Friday, March 15th, 2013

Writing Prompt – Beware the Ides of March

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)

Good Luck!

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Writing Prompt – Tokens of Remembrance

Tea in a clear teacup with a slice of lemon on the side.I have a tea set that belonged to my Grandmother Spina. It’s a lovely shade of periwinkle blue with matching cups and saucers. Not really a feminine color or style, yet feminine all the same because it’s a tea set.

I keep it in the same curio cabinet as my doll collection, and I see it everyday, reminding me of her, keeping her spirit alive.

I love that about the pot. I’ll never make tea in it, never shared tea in it with my grandmother, but the memory of her having it is there all the same.

Things, like my teapot, become talismans, lucky charms, or bridges to the past. Touchstones. Reminders.

They can be motivators, or de-motivators. They can represent loss, or terrible things. Depending on what they represent, their presence can implore you not to act a certain way or do a certain thing.

The “thing” doesn’t even have to be tangible. It can be a once-held conversation, a fleeting thought or a note written on a card.

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Write about a special token from your past. Why do you keep it? What does it mean for you?
  • Write a story about a character who has such a token, and then loses it. What happens?
  • Go through your closet and put your hands in every coat or jacket pocket until you pull something out. Write a story or poem or journal entry about this thing. Or, use this ‘found’ item in a scene or vignette of one of your story characters.
  • Write about something you brought home from a journey.
  • “..a shield lifted up above the side of the ship, and the point of the shield was upwards, in token of peace. And the men drew near, that they might hold converse.” ~ from Bullfinch’s Mythology: IX. Branwen, the Daughter of Llyr. The Mabinogeon. Vol. III: The Age of Chivalry.
  • Write about:
    • a token of love
    • a token of hate
    • something that belonged to your grandmother (or grandfather, sister or brother)
    • a hand-me-down, a used article of clothing, a hole in your shoe
    • something you found in a book (a scrap of paper, a bookmark, a ribbon, or a passage)
  • Enobarbus: How appears the fight?
    Scarus: On our side like the token’d pestilence, Where death is sure.

    ~ William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra, Act III. Scene VIII.
  • Write about something you found.
  • Write about something you want, but can’t have.
  • Conversely, write about something you wanted and received, but that doesn’t mean as much now that you have it.

Good luck!

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Writing Prompt – Poetry

e.e. cummings poem - To be Nobody but YourselfApril is National Poetry Month. How did we get to the end of it without having a single poetry prompt?

I like poetry, but I’m not a good judge of what makes a poem good. I prefer the Dr. Seuss rhyming kind to free verse — and I think anything “… bouncy, flouncy, trouncy, pouncy,” is, of course, “…fun, fun, fun, fun, FUN!!!” *

I like Shakespeare’s sonnets, e. e. cumming’s clever words (more for how they’re laid out on the paper than anything else), Shel Silverstein, and Dante. I like dark and angsty, abhor maudlin and sentimental, and enjoy a really good sci-fi poem which makes me think.

My favorite poem is Invictus, by William Ernest Henley, introduced to me by my best friend in high school. (Hi, Charlie!)

I’d much rather a friend introduce me to a poet than to find him on my own: it’s both a ringing endorsement and a shared memory…

How do you like to find your poetry?

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Write a poem about:
    • a family secret
    • an old love
    • a weird fact or obscure trivia you know
    • a cherished memory
    • your favorite food

  • Write a poem at least 50 words long using only one-syllable words. Mix it up and try using only two-syllable words or three-syllable words.
  • Randomly pull 10-15 books off your shelf and write down the titles. Use as many as you can in a poem.
  • Write a structured poem using a structure you’ve never tried before: haiku, sonnet, sestina, villanelle, etc. Here’s a link to 12 kinds of structured poems and how to write them.
  • Write a poem in which the form contradicts the content.
  • Write a poem that starts with a one word title, has two words in the first line, three in the next, and continues by adding one word per line.
  • Poetry through reduction: take a piece of junk mail and cross out some of the words to create a poem. Start by eradicating some words, see how it reads, then whittle them down more and more until you have a lean, focused poem. Do the same with a page of text from your favorite author, a newspaper article or a magazine essay.
  • Write a poem based on a famous work of art, a photograph or snapshot, or the view from your window.
  • Journalers and essayists: What is your favorite poem? Why? Or, turn it around: what is your least favorite poem and why? Or, write about types of poetry? What is your favorite type? Least favorite? Cite examples to back up your statements, or write snippets of your own to do so.

