Quick-fire fiction writing exercise
Use our photographic prompts to create a scene in five minutes

Warm-up exercises aren’t just important for your morning jog or yoga routine. Try this five-minute brain flex from 2017 ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize winner Eliza Robertson to loosen up the creative juices before you continue with your writing project – or perhaps use them as inspiration for generating or developing new ideas.


I’ve recently moved to a shared loft in Montreal. On my first day, I found the following photos in my new (inherited) desk. Let’s turn them into a scene:


1. Choose one figure from the photographs to be your main character. Use either the first person “I” or third person “he” / “she” / “they.”

2. Choose another figure from the photographs to be in the same scene. Consider how they relate to each other. Have they just met? Are they lovers? Does one character sell the other one bread?

3. Write a scene that includes the following three items: 1. a secret 2. the word “yolk,” 3. an animal of your choosing. Consider where the scene is set, and what the characters want from each other, and which one (or both) is misbehaving.

4. To end the scene, consider how the tensions may be resolved. Or perhaps the scene doesn’t end here at all: maybe it’s a seed for a new short story!

Eliza Robertson studied creative writing at the University of Victoria and the University of East Anglia, where she received the Man Booker Scholarship and Curtis Brown Prize. In 2017 she won the 2017 ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize. She has also won the 2013 Commonwealth Short Story Prize and was shortlisted for the Journey Prize and CBC Short Story Prize. Her debut collection, Wallflowers, was shortlisted for the East Anglia Book Award, Danuta Gleed Short Story Prize and selected as a New York Times editor’s choice. Her first novel, Demi-Gods, comes out with Penguin Canada and Bloomsbury this autumn.

Eliza joins other expert tutors from UEA for our Creative Writing Online Spring semester, where she will deliver our level 1 course on how to get the best out of your fiction writing. 

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