I created the following prompts for ‘A Good Night Out’ Facebook Live writing workshop shared on the Royal Voluntary Service’s Virtual Village Hall Facebook page on Tuesday 18th May 2021. You’ll find a recording of the workshop here.
I came up with too many prompts for the hour-long slot, however, and am sharing them all here for those who want to carry on writing on the topic of pubs and/or going out.
Feel free to share the prompts with others (though I’d appreciate if you could spread the love and credit them to me if you do!)
Our writing activities this month focus on pubs, to mark the easing of Lockdown Restrictions in the UK on Monday 17th May which allowed pubs to open up a little more and let their customers indoors once again.
In my opinion, a good pub isn’t just a place to get a pint but an important social centre in the community. They feed and entertain the elderly, are safe havens for the lonely and vulnerable and are – often – keepers of the history and stories of the area around them. Some pubs in rural communities are even post offices and grocery stores now, and the landlady at my local is almost like a social worker, keeping an eye on regular customers and going out of her way to find out if they’re okay if she hasn’t seen them for a while.
So I’m using prompts about pubs to celebrate them and applaud those who’ve managed to keep afloat during the past difficult year. But if pubs aren’t your thing, feel free to substitute ‘pub’ for something else. Here are some suggestions for alternatives, but feel free to use an idea of your own:
- Cafes or coffee bars
- Bingo halls
- Dance halls or night clubs
- Youth clubs, YWCA, YMCA
- Church groups or other social groups
Warm up activity: A recipe for a good night out
Create a quick list of the things you’d like/need to have in order to have a good night out – in whatever way a ‘good night out means’ for you.
Don’t think about it too much – set a timer for 5 or 7 minutes on your phone and just ‘go’.
If you run out of ideas before the timer ends, keep going – you might be surprised at the ideas that come out when all your regular, ordinary ideas have been used up!
When you’re done, look back over what you’ve written – were you surprised by what you came up with? You might decide to weave these ideas into one piece about ‘a good night out,’ whether fiction or a true-life story, you might pick out one idea and expand it, or create a list poem using them all. Or you might simply decide to leave them as they are – a quick way to warm up your creative muscles and tune you into the task of writing, ready for the main prompts.
Pubs and other social places
I recently read a book by Nottingham-based poet John Lucas about The Royal Oak in Beeston, a pub he frequented from the 1960’s until it closed and was turned into a restaurant. Reading it reminded me of pub visits in my childhood and youth, and how much these have changed over time.
The following activities tap into that change, prompting you to remember a pub (or other venue) on a ‘good night out’ in the past and then again in more recent times.
Activity 1: A guy walks into a pub …
Imagine yourself walking through the door of a pub/venue you knew well at some point in your past. Describe it to us, some of the people you see there and what they – and then you – do in that pub. Here are some questions to prompt you:
- What’s the pub?
- What time of day is it?
- Who are you with?
- Describe what it’s like in the pub – sights, sounds, smells, noises.
- What do you order and who from? How much does it cost (if you can remember)?
- Describe some of the people there: be specific with their names and their habits if you can remember them, but don’t worry too much about accuracy if you can’t remember exact details (it’s OK to make it up a little – no-one’s going to check!)
- What’s your ‘routine’ in that place? Full English before heading off to watch a footie match? After-shopping liquid lunch? Darts night with the pub team?
Set a timer for 15 mins or so if you have one and – write!
Activity 2: a guy walks into a micro brewery …
Repeat that exercise, but for a venue in more recent times. It might be the same place or a different but similar one. Answer the same sort of questions as before, trying if you can to note the differences that have occurred in the aspects of that place which you originally pointed out.
- How has it changed?
- What things are the same about it?
- How have YOU changed and what is the same about you?
Again, set the timer for 15 mins or so and off you go!
Activity 3: pubs are full of characters
When I think back to trips to the local – both in my past and in recent times – the thing that stands out most clearly are the people who drink there, the pub clientele. Pubs are full of characters, no question, and where there are characters, there are always stories.
Here are some activities you could do to record some of those stories, whether real or fictional.
List the characters you might find in a pub or venue of your choice. These could be actual named people or ‘types.’ (I was surprised, when I sat and did this myself, how easy it was to come up with a list of the character-types I’ve met in different pubs in my life: same behaviours but different people in different pubs.)
Choose two of your characters and write a scene between them that takes place in a pub. Again, this can be real or imaginary, but choose a dramatic situation that sparks tension between them.
What kind of situations might kick-off in a pub?
- A pair of lovers arguing?
- A drunken punter starting a fight and being turfed out by the landlord?
- Someone cheating on a pub quiz?
Think of scenarios you’ve witnessed yourself or choose something you might have seen on a soap opera!
Write a memory of someone you know from a pub. What’s their story and what about it makes it so memorable for you?
Note: it’s up to you whether you change real characters’ names so people won’t identify them but I usually do – not least because then I can fictionalise any bits of story I can’t quite remember. There’s nothing worse than someone spoiling you sharing a gripping or funny story with ‘but Old Alfie didn’t have three sons, only two …’
Activity 4: a quick end-of-evening scene
Many people like to pick up a ‘late-night snack’ on their way home from a night out, from the chippy, a take-away restaurant or – as in the story shared by someone in my writing group – from a van parked in the town centre.
Thinking of that, write a quick one or two-paragraph scene beginning with the sentence –
‘Jock’s hot dog stand sold the finest new-fangled American sausages-in-a-bun that two shillings could buy, and as I stood in the short queue waiting …’
or adapt it to fit memories or thoughts of your own. Make it a quick activity, perhaps 10 mins on the clock. Which, in fact, is three minutes longer than it’d take to eat one of those new-fangled hot dogs …
And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed this month’s prompts!
If you’ve enjoyed these prompts and would like to show your appreciation, feel free to ‘buy me a cuppa’ on either of the following links below!