Friday, October 25th, 2013
Halloween is coming! It’s my favorite holiday of the entire year.
My candy’s bought, my house is decorated, and I’m chomping at the bit looking for activities to extend it a little. Tonight, the Husband of Awesome™ and I will be handing out candy at the local elementary school and watching their costume parade. I can’t wait.
I’m working on a prop for tonight: Zero, Jack Skellington’s faithful ghost hound. I sculpted his head from newspaper, tinfoil, masking tape and styrofoam. Today, I’m spray-painting him white.
I should have covered him in paper mache before painting, but I ran out of time. I’ve been procrastinating.
I’ve also been procrastinating on my writing. I haven’t even turned on my laptop for THREE days!
My word count is not looking too hot this week, unless you count all the non-fiction… (And who counts that?) The ‘Zero’ project–and other Halloween stuff–has kept me pretty busy.
Here’s Your Prompt:
- The main character of your WIP has a secret vice that makes him procrastinate. What is it? How might this procrastination up the tension in your story? Write it.
- Essayists: Thomas de Quincey said, “If once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination.” Is procrastination worse than murder?
- Procrastination eats away at our time, slowly eroding this valuable commodity. Poets: write about time. (Artists! This one works for you, too: show us time.)
- For journalers and essayists: What have you been putting off? Why?
Friday, October 11th, 2013
I’m reading Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables currently as part of my Project 100–and I’m quite enjoying it. Anne is an imaginative, talkative , young girl of ten who is forever getting into scrapes brought on by her flights of fancy. As the book begins, she’s adopted by a quite sensible spinster woman whom Anne refers to as Aunt Marilla.
Aunt Marilla is a dried up, middle-aged woman who lacks imagination and sucks the life out of people with her discreet and circumspect habits. Sensibility is her motto, and fun takes a back seat to decorum every time. She’s unfashionable, and dresses Anne like a mini version of herself.
But little by little, Anne wins her over. As the book progresses we see Aunt Marilla untwisting her panties and enjoying life a lot more–even though she’d thought adopting Anne had been a mistake from the beginning: she’d asked the orphanage for a boy.
I was just starting to like Aunt Marilla. But near the middle of the book, Anne–now thirteen years old–starts a “literary club” with some other young women. They are required to write one story “out their own heads” each week, and then meet to read them aloud to each other and critique them.
(My kind of party!)
When Anne tells Aunt Marilla, the aunt replies: “Reading stories is bad enough but writing them is worse.”
Oh, boo, Aunt Marilla! I don’t like you again.
Nonetheless, Marilla (sort of) brings up a good point: we can’t always write fiction. So, in honor of that, today our prompts are non-fiction related!
Here’s Your Prompt:
In honor of family–natural, adopted and chosen–lets write family stories in a variety of styles:
- Choose a memorable event that you were involved in that your family was not: being away at camp, attending a concert, something on your bucket list, etc. and write a letter home telling all about it. Be certain to include all the parts of a letter: salutation, body, closing and signature.
- Write a newspaper story about a BIG family event: a milestone anniversary or birthday, a wedding, a graduation, etc. Here’s information on how to write a news story.
- Write a journal entry of your earliest memory. Ask family members for their input on what they remember of the same event and incorporate that into the narrative.
- Flip through some old family photographs and choose one or two of the same day that evoke strong memories for you. These strong memories could be good or bad, it doesn’t matter. Just find something you’re passionate about one way or the other. Use the photos as the basis of a scrapbook entry. Lay them out on the page and decorate with magazine clippings, fancy paper, bits of ribbon, etc. Finally, journal about the events of the day. Include your not only the facts of what happened, but your feelings on the topic.
Friday, September 20th, 2013
Old habits die hard.
It’s a bit of cop out here to rely on tired aphorisms, but it gets my point across succinctly.
A change of habit–getting out of one’s rut–can take a monumental effort of strength and will. Creating new habits can take the same. (New Year’s resolutions, anyone?)
