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CTWIF Application Exercise

We recognise that not everyone may have a writing sample to send in. Throughout our Year 1, we’ve carried out Open Writing Labs across England where we meet some of the brilliant writers and facilitated the process of creating a monologue about home inspired by the Paines Plough’s audio project Come to Where I’m From.

Below are some exercises, based on our Open Writers Lab workshop, which you may wish to use to create a short monologue to submit as part of your application.

These exercises are entirely optional. No preference will be given to anyone who submits a different writing submission. We have only created this to acknowledge that some very new writers may not have something to submit. We don’t want to create any unnecessary additional work for the application process.

EXERCISE 1: GENERATING IDEAS

Ask yourself the following question:

What is home to you? Is it a place? Or is it a feeling?

Depending on whether you think of home as a place or a feeling, here are some provocations and prompts to help you to consider what home means.

PLACE

If you want to talk about a place, these questions might help you drill down.

  • Do you have any interesting or idiosyncratic nature/landscape where you live? How does it affect you?
  • Is there a history of political struggle or big events that happened where you live? Do you think about them?
  • Are any celebrities from near where you live? Do you like them? Is your town/village country proud of them?
  • Are there any local foods? What is people’s relationship with them?
  • Are there any iconic or haunted or impressive buildings? What do people think about them? What’s the architecture like generally?
  • If your home town was a dog, what Breed would it be?
  • Are people in your town known for any characteristics in particular? If the average person in your town was a takeaway, what would it be?
  • What feeling does your home town give you? If your home town was a genre of music, what would it be and why?
  • If your town was on love island, how would it describe itself in the intro video?
  • How would its friends describe it?
  • If your home town was on trial, what would it be on trial for and would it plead guilty or not guilty?
  • If an alien came to your home town, how would they be received?
  • If an alien came to your home town, what would their first impressions be in terms of sights, sounds, smells?

FEELING

If you want to talk about a feeling, these questions might help you drill down.

  • Think about your senses. What senses evoke your feeling of home? How do they do this?
  • What would disrupt your feeling of home? Think of images in terms of things you can see, smell hear, touch, taste.
  • Is there a person associated with this feeling? An animal? A view? An event?
  • If so, who are they or what is it?
  • Why is that important?
  • If we had asked you to bring something with you today to evoke the feeling of home, what would you have brought?

After having a think about these questions, take 2-5 minutes to write down a paragraph saying “what home is and what does home mean to you”.

EXERCISE 2: TURNING IDEAS INTO STORY

Based on your idea of what home means to you, using the prompts above, identify one thing that you think might help to form a particularly interesting story.

We’re now going to distill those ideas down into their simplest form by creating a haiku.

A haiku is a form of poetry that originates from Japan. It typically contains three lines and 17 syllables. The first line contains five syllables, the second line contains seven syllables and the third line contains five syllables.

Here are two examples:

The Old Pond

An old silent pond
A frog jumps into the pond –
Splash! Silence again.

I Am Pigeon

Beware Picasso
My home is on great statues
Expressing myself

We encourage you to try to find beats, changes, story, heart, emotion in your haikus that represent the story that you want to tell. Write as many haikus as you want until you feel that you understand your story.

EXERCISE 3: STAKES

Sometimes one of the key ingredients that go amiss when creating a monologue based on home is the sense of stakes. We get so comfortable in the familiarity that we forget we’re writing something to be performed on stage to people who do not necessarily have the same emotional connection to the material as you do.

In those cases, giving your piece a sense of stakes, that something of value can be gained or lost, that there is an unanswerable or knotty question at the heart of the play can help your audience to feel invested.

This can be anything but we like to suggest three examples of stakes:

  • An emotional stake – this is typically something that has emotional weight in your story, maybe it’s grief or love, longing or anger, some sort of emotional grounding that the audience is invested in that changes over the course of the story.
  • A high action stake – this is typically an event that happens that alters the cause of the play for the main character veering them away from their original planned destination. For example, they may be getting married but then their partner abandons them.
  • An external factor stake – this is typically something that is part of the social environment or setting that your monologue takes place in, perhaps your local area is experiencing gentrification, or an important political shift is happening, and this external factor is impacting the journey that your character may be on.

Have a think about your story idea and what you think is at stake. It might be one, two or all three. See if you can identify them.

If you can, consider ways you might increase that stake.

Remember, you’re writing a piece of drama for stage. Not a biography. You’re allowed to take a bit of creative licence to see your vision come true if you wish.

EXERCISE 4: FORM

Think about the form of your play and what will help to enhance the drama of what is happening and encourage your audience to get more invested. Here is an example to consider:

The monologue is about the challenging relationship between a son and his recently deceased mother. What monologue form would increase the drama of the piece:

  1. A direct address to the audience?
  2. A monologue written in the form of a eulogy delivered at the mother’s funeral?
  3. A therapy session speaking to an imagined therapist?

In the example above, we think that B would provide the most drama for several reasons:

  • The setting and form directly informs and relates to the monologue.
  • The setting and form is very present (in the current moment, not speaking in the past).

Consider your story and different forms that might work for you. Try to pick a form that you think will enhance the drama of your piece. Here are just five examples but there are many more:

  • A telephone call or voicemail.
  • A direct address to the audience.
  • An unreliable narrator.
  • A non-chronological narrative structure.
  • A TedTalk.

These different forms and settings all offer different things. Have a think what might suit your story.

EXERCISE 5: PUT PEN TO PAPER

Set a timer for 30 minutes. With everything that you’ve considered in the previous four exercises, begin writing your monologue. We encourage you to write without pausing using whatever medium you prefer (pen and paper, typing on a laptop, voice note). Pick a method to write that you think you’ll be able to do without interruption, without thinking too much, writing purely from instinct.

Begin your 30 minutes and write your monologue!