. There are many ways to flex your brain around the existence of objects within a story and how they are playing a role. This allows the object to be written around – it’s there to help break down the mental block.
Do I Leave It In The Story?
It’s easy to edit out anything once it has served you, but a writing exercise can get you writing when you’re struggling. I have based entire short stories on objects, and I have cut entire objects out of stories. The choice is up to the individual author and what they want out of their writing.
Exercise 1 Summary: With an object related to your story, either physical or imaginary, write at least 250 words about that object fitting it into a scene you are trying to write or relating it to your story.
Bonus: Do some arts & crafts to make a physical representation of your object.
Objects can be useful for helping your brain overcome writer’s block
Think about the role objects play in your story and select an object from your story to focus on.
Physical representations of objects in your story are sometimes helpful in overcoming writer’s block – these can be made with arts and crafts.
Try to write at least 250 words fitting an object into a story to overcome writer’s block.
You never have to leave what you have written from a writing exercise in a story.
I would love to feature your writing on my blog!
Please let me know if this helps you in the ways it has helped me! I would love to read every single short story written using this methods (100% serious). Tell me about your stories and the best ones will be featured in their own posts – please submit using the subject line: Object Oriented Writing. I am planning on getting a group of judges other than myself to read these if people actually participate. This contest will be running through 30 April, 2020.
Word Count: 250 – 2000 words
grammar or spelling mistakes do not interrupt reading experience
Must be capable of being rated PG
Has the entire story written following the exercise above (Beginning, Middle, End, etc)
Please be sure to include your name or pen name, contact e-mail, and other identifying information in the body of the email.
Please submit your short story in a .pdf (an attachment that can be read by Google Docs) with a unique 5 digit number you pick at the top (do not include this in the e-mail). I will use these 5 digit numbers to announce winners on Twitter.
(Optional) include a picture of your object
The story cannot have been previously published elsewhere as it needs to be a new composition using the above method.
Author retains all rights beyond the printing of the story in a blog post on LoPotterWrites.com with any other promotional material the author provides for their writing. The author can request that the story be removed at any time should they wish by contacting me.
If the above rules are not followed your story will sadly be disqualified.
You will be notified if your story is chosen (or not) by 31 May 2020 (assuming there are not thousands of submissions).
Right now there is no prize besides having your short story on my blog. I am working on figuring out ways to improve this and how many prizes I can offer.
Thank you for reading – without you, this would be a shout into the ether.