But from a fiction writing standpoint, they offer so much fresh material–so much potential for a character to grow and experience–that it might be worthwhile to add it to your Writer’s Toolbox. (You may prefer, to do as I do, and add it to your arsenal instead. 🙂 )
Consider a character with an ingrained habit. Perhaps every day on his way to work, he walks three blocks on Franklin Street, catches the Number 9 bus which takes him downtown, gets off at the industrial center and takes the company taxi into the plant.
What if whether by chance, fate or choice, he’s late getting out of the house. He misses the Number 9, and has no choice but to take the Number 11 instead? Eleven will drop him off at the industrial center, but not before first driving to the docks to let off folks who work around the Harbor. It will make him 30 minutes late, but it’s better than waiting another 45 minutes for the Number 9 to come back around.
Your character’s routine is entirely off. What will he experience along this route? Maybe it makes him change his point of view about something. He decides to make a life change. Or maybe the Number 11 bus gets hijacked. Either way, he’s out of his comfort zone, and something new–for better or worse–is about to happen.
Here’s Your Prompt:
- Write a story in which your main character is forced to abandon his or her habit. What happens?
- Write about a character who deliberately changes his or her routine, hoping for the better. Make things worse for him or her.
- Write a poem about change or habit. What are the emotional repercussions?
- If you journal, write about something you’ve changed for the better, or something you changed for the worse. If worse, tell how you alleviated the new problem. If better, relate the steps you took to maintain it.
||Have you read Lies?
The Queen lies dying, and the mage-physician holds the key to her health, but he doesn’t quite know how to use it. The Book of Lies has the capacity to heal, if only Beresh can write the proper words. But only a few pages remain in the book, and if they’re used before the queen is healed, she won’t be the only one to lose her life!
Short-Listed for the Aeon Award.
$2.99 at Amazon.com | $2.99 at Barnes and Noble
Friday, September 13th, 2013
September is National Preparedness Month. Since I work for a government agency, we’re getting repeated reminders to:
- Stay Informed
- Make a Plan
- Build a Kit
- Get Involved
…all with the usual hype and rhetoric.
(I’m all for being prepared, btw, I just don’t think it should be a crazed, one-month endeavor. Shouldn’t you be prepared all of the time?)
I don’t know if it’s related to Preparedness month, but the local constabulary hijacked our public parking lot Monday morning to hold some kind of drill or training session. Most had on helmets and were holding those clear, riot-control, body shields.
All I could think of on my way out to lunch was, “Time to speed! Floor it!” With all the local police tied up playing war, there couldn’t have been a better time. I wish I could have laid down some rubber on the way out of the parking lot.
Here’s Your Prompt:
Friday, July 12th, 2013
I’m getting ready for vacation.
Besides my computer, the one thing I always take with me is my camera. So, I’m charging batteries, cleaning accessories, and cleaning off data cards (Hello, Christmas photos! That’s where you are!)
I take a lot of snapshots no matter where I go.
And I’m terrible about cleaning off the data cards…which is why I have so many of them. I tend to keep taking pictures until they’re full, and then rush in a mad scramble to get them cleaned off before the next event. So, I buy extras. And now they’re all full, too.
I know some people who clean them off right away, tossing the blurries and labeling the people. I’m rarely that organized. (I’ve got better things to do! Don’t you?)
By the time I get to the photos, I’m often surprised by what I see on the camera. Not just the event, but the expressions, the feelings, the emotion.
Some good story stuff there.
Here’s Your Prompt:
- Open a photo album to a random snapshot. Write the story of what’s happening. If you journal, perfect. Write this moment. If you write fiction, make up a story about what you see. Bonus points if you use someone else’s photo album. (If you don’t have a photo album, use Google Images and search for “people.” Use the first photo you see.)
- Write about an autographed photo.
- Write about someone — or something –missing from a snapshot.
- Here are some story starters or journal ideas:
- In this snapshot, I am…
- It was picture perfect.
- He refused to hold still.
- “We agreed, no photos.”
- Capture this image.
- It shook the camera, and this is what we got.
- Write about light and dark, shadow and substance, frame and focus.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nature paints the best part of a picture, carves the best part of the statue, builds the best part of the house…” Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?
- Write about something written on the back of a photo.
