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A Man, A Woman, and A Clown

For no real reason, I’m going to share the results of another writing exercise I did a while back. The prompt was the same as the title of this post, and we had fifteen minutes to write.

Feel free to have a go yourself before reading on and seeing what I did with it.

I think that’s the fun thing about doing writing exercises based on basic writing prompts: seeing what different people turn that prompt into. And, if you could wipe your memory (or exercise great restraint and avoid copying yourself), how different would your little story be if you did the exercise again next week? Month? Year? Decade?

From a basic prompt, what comes about can be influenced not only by your overall life experiences, but also where your head is at in that very moment. What TV show did you watch that might inspire you? What book have you been reading? What were you discussing with workmates over lunch? All these seemingly incidental things can influence your creative output, especially when it is “just” an exercise and isn’t constrained by story rules established for a longer piece.

So… fifteen minutes. A Man, A Woman, and A Clown… what did you come up with?

For my wee story, I jotted down a few thoughts that came to mind when I thought of clowns. This was October 2013, so it was well before this scary clown craze of recent months.

My notes say:


  • sadness/loss
  • anger/bad-tempered

Dark Humour


And, because I am a fan of Canadian rockers Our Lady Peace, I noted the opening lines of one of their currently unrecorded/released songs, Trapeze:

Can’t believe she fell

The silence was unnerving…

And from these humble beginnings, what wonder did I create?

Ha. Well, after this build up it better be good, right?

Well, no. Not necessarily.

But now I’ve given you plenty of time to “um” and “ah” over whether or not you want to go away and write your own clown story, without the influence of mine, I shall share…

Oh, go on. You know you want to. I’ll still be here, and you can come back and even share it in the comments if you wish. Set a 15 minute timer. This is an exercise, not a new novel (although, as always, you are welcome to turn it into one).

Did you do it?

Up to you, of course.

Alright… Well, this is what I came up with in the end…

Cartwheeling, cartwheeling, and cartwheeling again. Didn’t he ever get dizzy?

“See?” Robbie pats my shoulder. “Aren’t you glad you came?”

I give an indelicate response. I’m not after a laugh. I don’t need to be in public with these puffy eyes. I should be hidden away, immersed in my sorrow. I’m allowed to grieve my sense of uniqueness, aren’t I? Seeing Andy talk to that other woman… Not just talking. Leaning in. For an intimate joke. It had been a joke. They’d laughed. And I’d seethed. Like I seethe now.

Confetti showers over me. The clown leans right in, obliterating my personal sphere. Despite the painted-on grin, there is sorrow there. Sorrow for me. She’s empathising. She?

I watch the clown as she carries on, drawing attention to her cause. The Circus is in town.

Robbie puts an arm around my shoulders, giving me one of those reassuring shakes that only results in rattling my teeth.

But still I’m watching that clown.

In that look, we shared something, she and I. She’d thrown confetti on me, jigged past, her goal to make us laugh. But, in that look, she’d said, “It’s OK. It’s OK not to laugh.”

I think I like my clown.



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