Category Archives: Creative Non Fiction

How to challenge your writing: experiment with constraints!

I recently participated in a 48 hours film challenge organized by NUS. We were given a prompt/topic and off we went, I wrote the script, the team commented on it, we sorted out kinks and logistics, I sat with the cameraman and we collaborated on the storyboard (my love of drawing is always there, a touch rusty, but there all the same) and then on with filming, editing, and pizza 🙂

This is the result:   Mar ri (together with)

We didn’t win the competition, but a representative of NHS Scotland asked us to use our film in some of their events, and possibly come and talk about it. Which is a pretty good result, and we were all chuffed.

The challenges in writing this script were:

-limited time: the film had to be finished and submitted in 48 hours, and filming notoriously takes a lot of time. I had a bus traveling time of 30 minutes to think about the prompt and come up with some ideas, we discussed them in the group for an hour or so, and then I wrote the script, another hour and a half or so. Revise, work out the kinks, check with the group and with our limited possibilities. Clock’s ticking, there’s no time to be precious about your special words, waiting for divine inspiration or your specially secluded writing spot – you have to chose your message and communicate it efficiently AND artistically in the time available.

-limited range of subject: we had a prompt, a theme to explore. Which can help in directing the focus of your ideas, but can also be an obstacle if it’s not a theme you’ve considered/come across before, or not under the same terms. Obstacles are made to be surpassed!

-limited means/budget: we had no budget apart from ourselves, therefore, once again, there were limits and boundaries to what we could do, and the script had to reflect and adapt to that. No point in writing in huge explosions, stunts or any other trickery we couldn’t deliver. The imagination had to be limited to what the story could support in term of practical means (locations, cast involved, etc.)

I found it an inspiring exercise, and I invite you to challenge your writing similarly: give yourself some limits (time available/word count/theme/number of characters-locations, etc) and play around with it, see what obstacles appear in your mind, what makes you sweat ink. I firmly believe it’s the best way to learn something new about your writing, and as always, feel free to share your experience in the comments:)


1 Comment

Filed under Competitions, Creative Non Fiction, Scriptwriting, Short Film, Writing

A cover I drew presented at the Narrative and Science event ‘Brave New Words’ (Edinburgh)

More precisely, a cover I drew for the Creative Non Fiction competition “Tales from Within” (CNF on Stem Cells)

Book Cover by Silvia Barlaam - for Imaginative Fiction on Stem Cells

Book Cover by Silvia Barlaam – “Tales from Within” CNF on Stem Cells

The event will be on Wednesday 23rd October 2013, 7.00 for 7.30pm.
Inspace, 1 Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AB

“Brave New Words: a celebration of words and science

For millennia, the sciences have fired the imagination. We react to the world around us with awe and curiosity. In order to understand and experience it, we tell ourselves stories. Some of these stories we describe as fiction and some as non-fiction. But all stories, just like all science, can teach.

These stories, once spread as myths and folklore, now come in the form of prose, comics, blogs and poems. But questions arise about how best to communicate science. How accurate must writers of fiction be? Can non-fiction authors be inventive or poetic? What forms are most effective at imparting knowledge and which are best at gripping the imagination?”

For more info, refer to the adorable Barbara Melville of Illicit Ink (and other things!) at

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Creative Non Fiction, Events, Non Fiction