Photo of Liberty Cap Bell Yellowstone National Park © Raymond Kasprzak | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Friday, May 17th, 2013
So the Husband-of-Awesome™ and I set about to grill chicken for dinner the other night.
Mr. Awesome went out to the grill and opened it up to find this:
Here’s a close-up. Turns out there were five little birdies plus mama nesting in the grill.
The really fortunate thing about the matter is that Mr. Awesome broke with habit when he found the birds. Usually, he fires up the grill willy-nilly without peeking inside, so that it’s pleasantly pre-heated before we cook.
(Don’t blame him, I do it, too.)
Imagine if he hadn’t broken his normal habit. Those birds don’t know how lucky they had it.
And us, too.
And so this unexpected discovery put paid to the grilling endeavor, not just for Wednesday night, but until the little guys decide to vacate the grill.
Here’s Your Prompt
- Write a scene in which either your protagonist or antagonist is unexpectedly surprised by something nice and cheerful which messes up their plans. Note: it’s got to cause your characters some consternation, because a story isn’t a good story without some drama!
- It could be argued that Mr. Awesome’s break with habit was due to ‘divine intervention’ of some sort*. Write a scene in which a similar serendipitous event wreaks havoc with your characters’ plans.
- Journal about a time when something strange happened (divine intervention?) — in the nick of time — to save you or a family member from peril.
* Or maybe he just saw some straw sticking out of the bottom of the grill.
Friday, April 5th, 2013
I got inspired by doors today.
Doors are like choices, or decisions. Prompts for action: should you open it or leave it shut? Should you step through, or remain on this side?
And there are so many doors, and an equal (if not double!) amount of choices.
What’s more, the sight of a door leaves one with the impression of what might be behind it. A set of French doors with sheer white curtains might inspire a light and airy dining area. A solid wooden door on the face of a Boston brownstone might convey upper-crust society. A green door, surrounded by ivy and flowering potted plants might imply adventure.
But the frightening aspect is that the appearance could be illusion. A giant troll could live behind the fairy door. An impoverished family — self-imploding on the fracturing nature of drug addition or alcohol abuse — might live behind the brownstone door. The French doors might conceal the dark recess of a sociopath’s hideaway.
Here’s Your Prompt:
- As you drive, or walk, down the street today, take notice of doors. Choose one which inspires you and write the story of what lies behind it.
- If you’re writing a story or a novel, make a list of all the figurative doors (choices) which your character might have to walk through. Make the list long and detailed. Choose the most horrific option for your character, and write how he or she resolves the situation. Don’t just write about the scene, show the scene: let us know how the character is feeling — and thinking — about the decision. Was it the right decision to make, despite the horror of it?
- If you journal, or write memoir (or even family history) write a story about when you — or someone else — literally stepped through a door. Were your expectations met or not? Were you surprised by the situation you found behind the door? How did you feel about what happened?
- If you write poetry — make a list of doors. Describe them: their color, their surroundings, their ornamentation. Decide what lies behind each door. Write a poem about the most interesting one, or, write a poem about all of them.
Photo © Colleen Coombe | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Friday, March 22nd, 2013
It’s that time of year: I’m getting bombarded by realtor mail.
It seems like that once the crocuses start to pop up in this neck of the woods, the realtors are out like vultures, looking for new prospects. I’m not in the market for a new house. I’m not interested in selling my current one.
Dear Realtors: please leave me alone.
Nonetheless, the topic is interesting for a writing prompt.
True Story: In the spring, when I was about two, my parents moved into a new house. Only a few days after the moving truck departed and they were busy with ripping up carpet and applying fresh paint to all the rooms, a knock sounded at the front door. My Mom opened it to find a young man, fresh on leave from the army. He’d come home to see his parents, but his key wouldn’t work in the door.
Imagine his surprise to learn that his parents had moved out, leaving him no forwarding address! (I’ve always wondered what happened to this young man.)
Here’s Your Prompt:
- Write about the serviceman who comes home for a visit, but finds his family packed up and moved away.
- Imagine this: a man is selling his house. He’s approached by an old woman soon after he puts it on the market. She doesn’t want to buy the house. She explains that she’s a former owner of the home tells him about something really horrific that happened there once. Write that story.
