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15 December 2018

Posted by Charlotte Fodor

Southampton’s Oceans, Journeys and Identities

As a ship which brings together millions of people across four nations, Southampton’s Mayflower embodies the values of tolerance, diversity, migration and freedom. The voyages taken on the Mayflower span nearly 400 years and are rich in stories shared between passengers, the ocean, and its ship. With the Mayflower’s upcoming anniversary, it is indeed a time to celebrate our hope of sailing towards an ever more inclusive future for all.

In tribute to the launch of the Mayflower 400 activity challenge, we here at So:Write feel it is only fitting that our writers have an opportunity to share what living in Southampton means to them. The Artful Scribe and Southampton Cultural Development Trust are therefore looking to reward three local writers with paid commissions for new works. With the Mayflower story as context, we are asking writers to respond to the theme of sea/ water, light / fire, or journey / migration. We request that writers connect their theme to life in Southampton today. More information can be found here.

To spark some inspiration for the competition in our latest So:write sessions, we explored how water and oceans could be used in stories, and also looked at different ways of writing about journeys.

We first considered the personification of the sea and all its natatorial life: from sea animals, to barnacles, to the ship itself.

Our writers were then swept out into the choppy waters of a free write, left to explore where their pen would take them.

We were gripped by the tale of a flying fish and its simplistic, yet beautiful connection to the natural, oceanic world. We were absorbed by the albatross following the uneven waves; the maternal boat, its protective belly bulging with passengers; the all-consuming vastness of the Solent when contrasted with the insignificance of humankind.

Try it yourself: Write a story from the perspective of an aquatic animal. How do they move around in the ocean? What does the water feel like? Where are they going?  What dangers might they encounter? There is something incredibly secretive about the marine world, much that we do not know about it – it’s beauty bountiful and concealed – a haven for stories.

In the second half of our session, we used a group exercise to explore how journeys could be expressed in our narratives.

The task involved drawing around our hands and then listing our personalities within the drawings – from interests, to hobbies, to culture. (We also gave our writers the option of creating an imaginary character!) 

We then swapped our drawings around the room in a ‘pass-the-parcel’ style and voila! Each of us had a ready-made character to send on a journey.

It was fascinating to see how each writer interpreted the drawings given to them.

And perhaps what is most interesting about being given a character to write about is the idea that we – as writers – are going on our own journey in uncovering who they are, and where they might want to go.

If you are considering entering the competition (and we hope so!) here are a few other exercises you could try at home to stir the imagination.

Light / Fire exercises:

1) Personify fire into a character - Would they have a gender? What would their personality be like? Would they be destructive, a source of strength? Both?  (Extending this as a second exercise: Write a piece of prose using this character in the narrative. Viewpoint is not restricted.)


2 ) Write from the perspective of someone with limited light in their location (room, forest, house etc). How do they feel? How do they get around? (Candlelight, torches)


Journey / migration exercises: 


Postcard exercise: Write a postcard to a loved one from a different place. You are not limited to a time zone or location. For example, you could write a postcard from the perspective of someone living through a war. Consider the location and the feelings of the character when writing this letter. What are their concerns? What is their current state of mind?

I hope that these help!

In other news: Our So:Write attendee and writer Rhiannon Hopkins has recently published an ebook, in collaboration with her friend Gill Kingsland, called Mosaic of Two Minds. You can purchase their fabulous work here.


Interested in attending one of our workshop sessions? 

We meet on the first Thursday of every month at The Art House and every third Saturday at Southampton Central Library.

Our January session has been moved from the 3rd to the 10th

We are next meeting in the New Year on Thursday 10th January (Art House) and then Saturday 19th January (Southampton Central Library).

Looking forward to seeing you there.


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