If these aren’t enough, here are a few other prompts I’ve written which touch on poetry:

Good luck!

* Words from the Disney Tigger song.

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Writing Prompt – By Any Other Name…

Movie Poster for the Movie HeidiNames are important.

They provide identity, reveal the culture or interest or nature of the namer.

They’re a source of embarrassment. Or pride.

They can cause all kinds of conflict.

I went to school with a woman whose grandmother had strict policies for naming the kids in the family. When her daughter was pregnant, she demanded the child be given an ethnic name.

Many arguments ensued, with my friend’s mom steadfast against the idea, but the grandmother eventually got her way. Little wonder that our professors were often surprised when Heidi’s name was called from the roster and a black woman responded to the question.

Well, the grandmother never stated what kind of ethnic name she wanted.

In my latest manuscript, both main characters are saddled with untenable names. The girl is named with a religious moniker — thanks to the nuns at the Catholic hospital where she was born, and the male lead is given a “family” name.

(I can hear a lot of folks groaning now.)

My first beau had such a name, and it caused him all kinds of embarrassment. Luckily for my character, like my boyfriend, his embarrassment is a middle name…

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • You have moved to a new county, and the laws state you must change your first name if you want to reside there permanently. What do you change your name to? How does this new name reflect who you are?
  • Write about name-calling.
  • Someone is saying your name…
  • Some to the fascination of a name surrender judgment hoodwinked. ~ William Cowper
  • He was also known as…
  • My grandmother called me by this name.
  • Write a story about a culture who believes names are all-powerful. Children are not named at birth, and choose their own when they are ready. They never reveal these secret names. How do people refer to each other? How do they choose the ‘names’ they go by in every day life?
  • A name is a kind of face whereby one is known. ~ Thomas Fuller
  • Open a phone book at random and drop your finger down on a name. Write about that person or business. What does the name inspire?
  • I do beseech you, (Chiefly, that I might set it in my prayers,) What is your name? ~ William Shakespeare, the Tempest. Act III, Scene 1.
  • Write the essay (or a journal entry, or a letter to your children…), “I was named this because…”

Good Luck!

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Writing Prompt: Planting Seeds, Tending Gardens

Stinky Bradford PearsSpring has sprung!

And it’s not always sweet. Anybody live around those horrible Bradford Pear trees?

(They’re native to China and Korea and were brought to the states in the 1900s. As far as I’m concerned, they should have kept them!)

Spring has me thinking of gardening, so today’s prompt is all about planting, sowing, and tending.

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Write about turning soil, the underside of leaves, worms in the dirt, pulling weeds, finding hard-packed clay, grubs, or dirt under your fingernails.
  • Write about being transplanted.
  • It’s a hot summer day, and you’re in the garden…
  • His gardens next your admiration call,
    On every side you look, behold the wall!
    No pleasing intricacies intervene,
    No artful wildness to perplex the scene;
    Grove nods at grove, each alley has a brother,
    And half the platform just reflects the other,
    The suffering eye inverted nature sees,
    Trees cut to statues, statues thick as trees;
    With here a fountain never to be play’d,
    And there a summer-house that knows no shade.
    ~ Alexander Pope
  • Take the word “flower,” or the name of a specific flower (rose, tulip, daisy, narcissus, chrysanthemum) and quickly jot down a word for each letter in the flower’s name. Now write a story, poem, essay or journal entry using all of the words.
  • “Morning, Glory!”
  • Write about the scents of night flowers, being alone in a midnight garden.
  • “Unseen buds, infinite, hidden well…” ~ Walt Whitman
  • What grows in a garden of earthy delights?
  • True or False:

    There is no unbelief;
    Whoever plants a seed beneath the sod
    And waits to seee it push away the clod,
    He trusts in God.
    ~ Elizabeth York Case

  • If aught possess thee from me, it is dross,
    Usurping ivy, briar, or idle moss;
    Who, all for want of pruning with intrusion
    Infect they sap, and live on they confusion.
    ~ Shakespeare, Comedy of Errors. Act II. Scene 2