Half stories -a 20 min writing exercise, for two or more people!

1. Write the first half of a story in 10 minutes – introduce a scenario, character/s and a problem.
2. Exchange your half story with your friend’s. (If you’re in a big group do this randomly.)
3. Now finish your friend’s story in 10 minutes. Remember, endings don’t have to be ‘neat’!

I did this activity for the first time in a big group. I happened to get my (bloodthirsty!?) wife’s story at the halfway point. This is what we ended up creating in 20 minutes!

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Dead Weight

‘You can’t be serious,’ Jack barked, incredulous. Peter shot his hands into the air.

‘Well! Maybe?! Look, I know it’s nuts but I can’t think of anything else!’ Jack blinked rapidly, looking from Peter who was shifting back and forth on his feet like he was pressing grapes, to the crumpled lump of human that was their former pilot.

The wind rushed suddenly upon them, and the balloon pitched violently sideways. Catching himself on the side of the basket, Jack observed the black clouds swelling ominously around them. He looked darkly at Peter.

‘He’ll be like…like…’ Peter said, gesticulating wildly, desperately, ‘like an anchor! If we can get him stuck in a tree it might just be enough.’ Jack gulped and glanced again at the body. He swore loudly, and yanked the rope from Peter’s trembling hands.

‘What a fucking mess.’

Peter’s face had a pallid, glazed look, as though he didn’t quite know whether he was waking or sleeping. Jack leant over the side of the balloon basket, both hands on the rope.

‘Hold me,’ he snarled, and Peter hurriedly grabbed him, anchoring him to the edge of the basket. The cold wind blew right at them now, and above their heads the red and orange cloth bent out of shape like a flickering flame. They were coming to the edge of the cliff, and beyond that was the rocky beach and the perilous blue sea. They were going to crash and drown. It was certain death out there in a storm.

‘Look there,’ said Peter, and he was screaming, but his voice sounded thin, caught by the wind. Jack saw what he was pointing at. A scraggly gum, growing out of the cliff ledge. It was crazy. But the balloon was moving right over it, and Jack let some rope out at just the right moment, and the pilot’s body, a pulpy mess of meat, dragged along the rocky cliff edge and then toppled over. The two men in the basket held their breath. Suddenly the line pulled violently and the balloon was tilting, pitching crazily and Jack was yelling and Peter was clinging to the edge of the basket, thinking of what he would say to the Pilot’s wife.

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‘So he saved you?’ said Mrs. Robins, with tears in her eyes. Peter looked down at his hands, torn, scarred, but whole.

‘Yeah he did. He um…jumped out of the Balloon to save us Mrs. Robins.’ She nodded, and a ray of sunshine broke through her grief for a moment.

‘He was a good man wasn’t he?’

‘Yep. He was. He was a good man.’

- Gil Walker
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