prompts

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #46

Herewith, the latest collection of writing prompts from my Tumblr blog, where I post a prompt a day. I hope they help you write tons and tons this week!

#316  They tell me I should never have let anyone know what happened.

#317  “Honey, I’m home!”

Your main character’s significant other just walked in the door.  How does she/he react? With joy or dread? Eyes lighting up or shoulders slumping? Excitement or fear? 

Write about their reaction and what happens next.  

#318  Does your main character like to pretend? Maybe he likes to pretend he is married to someone else. Or she likes to pretend she lives in Paris.  Or he likes to pretend he is happy.  Write about all the ways your character (and maybe you) pretend.

#319  “Why, I remember when you were just a little tyke,” she said. “And, um, look at you now.  What in the hell happened to you?”

#320  “All at once I hear your voice, and time just disappears.”  Bonnie Raitt

Whose voice does your main character want to hear? Who do they miss?

#321  Is your main character an outdoorsy type or one who prefers being inside?  If he’s an outdoorsy type, write about how he feels when forced inside.  If she’s an inside type, write about how she feels when she must be outside.

#322  She breathed a huge sigh of relief, because the thing she’d been struggling with was over at last.  Or was it?  Because all of a sudden….

How's your writing going?  What are you working on?

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #45

It is sunny and hot here in Portland, hot like in the nineties.  Not my favorite.  My office is upstairs for the time being (I'm working on moving it downstairs) and it gets hot up here so I'll be driven away from the computer soon enough.  (I'm pretty sure we're going to see the movie Mad Max this afternoon–I've been a movie going fool lately, and besides, the theater will be air conditioned!)  But before I go, just because I love you so much and want to make sure you write tons this week, I compiled the latest collection of prompts from my Tumblr blog for you.  Hope it is lovely where you are and that you're having a great weekend.

#309 Viva la revolution! What does your main character feel strongly enough about to agitate for?  To take to the streets in rebellion?  To protest if it were taken away from him?

#310  She worked furtively on the project for months, hiding the papers she took notes on or the computer screen when anybody walked by.  In the end, when she finally revealed the project, it was for  __________________.  

Either her project works amazingly well, or its a huge fiasco.  Write about her project and its results.

#311  Main character (or you): primly tidy or near-hoarder? How does this make him or her feel?  

#312  Ever patiently, he sharpened the knife.

#313  “Why do people act like that?” she asked, watching as a group down the hill started to __________________.

#314  Although there was nothing wrong with his leg, he always walked with a cane.

#315  She poured cream into her coffee and gazed into the cup, hoping it would tell her a secret.

By the way, those last few prompts are from something I found when sorting through crap stuff in my office. More on that soon.  In the meantime, how's your writing going?

 

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #44

Bon jour! Here is this week's collection of writing prompts, a bit later than usual because I went out to breakfast at my favorite French cafe.  And I bought macarons, which are calling to me from the kitchen (they can be a rowdy bunch), but they are for dessert at my sister's dinner tonight.  Anyway, these bits are from my Tumblr blog, where I post a new prompt every damn day.

#302 Write about something that surprised you or your main character.  It could be something small or huge.

#303  Ah, a holiday.  All day to relax and do what she wanted.  But, oh crap.  Then this happened….

#304  “We’ll forget the sun, in his jealous sky, as we walk in fields of gold.”  Write about what Sting was singing about.

#305  Use the word promise, bird, and thunderstorm in a sentence and then use the sentence as a prompt.

#306  He just could not make the decision.  How do you–or your main character–make a decision? Do you use a logical process (if so, explain) or rely on intuition?

#307  Does your main character believe in angels? Spirit guides? Or for that matter, God? If so, how do these beliefs manifest in his life?  If not, same question.

#308  You’re at your desk.  It’s a beautiful summer morning.  The window is open, and you hear birds singing and the soft summer air blows through.  But then, ____________ happens.  And things are never the same again.

 As always, share inspiration from these prompts or your writing life in the comments! 

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #43

Hi, I hope you've had a great week with lots of writing.  And guess what?  It's a long holiday weekend, at least here in the states.  Surely you plan on using at least some of it to write?  Of course you do. Here are some prompts from my Tumblr blog for your inspiration.

#295 Two women walk into a bar.  The entire place goes quiet, and all heads turn toward them.  It is not because they are beautiful, but rather….

#296 Would you please stop that right now?  Right this minute! It drives me absolutely crazy when….

#297  The sky darkened and lights flashed.  It wasn’t an electrical storm, though, it was….

#298  Two women sit at the bar of a fancy restaurant, one blonde, one brunette, both gorgeous.  The blonde sips her martini, sets it down on the bar and gaze at the brunette. “Now it’s your turn. I’ve told you my story.  What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for love?”

Write both their crazy-for-love stories.

#299  Describe your main character in three words.  

Now take each of those words and write more about how it manifests in your character.  Dive deep.

