Friday, December 20th, 2013
I rarely explore prompts categorized as “personal essay.” I include them in a lot of suggested prompts, but they aren’t often the focus of my blog since I generally talk about fiction.
But personal experiences bolster fiction. It’s these experiences that allow authors to write what they “know.” They lend realism to an otherwise imaginative tale.
When you choose a suggested prompt below, spend some time remembering the details of what occurred or visualizing events or objects before you start to write. Have things clear in your mind so they can be clearly articulated in the writing.
Here’s Your Prompt:
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 18th, 2013
We experience tens of thousands of seconds–small moments–each day. Even our worst, or our most boring, day surely contains a meaningful moment or span of moments.
Omitting the most special and the most horrible of days, I am hard-pressed to define a single most meaningful moment in my day.
(Is that my ingrained sense of adventure surfacing? I can always find something interesting, even at the most mundane of times…)
I like when the alarm goes off at 5 a.m. in the morning and I peek out the window into the back yard. I do this without fail: rain or shine, winter and summer.
There’s always something going on out there–even in the darkest of winter mornings–or maybe especially then: many times I’ve flipped on the light and caught some nocturnal beast in action.
Good morning kisses with my Husband of Awesome™ are also meaningful…
…as is hitting my daily word quota in the early morning. (Yay! Hooky day!) 🙂
Can you define a most meaningful moment of your day?
Some time ago, Real Simple Magazine featured an article where they asked writers to pontificate on their most meaningful time of the day.
The article features a meaningful moment as written by each author, and spans the entire day. Interesting reading.
Here’s Your Prompt
- Choose the most meaningful moment of your day today, and write about it. You could write an essay, a diary entry or a poem.
- Tomorrow, record your small moment for each of the hours of the day you’re awake. Write a few sentences about each small moment. Take special care to record the setting, the occasion, and how you felt at that moment. Be brief and concise.
- Make a date of it! Spend the day with your partner and prep him or her about “the most meaningful moment.” At the end of your date, each of you should write down the most meaningful moment on a post card or index card. When you’re done, exchange cards.
PHoto Copyright © Winterberg | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Friday, December 7th, 2012
The setting in a story is the place and time the story occurs. Every story has one. It lends context to the tale.
The settings for different types of stories will be different, as will the approach to creating them. One thing to consider is the audience reading the book.
For instance, the setting for a story taking place in modern Washington, DC might include a description of the Lincoln Memorial, the terrible traffic, diesel fumes from buses, protesters on the corner, etc. It might include some details on the weather: the oppressive heat of a July sun baking all that marble or the sleet of a November rain. And that’s it: just enough detail to ground the reader to location and atmosphere. He’ll fill in the rest with his own imagination.
A period romance might include the description of a brownstone townhouse in England, gas lamps on the sidewalk (if you’re in the rich part of town) or ragamuffin children (on the poor side of town). It will usually infer the economic status of the heroine, and some background, so we know how she got to this place and time. And, it might include a description of the historical events taking place, so that the reader gets an idea of the main character’s thoughts and motives. This description might go on for several paragraphs, because this audience enjoys rich detail.
Science Fiction readers will want explicit details on science, mechanics, atmosphere, politics, etc. But you don’t want to include detail, for detail’s sake. For instance, while you’re setting the scene, if you have machine that creates breathable atmosphere on a planet formerly known for its deadly gases, you don’t need to explain how that works…unless one of your characters is knowledgeable about it, or questions how it works, AND that information is crucial to the story.
If specific details aren’t important, but you point them out, you’ll either a) bore the reader, or b) leave him wondering why you included the detail. You don’t want that bouncing around in the reader’s head when she should be enjoying the story.
Also, a good rule of thumb when setting the scene is to include details related to the five senses. So, describe:
- what is seen
- what is heard
- what is felt (or touched)
- what is smelled, and,
- what is tasted
The hard part is writing the scene without making it sound like a checklist, like this:
The chaotic barnyard was filled it with animals. I could hear the cows mooing, the chickens squawking, and in the background somewhere, an old hound dog. The dirt was hard-packed beneath my feet, and I could feel every pebble through my shoe. Someone hadn’t mucked out the barn in ages. I could smell the dung all the way across the pasture. The wind kicked up, blowing dust in my face. I could taste the corn feed Farmer Brown just strew for the hens.
Here’s Your Prompt:
Here are a few suggested locations and time periods, choose one and write the scene.
- A junior high school in the US, mid-1970s.
- Modern day in a Scottish castle.
- A 1950s traveling carnival.
- A rock ‘n’ roll concert during the holidays, and the singer is late.
- Thanksgiving Dinner – the week before Thanksgiving.
- A fictional planet, during a civil war.
- The coast of any continent, 1800s, during a powerful storm.
- Today, in your home town.
- England, during the middle ages, in a small cottage
- Santa’s workshop, in July.
- Alice’s Wonderland – only set the scene of somewhere Alice didn’t go.
If none of these strike your fancy, choose your own time and place.
Friday, September 7th, 2012
September is National Coupon Month.
If you could make your own coupon, what would it be for?
I want more days in the week. I feel like I never have enough time to do all the things I want to do.
