Something to do in a cell

Tears on the Page

Your Characters’ Voices

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Apr 26, 2016
Hi all! Hope everyone's well during this peculiar time.

I'm looking for a few ideas. I work in a prison, and my job at the minute is keeping the men occupied during lockdown (no pressure). I've made a few packs they can do in their cells, like origami and puzzles and learning British Sign Language. There's one on the basics of creative writing that's proved really popular, but a lot of them want something a bit more in-depth; exercises and questions that get them writing down their plans and give them some freedom to write about what they're actually interested in. And I'm struggling a bit with what to give them. Has anyone got anything they've really enjoyed doing, maybe that's helped you get started on a book, that you could do in a cell? (Bearing in mind they're restricted to one room and anything too crime-based is off the list - I had to take out a reference to 'Lamb to the Slaughter' for being... inappropriate.)

Basically looking for fun exercises I can print on a few pages of A4. Something to get the imagination going. All the ones I've found so far are written like they're for children and I think they'll come across as patronising ('be creative and imagine you met an alien in the garden!!!' #waytoomanyexclamationmarks) Man isn't six and doesn't want to be treated like it. Something exciting and fun that's appropriate for adult males!

Thank you, and stay safe.
I could recommend thinking of titles of books, or one-line blurbs for the story.

for example:

Bad Manners on Mondays
A retrained house-master must teach his wards to behave before the overlord returns and sees the need for more retraining.

No, sorry. The example is probably inappropriate, but the titles and one-sentence log-line can be an interesting way for me to get started with story ideas.
I don't know if it's appropriate, but there's an interesting exercise related to emotion and perception. You start by remembering a time you were, say, happy. Give yourself the time you need to recall the feeling. Once you have it, hold it. Then you write a description of the room you're in.

Then you do it again for sad, angry, tender, aggressive, vulnerable, whatever.

I'm not sure it's exactly what you're looking for, but it's a great way to get people thinking about emotion in creative writing. And also, with respect to the written descriptions themselves, how things change as a function of how we look at them.
The writing prompt "I remember," is always a good one (but maybe suggest a happy experience; you choose, you know best).

You should watch The Creative Brain on Netflix (at least it's on Australia's Netflix). It features at 27.25 how prisoners are being taught to explore their creativity, it's having a great positive impact. It's a prison in Lousiana.

This is the trailer:

Thanks all, these are some great suggestions! Quite a lot of variety as well which is good - hopefully that will keep them occupied for a bit longer.

Luckily The Creative Brain is on UK Netflix too, I'll give it a watch :)

Thanks again!
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Tears on the Page

Your Characters’ Voices