Definitions: The Inkwell with Vanessa Gebbie

 In The Inkwell

In this blog series, The Inkwell, award-winning author Vanessa Gebbie shares writing tips and exercises to keep your writing mind in motion during lockdown.

Our writing game today comes with thanks to poet Pascale Petit, who used this amazing game in a workshop. It helps us create extraordinary images and ideas for ordinary things.

First, make a list of ordinary things.

Eg: here’s my list:


Using strips of paper for each word, write as follows – leaving plenty of room on each strip to write

A map is ….
A mother is…
A mirror is…
A fish is… 

Now complete each sentence, in the most interesting original way you can, leaving a gap after ‘is’ 


A map is              the key to understanding where you are going

A mother is              a woman, a refuge from trouble, a voice in the night. 

A mirror is              something reality can’t escape

A fish is              fleetingly seen when the light is right

Done that?  Great. Now, tear each piece of paper after ‘is’ and mix them up. See what you’ve got.

I’ve got:

A map is              something reality can’t escape

A mother is              fleetingly seen when the light is right

A mirror is              a woman, a refuge, a voice in the night

A fish is              is the key to understanding where you are going

Do your new definitions work? Do they suggest characters? Storylines? Poems? 

Have fun!  This game is even better played with a few of you…

Vanessa Gebbie is a novelist, short fiction writer, poet, editor and writing tutor with ten books out there somewhere – including Short Circuit, Guide to the Art of the Short Story (Salt), editions i and ii, for which she was commissioning and contributing editor. She has taught for The Arvon Foundation, The Arts Council,  London’s Spread the Word, The Word Factory, Curtis Brown Creative and New Writing South among others. She is self-isolating in Sussex.