Writing exercises

This semester I’m doing just the one subject at uni, in an effort to slow down. It’s a short story workshop, which is right up my alley, because I love short stories (to read and write). Each week we’re being given an exercise to explore the various elements of stories (short or long, really); character, place etc etc. I thought I might share them each week.

For last week’s class we had to take a character from one of our stories to the supermarket. In writing, that is. I’m working on a short story I wrote last year — and that needs a lot of improvement! — so any feedback would be more than welcome.

I’ll also be posting these entries on The Monday Project.


The supermarket is only just opening when Bella steps off the bus. This is her favourite time to shop because the place is virtually empty and she can be as slow as she likes without worrying that she will in someone’s way.

She recognises the cashier at the only open register and attempts a smile, but is rebuffed with a look of confusion and lack of recognition. The girl is here every week, but Bella supposes there’s not much interest in remembering a little old lady with a squeaky fabric grocery trolley. She certainly wouldn’t have been interested when she was the girl’s age. Bella sighs and moves to the toilet paper and laundry powder end of the supermarket. She has always moved through the supermarket this way, ‘backwards’ as her husband put it on the few times she convinced him to come shopping with her. He hated supermarkets and couldn’t understand the sense of freedom she found in them. “They depress me,” he used to say, but would not, or could not elaborate further.

After comparing the prices, Bella chooses the least expensive toilet paper, which is unfortunately located on the top shelf, almost out of her reach. She will have to risk an avalanche of toilet paper to get a packet down. She looks around her. There is no one in the aisle; no one who could help. On her tip toes, her hand on the handle of her cart to push herself a little higher, Bella manages to knock the paper towards herself and move out of the way to let it drop to the floor. She smiles. Last time she knocked down four or five packets and was too embarrassed to ask for help, so piled the packets on the floor neatly. Later that day, when she got home, she realised that the store probably had cameras and that the store manager could have watched the whole thing. She had caught two extra buses to shop in another supermarket for the next three weeks.

She carefully crosses toilet paper off her list with a pencil from her dress pocket. Laundry powder is also on the list. Thankfully her favoured brand is usually found on the bottom shelf — she assumes this is because not many other people buy it. Sometimes it is not in stock, but today she is in luck. Another straight pencil line on her list.

3 thoughts on “Writing exercises

  1. This a very lively writing as the character Bella reads real to me. I’d like to know more about her.

    I’m also very intrigued by the husband character especially when he referred to supermarket being depressive. Why?

    Will there be more?

    And also, Sophie, hope I’m not being impolite or pushy here. As you’re a published writer and you post some of your stories on your blogs, I’m wondering if you’re willing to share some of your advice re posting one’s creative writing on one’s blog. (Pls refer to my blog post: To post or not post in my blog.) I found the “publishing” & “copyright” issues extremely confusing.

    You could either respond to my post or email me direct on this. Greatly appreciate your help. 🙂

  2. Hi Sophie,

    I just want to express my deepest thanks for your generous respond to my question re: posting writing in my blog. You have helped to clear the matters and now I have a better idea what I need to do.

    As your written respond is so well said,may I suggest you post it in one of your blog(s). I’m sure it will benefit other writers / bloggers.

    Again, thank you for such generosity, especially we never met! 🙂

  3. Pingback: Exercises « avocado and lemon

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