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Workshop 04 — Creative Writing Year 11/12

TOPIC: Write a description in 3 parts of the changes taking place in a location you know well over a span of some years.

Original Version

1990

Day and night we were protected and nourished by the same people who imprisoned and isolated us, but this was our fortress, our own world, a place where we were free. A place where we could fend for ourselves and fight our own battles without continuous monitoring from above. There was a reddish brown slide, a labyrinth of steel pipes, a bottomless pit of coarse sand, a rope attached to a tyre which swung back and forth like the pendulum, the timekeeper of our dimension. We flew through the monkey bars, maneuvered through the maze of tunnels and barricaded ourselves in what was known as the castle, logs of all shapes and sizes strategically placed in concentric rings to give the defender every advantage possible. At the centre was a tower of similar composition which rose majestically above the entire battlefield. We use to hold out armies three times our size from within. As the battle wore on, a myriad of shadows materialized on the bodies of the exhausted warriors. Soon the battle will be over and we will once again become prisoners of war, waiting in captivity for the next campaign. As the red sun descended towards the western sky, the warriors left one by one. Before long, the battlefield became a wasteland. The castle became a ruin. The tyre hung motionlessly against the still night sky.

1996

Mountains of tossed up dirt, gravel and rocks now occupy where our fortress stood for over half our lifetimes. Whenever the sun was visible, gigantic yellow bulldozers tainted with dirt formed the backbone of a supply chain, replacing the chaotic debris of the site with oblong bricks. The site had become a living, breathing machine, slowly transforming its interior with every breath. Slowly the a new network of tunnels branched out to cover the entire site like a system of blood vessels, but these tunnels were much narrower and resided below ground level. A feeling of emptiness, nostalgia, perhaps even grievance swept over us. Our campaigns have been phased out many years ago, but that feeling was still within us, there was still a longing to one day go back.

2002

Isolated pockets of dark bricks provided depth to an otherwise bland, cream coloured wall. There were windows, but most of them had plain pall blinds of a colour identical to the wall sheltering whatever was more than an inch behind the glass. Occasionally, some of the blinds would be up but these were times where the sun was so bright that the glass functioned as a mirror rather than a portal to what lies behind the blinds. The only evidence of life within the building were the cars commuting to and from the carpark. The disappearance of the playground never bothers us anymore. We now play in a virtual playground, connected through a network of high-speed fibre optics. We were caught in the wave of technological developments and chose to ride along. It was one choice we didn’t regret. However, today was different. A group of kids about a decade younger than us were playing in the barren concrete quadrangle of the new flats. All morning they chased each other around, laughing, sweating, and having fun. By the afternoon all the children had brought a piece of furniture and begun arranging and stacking them. They were building a fortress.

The student, of Chinese background and having spoken English for around six years, asked: “Mr. Whitfield, I heard that to obtain top marks in this section, I have to implicitly teach the theme. It is my first time trying this so I don’t know how implicit is obscure. Is the theme of the above implicit enough yet easy enough to make out? Also, do the descriptions sound artificial or implausible?”

Annotated version

1990

Day and night we were protected and nourished by the same people who imprisoned and isolated us, but this was our fortress, our own world, a place where we were free. A place where we could fend for ourselves and fight our own battles without continuous monitoring from above. There was a reddish brown slide, a labyrinth of steel pipes, a bottomless pit of coarse sand, a rope attached to a tyre which swung back and forth like a pendulum, the timekeeper of our dimension. We flew through the monkey bars, manoeuvred through the maze of tunnels and barricaded ourselves in what was known as the castle, logs of all shapes and sizes strategically placed in concentric rings to give the defender every advantage possible. At the centre was a tower of similar composition which rose majestically above the entire battlefield. We used to hold out against armies three times our size from within. As the battle wore on, a myriad of shadows materialized on the bodies of the exhausted warriors*. Soon the battle would be over and we would once again become prisoners of war, waiting in captivity for the next campaign. As the red sun descended towards the western sky, the warriors left one by one. Before long, the battlefield became a wasteland. The castle became a ruin. The tyre hung motionlessly against the still night sky

  • *This sentence is a bit over-written. Concentrate on making the image clear through specific detail, rather than on overstretching your vocabulary. Perhaps: As the battle wore on, lengthening shadows stretched out over the bodies of the exhausted warriors.
  • The only other point is the shaky tenses near the end; keep them consistent. See also below. I suggest you revise the final section in present tense, perhaps more dramatic.