#300  Sometimes–often–wisdom, ideas and inspiration come in odd ways, such as a comment from another person, a song lyric, an evocative smell, or a glimpse of an image that reminds you of something.  Write about signs you’ve received recently.

#301  Write about your own style of dress and things you might be know for–wearing crazy ties, or colorful scarves for instance.  Now do the same for your character.  Does he or she have a unique style or is it more mundane? What does this say about him or her?

 There you go!  Have a wonderful time writing.

 

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #42

Like clockwork, like magic, like butter on bread, here it is, my weekly round-up of writing prompts from my Tumblr blog.  I'm in Seattle this weekend, but you should be writing. Kidding! Or not. Anyway, Enjoy!  Or don't enjoy, but use them to write like crazy.

#288 What was your main character’s relationship with her mother like?  Happy and loving? Polite but distant? Very, very contentious? Write about it for 15 minutes–or more.

#289  Everyone else was sad when the rain started falling after a long string of gorgeous days.  But not her.  She was delighted.  Because rain meant …..

#290 Who does your main character love? Who loves her?  Do they match up?

#291  Write about a time you, or your main character, was so engrossed in an activity that time flew without him realizing it.

#292  But you know, you could also do it this way.

#293  I know you don't agree with me, but tough, because ….

#294  It's Saturday.  What's your character's drink of choice this evening?  Wine (red or white), beer, tea, coffee, water, a cocktail, Diet Coke?  How much of it will he drink?

Go forth and write!  And add the results to the comments if you so desire….

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #41

This week's collection of writing prompts from my Tumblr blog:

#281 If your protagonist could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?

#282 You can’t go home again.  Or can you?  Has your main character stayed home? Or was he a person who couldn’t wait to move as far away as possible?

#283 They were sad when it was over.  So they started up again.

#284 The plane rose in the air.  She looked out the window at the landscape below, trying not to grip the armrests quite so hard.  Then a noise, like a pop, and the plane shook.  “Don’t worry, its just turbulence,” the man beside her said.  But she didn’t know whether to believe him or not.  Should she? 

#285 Oh God, not that.  Anything but that.

#286 Two men walk into a bar and realize there are only women inside.  Tall women, short women, gorgeous women, plain women.  What gives?  Is it a gigantic book club meeting?  A lesbian bar?  A feminist convention? Do the men stay? What happens if they do?

#287 She opened the window to let the cool morning air in, but instead, what rushed past her was …..

 I love it when you guys post starts from these prompts in the comments!

 

From Spark to Story Workshop Report

SBCApril2015

Scarritt Bennett Center

I am back from Nashville, y'all.  

I went there to teach a workshop with my good writing friend Terry Price.  We called it From Spark to Story, and planned it to be just that: a journey from gathering inspiration, to getting it onto the page, to shaping it into a story.  

It worked brilliantly.

Well, okay, so maybe I exaggerate just a little.  But the 17 people who were there (20 signed up but several had last minute snafus) seemed to enjoy it and get a lot out of it.  And I know that Terry and I loved teaching it.  Here are some of my main take-aways:

–15 minutes a day is all it takes.  Both Terry and I came to this separately and planned to present it as a method to find your way back to your writing and, just as important, sustain a writing practice. It resonated deeply with the participants, and many of them tweeted and posted on Facebook on Sunday morning that they'd done their 15 minutes.  (We created a hashtag for it if you're so inclined: #15minsday.)

If you were to, starting now, write 15 minutes a day every day you could have a novel written in a year.  Really.  I'm not kidding.  Do the math.  And the other thing is that often when you tell yourself all you have to do is 15 minutes, you get so engrossed that you end up writing longer.  But that's not even necessary.

–Prompts are good.  We worked some with a variety of prompts on Friday night and Saturday morning and our writers found them useful as portals to all kinds of inspiration and epiphanies.  So often writers sniff at prompts as being the province of beginners, but I use them all the time (hence, my prompt blog).  If you've not had luck with them in the past, try again.  Just remember to keep your pen moving across the page.  Its when you stop to ponder and stare out the window that prompts aren't as effective.

–Clustering can unleash you from your left brain.  More often now called mind-mapping (I like clustering better), this technique was popularized by the late Gabriel Rico in her book Writing the Natural Way.  To tell you the truth, I'd forgotten about it, but Terry is a fan and he made people try it.  Since I was icing my foot (I had a terrible attack of plantar fascitis while there) I didn't do it in the workshop, but I've been playing with it since and I can see its value.  Give it a whirl.

–Get thee to a labyrinth.  Scarritt Bennett Center, where I stayed, and where we held the workshop, has a labyrinth modeled on the one at Chartes, France.  It is a marvelous creativity jogger.  You ask a question or think of a problem before you enter, walk to the center, pause to listen, then walk back out again.  Note that a labyrinth is different from a maze.  With a maze, you're trying to find your way out.  With a labyrinth, you're finding your way in.  Take a journal with you because you'll likely have an inspiration or two to write down.  It has never failed me yet.  To find a labyrinth in your area, try Labyrinth Locator.