I’d like, perhaps, two extra days per weekend. I’d hit the Time Store during their “50% off Every Day” sale and buy a few extra days for each week for the rest of the year.
(Maybe I’d get all those things on my ‘Too Much To Do List’ done.)
Basic “Mix and Match” Components of a Coupon
- The name of the product that is on sale.
- The location of the sale.
- The amount of the sale, either in a percentage or “cents off.”
- An expiration date.
- A bar code.
- A graphic or clip art.
- The “Fine Print:” The conditions of the sale, where it’s void, how many products can be purchased with the coupon, etc.
What about you?
Here’s Your Prompt:
- Make a coupon for something you’d like more than anything. Be creative: whip out the crayons or a graphics program on your computer and get to work. Make it look genuine. (See if you can fool your friends!)
- If you don’t feel like your art skills are up to par, write the sale out in narrative.
- Once you’ve set up the conditions of your coupon: write an essay or journal/diary entry about why you desire such a coupon and how you would use the item if you were able to use the coupon.
- Write a story about someone who finds a fantastic coupon (in the newspaper, at the library coupon exchange, in his mailbox, etc.) and what happens when he redeems it.
The hourglass graphic in the image I made for this blog post came from http://www.wpclipart.com/.
Monday, August 27th, 2012
I received an unusual question via email from a co-worker today.
She meant it rhetorically, because she’d asked so many others in the email. But it was fun, so I answered her back.
For your edification, here’s the question:
What’s your favorite candy bar? Ice cream? Cruise ship? Bribery tool? 😉
And the answers are:
- Mars Bar – I was so disappointed when they discontinued it in 2002! But, they brought it back a few years ago, so all is well.
- Mint Chocolate Chip – I love peppermint!
- Royal Caribbean – I need to go check if there are any specials. It’s been a while since I’ve taken a cruise…
- Time!! – which is a difficult commodity to grant – although there are many creative ways for you to give me some. Barring that, I can be bribed with Books, CDs of my favorite bands, and concert tix!
So now I turn the question around to you guys:
What’s your favorite candy bar? Ice cream? Cruise ship? Bribery tool?
Mars Bar photo by Evan-Amos.
Saturday, November 27th, 2010
I’ve spent the last two days at Darkover in Timonium, MD and I’m having a blast. I’ve made lots of new friends and had some terrific conversations.
(It makes me realize even more that there is *never* enough time. What I wouldn’t give for a little space-time anomaly to give myself a few extra days to socialize.)
This is my first year at Darkover, and I vow I’ll be back. I wish I’d known of it sooner.
So, why do I want to talk about rejection?
Yesterday I presented my “How to Submit Short Fiction for Publication” seminar during the convention. I was prepared with handouts and book props, knowing that I wouldn’t have the projector screen and access to the internet I usually do for demos.
I talked briefly about where to find markets and encouraged folks to look at submission guidelines when sending in work, and then I asked attendees if they had questions. I wanted to make sure that I answered all the questions people had, rather than stick with my prescribed script in the short time allotted.
But that meant we didn’t cover some items from my presentation in depth…one of which is rejection.
And I believe that if you talk about submitting work for publication, you should also talk about rejection. The two go hand-in-hand.
So, for those who attended yesterday (Thank you for coming!) here’s my take on rejection…just some things to keep in mind.
If you submit work to be published, you will be rejected. The first few rejections sting, especially when an editor points out a perceived flaw in the work.
The trick is not to take it personally. There are a lot of factors that play into rejection besides the quality of the work:
- The editor was looking for something specific
- Your story didn’t meet the editor’s criteria (and keep in mind: beyond the guidelines, you didn’t even know what those criteria were!)
- The editor recently accepted a similar story for publication
- The editor had too many “same genre” stories on hand already (for example: Fantasy and Science fiction is chock full of fantasy, but not enough science fiction submissions this month–and you just sent them another fantasy)
Two more reasons not to take it personally:
- The editor’s not rejecting you – he doesn’t even know you.
- It happens to everyone…here are some famous examples of rejection:
- Carrie by Steven King: rejected 30 times
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – rejected 26 times
- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig – rejected 121 times!
Sometimes there’s a silver lining to receiving a rejection: you’ll receive comments from the editor stating why he rejected the piece. Be joyful! Comments from editors are rare. The fact that an editor took the time to jot down a few sentences about your work means the writing is good. Evaluate whether the comments jive with your vision of the story. If they do, make the changes and send the story back out. If they don’t, send the story as-is to your next market of choice.
If you receive a standard, “form” rejection, send it out immediately to the next market on your list.
Keep writing. A day of writing prose is better than not writing at all. And keep submitting your work. Persistence pays off. Continuing to send a story out should eventually result in publication.
What should you do with your rejections? Some people burn them, other file them, Steven King pounded a nail into a wall and hung his rejections on it until the weight of them pulled it down.
I get more electronic rejections than paper these days, so the nail trick isn’t an option (without effort) so I log them into a spreadsheet. After the first 100 rejections, I bought my critique group a round of coffee (we meet at the local donut shop) and again for each 50 rejections thereafter. Getting a rejection still isn’t easy, or fun…but looking forward to coffee with my friends isn’t such a bad thing.