Friday, December 20th, 2013

Writing Prompt – The Personal Essay

dreamstimefree_63535-eI 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:

  • Write about an event in your life that you considered bad – but turned out to have a good impact. Use a chronological format to pinpoint when your negative feelings turned to positive ones. Spend some time exploring your state of mind and what brought about the change.
  • Write about one day in your life which is particularly memorable: something that is so burned into your memory, you’ll never forget. Tell what happened, but expound on the reasons it’s so meaningful.
  • Have you ever been involved in a discussion or argument where you thought of the most right or perfect thing to say after it was all over? Here’s your chance to change history: re-write the event as it should have gone, if you’d said the right thing at the right time.
  • Write about a time that weather impacted your life. In the essay, include details of the weather by using your senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.
  • Write about a family tradition or heirloom. Has something been handed down for generations – or is something celebrated in a distinct or unusual way? Visualize the artifact, or recount the details of the celebration in general, or one in particular. Write a letter as though you were explaining these things to a younger family member. What makes them so important?
  • Write about a day in your life when nothing went right from the moment you got up in the morning until you pulled the covers over yourself in the evening at bedtime. How did you feel? (Frustrated? Angry? Powerless?) Think about one thing which could turned the day around. What would that be? How would you do things differently?
  • Good luck!


    Cover of Sky Lit Bargains by Kelly A. Harmon depicts a woman dressed in armor, leaning against a stone wall.

    Have you read Sky Lit Bargains?

    Forced to leave home when her twin sister marries because her new brother-in-thinks he’s gotten a ‘two for one’ deal, Sigrid takes up arms to make her own way.

    Photo Copyright © Randall White | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Writing Prompt: Make Up Your Own Holiday

U.S. Army Celebrating Asian Pacific Heritage MonthMonday, March 26 is “National Make Up Your Own Holiday” day.

(This is another one of those oddball ‘national’ days that has no basis in fact. It’s supposed to be supported by the “Wellness Permission League” of which I can find no verifiable data on the intranet. Although, I did find this self-typed news story which mentions the League.)

Sometimes it’s an easy thing to create a holiday: in ancient Rome, conquering generals arrived back at the gates and were often rewarded with a day of celebration in their honor. No brainer.

When you’re creating a holiday as part of world building in your story, it may not be so easy (unless some general arrives at the city gates…)

Keep in mind: Not all holidays are a cause for celebration. They may be a cause for mourning. Others may be celebrated differently in different places. St. Patrick’s Day is a case in point: in the U.S. celebrants eat Irish Food, drink green beer and party. In Ireland, St. Patrick’s day for some is a solemn affair made up of church-going and prayer.

Here’s Your Prompt:

  1. Consider the reason for your holiday. Is it based on a military event? A national movement? A religious miracle? What time of year did the event take place? Was the ensuing event a local one? Does it remain so, or has it grown? What is the history of the celebration?
  2. How is the holiday celebrated? A reenactment of the original event? (Fireworks on July 4th) A religious service or blessing? Do celebrants wear anything special to celebrate? (Green on St. Pat’s.) Are traditional foods eaten? (Hamantashen) Prayers said? (Novenas) Parades held? (Ticker tape for welcoming home.) Are there any special props needed to celebrate, or which show observance? (Decorations.)
  3. Does the holiday include any human or animal sacrifice? (Disclaimer! We’re making up a fictional holiday here, not practicing it. Do not sacrifice any humans or animals in the creation of your holiday, please.)

    Sacrifice has long been associated with celebrations. We keep the symbolism of sacrifice in our modern celebrations: burning candles, giving something up (Lent), donating money or time, etc.

    Does your holiday include any other kind of sacrifice?

  4. Is the celebration held inside a building, or outside in the open air? (Time of year will likely have something to do with this choice.)
  5. Are there special symbols, writings, speeches, holy books, etc.
  6. What is the exact date of the holiday? Is it the date the event happened, or the birth date (or death date) of a principal participant? Perhaps it’s the date the event was thought to occur (if the celebration comes into being years or decades after the ensuing event.)
  7. What governing faction decided there would be a holiday? Why? What gives them the right to declare it such?
  8. Are there people who don’t celebrate this holiday? Why not? What happens to those people (if anything) if they choose not to participate?

Good luck!

Photo Credit: The U.S. Army – West Point Asian Pacific American Observance Celebration. These guys look like they’re having a blast!