Find your story with a search for random objects

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Eloise Williams

Eloise Williams was born in Cardiff, spent her childhood in Llantrisant, Rhondda Cynon Taf and now lives in Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire. She was educated at Coed yr Esgob Primary School and Y Pant Comprehensive School, before going on to study Drama at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Acting at Guildford School of Acting, and Creative Writing at Swansea University. She worked as a touring actor and creative practitioner for over a decade before becoming a children’s writer.

From Literature Wales website

Eloise’s latest book is Wilde and you can read our review here.

To write a story you have to use lots of imagination. You need to imagine characters, setting, plot. What’s going to happen? Why is it going to happen? Who is it going to happen to? Why are we going on this journey? Where will it take us? What’s the point of this story? Stories start with a whole bundle of questions and as the author you try to answer them.

When I wrote Wilde, I knew that I wanted to write a story about witches. I knew that there would be a cursed town and that a girl would arrive, and when she did that things would get worse. That’s all I knew. I had the glimmer of an idea and absolutely nothing else.

Instead of staring with panic into the abyss of the empty page, or computer screen in my case, I decided to take action and use something solid to get my story started.

I looked around my house and found interesting objects. Random things which didn’t seem to go together at all. I found two sticks of rock, a photo of Sgwd-yr-Eira waterfall (the Falls of Snow when translated into English from Welsh), The Collected Works of Shakespeare, a broken raven brooch, a seagull’s skull – I live near the beach so I sometimes find bird bones washed in by the tide – and a magazine filled with pictures of exotic locations. I set these things out on the table in front of me and I stared at them. Then, I stared at them some more. There was a story concealed in them somewhere – I just had to find it.

Using small bits of paper, I started to place connections between them. These were all things my main character was going to have in her suitcase when she arrived at Witch Point, I decided. But why? Why were they so important to her that she had to take them with her wherever she went? Why did she think these were more important than clothes? And then, I started asking the greatest question a writer can ask – what if?

What if she was given the Shakespeare book by her mother who is no longer around? What if she has two bird items because she has a magical link to birds? What if she carries a travel magazine because she longs to escape from her own life? And if that’s why she has it, why does she want to escape? Why does she have two gooey sticks of rock? Because they remind her of her home by the sea, of course! But why can’t she go there? The ‘what if’ questions led to more questions. Why? How? When? I wrote down all these questions and I made up lots of answers. I’d started with nothing but a bunch of random objects and come up with a main character whose mum had loved Shakespeare, who was followed by birds, who needed to escape her life but also wanted to go home. All this from nothing but a collection of things from around my house. My story was there laid out in front of me like a cobweb of ideas.  

So, my challenge to you is to collect five or six objects. Anything at all. The more unconnected they seem, the better! Spread them out in front of you and start asking questions. What if…? How do your objects link? What story do they build? Do they help you to create a character or a world?

Scribble down anything that comes to mind. It might not even feel useful when you jot it down. It might feel silly, or absurd, or unfathomable. Good, Let your story be unexpected. Let it surprise you with the ideas it brings. Let your imagination run wild! Good luck!

I’ve started on my next story … so far, I have a purple ribbon, a hagstone, a fork, a toy elephant, the heart of a shell… and now I’m asking, what if?

Find out more about Eloise, her books and how you can book a workshop for your school by visiting her website