- Page through the real estate section of your local newspaper (or find one on line for some place abroad). Choose a home, castle, houseboat, etc. that catches your eye. Write a story about it.
- If you want to write poetry, write a poem about the feelings the image evokes.
- If you journal or are writing your memoirs, write a story about a place where you’ve lived. Take care in providing rich detail (without resorting to purple prose!) and how you feel about the place. Was it good or bad? Do you have happy memories or sad? Involve all five senses when telling the story
Image © John Hix | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Friday, March 15th, 2013
Julius Caesar was stabbed to death on March 15, 44 BC. He’d been warned by a soothsayer, but apparently failed to take precautions.
Worse, he was stabbed in the back by his good friend Marcus Brutus.
Shakespeare’s responsible for gifting us with memorable lines from his Tragedy of Julius Caesar, such as those for the soothsayer (Beware the Ides of March!) and Caesar’s famous last line, “Et tu, Brute?” (And you, Brutus?)
Brutus takes backstabbing your friend to a whole new level. He stepped up to the plate “for the good of Rome,” once it was agreed that Caesar was getting too big for his britches. He’d compared himself with Alexander the Great and grabbed as much power as he could.
These days, our friends and family would hold an intervention.
Here’s Your Prompt:
- This works for novelists, poets and memoir writers: write a scene where one character back-stabs another. Bonus points if you can work in Caesar’s famous line (“Et tu, Brute?”) without is sounding cheesy. If you’re a poet, write about betrayal. If you’re writing memoir, journaling or even family history, now’s the time to tell about the family fued: who stabbed whom in the back and why?
- Write a scene with “Beware the…” as the jumping off point.
- If Julius’ tragedy doesn’t float your boat, choose any one of Shakespeare’s hundreds of quotes and use them as a jump start. ENotes has them all listed by play. Pick one at random.
If you’re feeling lazy, here are just a few:
- Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow… (MacBeth)
- Give me my robe, put on my crown… (Antony and Cleopatra)
- And thus I clothe my naked villany (Richard III)
- The world’s mine oyster (The Merry Wives of Windsor)
- I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you (The Merchant of Venice)
Friday, February 15th, 2013
Question: Where do ideas come from?
Answer: They’re all around us.
But sometimes, they’re difficult to “see.” There’s a lot of visual stimulation around us, whether we’re visiting someplace new or sitting in our own writing spaces surrounded by the familiar.
Today’s writing prompt is a challenge. I want you to spend some time focusing on the objects around you and come up with a story (or a poem, or a memoir/journal entry, etc.) about one of the objects you see. Don’t let your eyes flick past the things you’ve viewed a million times a day. Instead, choose one to focus on, and think about some possibilities:
- How did you acquire it? Was it given to you by a friend? What if someone else had given it? (An enemy? A teacher? An alien? What kind of story would that make?
- How was it manufactured? What if it were made of something else? What if it had additional properties such as motion, magnetism, solubility, invisibility?
- Who owned it before you did? Your brother? Your cousin? Henry the VIII?
- Imagine this item in another location. What significance does the new location bring to the object? (Does it give you an idea for a story?)
Now…kick it up a notch by letting your imagination run wild. Start with the focus object, and continue to ask questions of it until the object of your study is no longer what you focused on. Instead of asking the “usual” questions, take a tangent… What does the color of it remind you of? How about the shape, or the texture? Maybe the gold-rimmed dinner plate which used to belong to your grandmother makes you think of the moon. Write a poem about the moon, or a story about a colony on the moon, or a fantasy about the moon’s pull on a witch’s spells.
Maybe the blue lamp is the same color of the ocean on a rainy morning. It makes you think of a secret at a beach house, a romance on an island, or a pirate shipwreck in Boston Harbor.
You get the idea.
Write that story (poem, vignette, journal entry, etc.) without the focus piece ever being mentioned in it.
Here’s Your Prompt:
- Easy: Write something (a poem, a short story, a scene, etc.) using your object of choice, coupled with some of the questions outlined above (or more of your own!) Make certain that item is the focus of the piece.
- Challenging: Start with a focus object, but transform it into a solid idea. Write something which was inspired by your focus piece.