I'm sure more thoughts will bubble up over the next few days and weeks and I'll report.  For me, it was a rejuvenating experience to be back in Nashville and reconnect with a city I love and so many of the people I know and love who live there.  Southern hospitality truly is the most generous in the world and I've always been welcomed so warmly.

And stay tuned–because we are cooking up a Spark to Story Part Two to be held in the near future!

 

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #39

Here's the latest collection of prompts from my Tumblr.  Enjoy!

#267  It’s a beautiful, warm evening, what’s your character’s pleasure: dinner al fresco; a hike; taking the children to the park; ignoring the weather and turning on the TV or something else entirely?

#268  Is your main character a talker or a listener?

#269 And then, once the bill had been totaled and she had paid, the guilt set in.

#270  Happy Earth Day! Does your main character recycle? Drive a non-polluting car or take mass transit?  Or maybe he is just the opposite–throws trash in the recycling bucket and roars around town in a Hummer? Whichever the case, write about their green, or not-so-green habits.

#271 Write about your, or your character’s first kiss.

#272 What’s the worst thing your character has ever done? Murder, adultery, theft? Does the world know about this thing or does your character keep it secret? 

#273  What is the best thing your character has ever done? Raise a child up right, write a book, run a business, take care of an ailing parent, what?  

 How's your writing going?  And, as always, if you get inspired by one of these prompts and want to share in the comments, feel free.

 

I’ve Invented a Writing Machine

Everystockphoto-nasa-space-64361-hJust for you, because I love ya, I've invented a new writing machine.  Here's what it does: with a long metal robotic arm, it reaches out, grabs paper and pen, and plops it down in front of you.  You can also program it to grab your laptop, tablet, or computer keyboard.  There's an optional feature that will, if you so choose, chain you to your chair for a set period of time.  

Here's the rub: that's as much as the machine does.  After that it is up to you to start writing.  This may be a bit of a news flash to you, but in order to write something like a novel, a short story, or a memoir, you have to … write.

Dude. Imagine that.

But, you know what?  We forget that.  Even I, who have been making my living doing this for years, forget that.  Lately, I've been very stern with myself.  I've had so very many important things to get done.  Manuscripts to read, a rewrite to finish, workshops to plan.  And so I laid down the law. There is no time for writing.  We must work.  And work hard.  Nose to the grindstone and all that.

Yesterday I awoke in a brain fog, staring off into space, overwhelmed by the week ahead.  Out of the corner of my eye, I spied my pink journal which had been unopened for a couple of weeks.  I stared at it, with one eye squinting until it occurred to me….perhaps I should write. 

And so I did.

And it was exactly what I needed to do.

But my journal practically had to jump up and down in front of me to get me to open it and start writing, which is why I'm inventing the writing machine for all of us.  Because it's one of those crazy paradoxes: when you're blocked in your writing, the solution is to write. 

I think what happens is that we crank ourselves into perfectionist mode.  When I'm not writing, it starts to seem like this big impossible thing that I can't do because I start imagining that every word I write has to be stellar.  But if I can just get myself to write one word…and then a sentence..and then a paragraph, I remember:

  • All I have to is put words on the page.
  • I don't have to write well.
  • I can write crappy sentences
  • Nothing has to make sense.

Because once I do put words on the page, things start to flow.  Ideas form and spill off my fingers. Crappy sentences straighten themselves out.  Scenes begin to write themselves. And I am writing.

So, yeah, that writing machine should be going into production soon.  In the meantime, I've got the next best thing here.

What do you do to get yourself to write?

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #38

Here's this week's corral of my daily prompts:

#259 If only….she thought.  We all have a lot of “if onlies” in our life.  What is your character’s biggest if only?

#260  The wind blew and blew.  It blew so hard and so long she thought she’d go crazy from it.  And then, all of a sudden, it just stopped.

#261  A screen door slamming shut is an iconic sound of summer for me.  Do you (or your character) have any sounds that immediately provoke memories?

#262  So what?  I mean, really, so what?

#263  It’s tax day!  Are your taxes finished?  Are your main character’s?  While we’re at it, how does your main character deal with money?

#264  My father insisted, loudly and often, that the best way to live was to work for oneself.  Even though his business eventually went bankrupt, he at least upheld his own standards.  What about your main character?  Does he/she have the entrepreneurial instinct? Or does he prefer the structure of a 9 to 5 job? 

#265  The ways of the world are capricious.  Take, for instance….

#266  Ugh.  Being sick is the worst thing ever.  Except for….

 How's your writing going?  I'm still working on rewrite #2 with my agent.  And feeling really ready to be done with it and get back to some plain old-fashioned writing.  But I am NOT complaining!  Leave a comment about what's up with you.  And have a great weekend.