1996

Mountains of tossed up dirt, gravel and rocks now occupied the site where our fortress stood for over half our lifetimes. Whenever the sun was visible, gigantic yellow bulldozers fouled with dirt formed the backbone of a supply chain, replacing the chaotic debris of the site with oblong bricks. The site had become a living, breathing machine, slowly transforming its interior with every breath. Slowly the a new network of tunnels branched out to cover the entire site like a system of blood vessels, but these tunnels were much narrower and resided below ground level. *Emptiness, nostalgia, perhaps even grievance, swept over us as we witnessed this “progress”. Our campaigns had been phased out many years before, but that feeling was still within us, a longing to one day go back.

*We know these are “feelings” so that word is unnecessary!

2002

Isolated pockets of dark bricks provide depth to an otherwise bland, cream coloured wall. There are windows, but most of them have plain pale blinds of a colour identical to the wall sheltering whatever might be more than an inch behind the glass. Occasionally, some of the blinds would be up but these were times where the sun was so bright that the glass functioned as a mirror rather than a portal to what lies behind the blinds. The only evidence of life within the building were the cars commuting to and from the carpark. The disappearance of the playground never bothers us anymore. We now play in a virtual playground, connected through a network of high-speed fibre optics. We were caught in the wave of technological developments and chose to ride along. It was one choice we didn’t regret. However, today was different. A group of kids about a decade younger than us were playing in the barren concrete quadrangle of the new flats. All morning they chased each other around, laughing, sweating, and having fun. By the afternoon all the children had brought a piece of furniture and begun arranging and stacking them. They were building a fortress.

Have a go yourself revising this last section in present tense, if you agree it is a good idea to do so. Send me the result as soon as you can. I have done the first two sentences.

Final version

This went through two more versions before the final draft was agreed to.

1990

Day and night we were protected and nourished by the same people who imprisoned and isolated us, but this was our fortress, our own world, a place where we were free. A place where we could fend for ourselves and fight our own battles without continuous monitoring from above. There was a reddish brown slide, a labyrinth of steel pipes, a bottomless pit of coarse sand, a rope attached to a tyre which swung back and forth like a pendulum, the timekeeper of our dimension. We flew through the monkey bars, manoeuvred through the maze of tunnels and barricaded ourselves in what was known as the castle, logs of all shapes and sizes strategically placed in concentric rings to give the defender every advantage possible. At the centre was a tower of similar composition which rose majestically above the entire battlefield. We used to hold out against armies three times our size from within. As the battle wore on, lengthening shadows stretched out over the bodies of the exhausted warriors. Soon the battle would be over and we would once again become prisoners of war, waiting in captivity for the next campaign. As the red sun descended towards the western sky, the warriors left one by one. Before long, the battlefield became a wasteland. The castle became a ruin. The tyre hung motionlessly against the still night sky

1996

Mountains of tossed up dirt, gravel and rocks now occupied the site where our fortress stood for over half our lifetimes. Whenever the sun was visible, gigantic yellow bulldozers fouled with dirt formed the backbone of a supply chain, replacing the chaotic debris of the site with oblong bricks. The site had become a living, breathing machine, slowly transforming its interior with every breath. Slowly the a new network of tunnels branched out to cover the entire site like a system of blood vessels, but these tunnels were much narrower and resided below ground level. Emptiness, nostalgia, perhaps even grievance swept over us as we witnessed this ‘progress’. Our campaigns had been phased out many years before, but that feeling was still within us, a longing to one day go back.

2002

Isolated pockets of dark bricks provide depth to an otherwise bland, cream coloured wall. There are windows, but most of them have plain pale blinds of a colour identical to the wall sheltering whatever might be more than an inch behind the glass. Occasionally some of the blinds might be up but those are times when the sun is so bright that the glass functions as a mirror rather than a portal to what lies behind the blinds. The only evidence of life within the building are the cars commuting to and from the carpark. The disappearance of the playground never bothers us anymore. We now play in a virtual playground, connected through a network of high-speed fibre optics. We are caught in the wave of technological developments and chose to ride along. It is one choice we don’t regret. Looking again, I see a group of kids about a decade younger than us playing in the barren concrete quadrangle of the new flats. All morning they chase each other around, laughing, sweating, and having fun. By the afternoon all the children have brought a piece of furniture and begin arranging and stacking them. They are building a fortress.

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