So I found a man called Brian Kiteley, who I would imagine looks like this (read: ex-hipster with killer facial hair):
But who, it turns out, actually looks like this (read: disgruntled academic):
Anywho, he has some supercool exercises that I have decided to embark upon, one at a time. I like them because they're intelligent and don't just force you to use the words grapefruit, bulldozer and lubricant in a 500-word story set on Mars. Brian also doesn't give millions of cliche stockphotos of people being either HAPPY or SAD depending on the direction of the arc on their face, or give you frustratingly twee ideas like "write about your first kiss" (terrifying) or "write about your greatest fear" (death, or crocodiles, or an ungodly combination).
So, without further ado...
1. Synesthesia, according to M.H. Abrams in A Glossary of Literary Terms, is a description of “one kind of sensation in terms of another; color is attributed to sounds, odor to colors, sound to odors, and so on.” Here is an example of synesthesia from Bruno Schulz’s Street of the Crocodiles: “Adela would plunge the rooms into semidarkness by drawing down the linen blinds. All colors immediately fell an octave lower [my italics]; the room filled with shadows, as if it had sunk to the bottom of the sea and the light was reflected in mirrors of green water.” Schulz describes a change in color by means of a musical term. Writers consciously and unconsciously employ this peculiar method to convey the irreducible complexity of life onto the page. Diane Ackerman (in A Natural History of the Senses) feels we are born with this wonderful “intermingling” of senses: “A creamy blur of succulent blue sounds smells like week-old strawberries dropped into a tin sieve as mother approaches in a halo of color, chatter, and perfume like thick golden butterscotch. Newborns ride on intermingling waves of sight, sound, touch, taste, and, especially, smell.” Use synesthesia in a short scene—surreptitiously, without drawing too much attention to it—to convey to your reader an important understanding of some ineffable sensory experience. Use “sight, sound, touch, taste, and, especially, smell.” 600 words.
Marina likes to look at recipe books. She likes to run her thin fingers over the images on the pages, glossy and seemingly plasticine, and to mouth the names of the dishes. Her favourite is a French dish: boeuf bourguignon. Steam rises over of a heavy pot of cast iron, a telltale cinnamon stick alerting the reader of the warm, heady tastes within, and the photograph shines with promise. She remembers making boeuf bourguignon, a time when her hands felt heavy with the weight of children and well-worn jewellery. A time when her skin smelt sweeter, her lips happily chapped, the wrinkles around her eyes young and ready to leap into a smile.
She curls herself into the chair beside the window, the book on her lap. The thin dusk light of Boston winter steals into the room and tries to warm her shoulders, thinner now. She grew up in this little house, but now her parents are gone and she is alone. She rubs her hands together and breathes on them, keeping her eyes on the meal before her, as if holding in her empty hands what once she had: the laughter of her children, the crackling of the kitchen radio, the pleasant roar of domesticity – back in the days of boeuf bourguignon. She is forty-four years old.
Her children are with her ex-husband. She wonders what they are eating, as it’s dinnertime and the winter is unforgiving. Maybe he has made them a hot desert – deserts were really the only food he knew how to make – and his mother is there, clapping with delight as the plate is laid upon the table. Marina can taste her children’s excitement, and she mouths once more those beautiful French vowels, pressing her lips together with each delicate b. She realises she has been staring not at the page, but out of the window at the waving treetops, and inwardly chastises herself for being whimsical and dramatic. She is too old for such things, and it’s cold, and she’s tired. The light will die soon, and she should put on a lamp.
Slowly, the dusk rises to meet her. The sky darkens, and somewhere inside her, something rouses. She stands. She feels restless, and walks aimlessly into the kitchen, before turning on the oven in a strange, automatic gesture. Perhaps she will make something to eat – nothing French, but maybe Italian, something with roasted vegetables. She returns to the chair, and thinks about the littleness of her children’s fingers, and how they knotted easily into her hair and clothes. They always used to complain about what they ate; whatever she made would be met with a groan. By some irritating twist of fate, they always ate whatever their father made without objection, even though he frequently set off the smoke alarms with various charred concoctions. She smiles at the thought, as the last strains of light leave the page before her. Reaching behind her, she flicks the light switch, pleased with the glow it provides. She continues to stare at the page, while in the other room the oven quietly warms itself in the heart of this slow, winter evening.