The Real You – A Guest Writing Prompt from C. S. Plocher

Three unexpected people were in the headlines last year: Adele, Gwen Stefani, and Seinfeld. Each of them achieved phenomenal success in different ways and for different reasons. But as I followed their stories, I realized that they had a common denominator—one key ingredient to their success—and it’s something every writer needs.

Their Stories

1. Adele

In 2015, Adele finally released her album 25 after four long years—a hiatus no one, including Adele, had expected. The album came out at the end of the year, but it still easily swept away its competition, selling eight million copies in six weeks in the US alone. (To put that number in perspective, Taylor Swift released her album 1989 the previous year and it sold 3.66 million copies in eight weeks, less than half of Adele’s sales.)

2. Gwen Stefani

I doubt anyone expected Gwen Stefani to be on the Billboard charts in 2016—she hadn’t had a solo album or even a hit single in over a decade. True, in 2014 she was a coach on “The Voice,” but her appearance didn’t even ruffle the music industry.

Then in 2015, Gwen rocketed into the headlines, but not for the reason she would have liked. After thirteen years of marriage, she divorced Gavin Rossdale, the lead singer of Bush. Somehow, despite the tsunami of scrutiny and gossip, Gwen was on stage at the Grammys only seven months later, live-filming her new hit song “Make Me Love You” (in Rollerblades, no less).

3. Seinfeld

In 2015, Hulu paid more than $150 million for the rights to air “Seinfeld”—that’s over $80,000 per episode for a twenty-year-old TV show. Jerry Seinfeld called it a “mind-blowing moment.”

The Common Denominator

Seinfeld: “It Was Fun to Do”

When Jerry announced Hulu’s multi-million-dollar deal, he reminisced not on the show’s success, but on its initial failure. The first four years, he said, were dismal: “people were not catching on to it,” it was “barely scraping by,” and it had “very low ratings.” Jerry recalled saying to a friend, “I don’t get it. This show seems funny to me.”

Then “Seinfeld” got an unexpected boost when it was moved to Thursday nights, airing right after the popular “Cheers.” All of the sudden it took off. But Jerry’s point was that, for half of the show’s life, “it didn’t seem to be working,” yet he and the rest of the crew kept at it simply because “it was fun to do.” “We were really doing it for ourselves for a long, long time.”

Gwen Stefani: “The Most Non-commercial, Personal Record Ever”

After her divorce, Gwen was distraught, embarrassed, and “down all the way.” But she refused to let it define her. She told herself, “I have to turn this into something. I can’t go down like this.” Music was her answer. She walked into the studio and said, “I don’t care about the charts, the hits, the style of music, I just want to tell the truth.”

Gwen wrote and recorded song after song—she felt empowered and confident—but when she sent her record company a demo, she was told that her songs were “too personal, too artistic,” people wouldn’t relate to them. Gwen called it a “punch in the face.”

Still, she walked back into the studio the next day and said, “Let’s write the most non-commercial, personal record ever.” The result was “Used to Love You,” which became the first single off her first solo album in eleven years. She called the album This Is What the Truth Feels Like, and it debuted last month at number one on the Billboard albums chart.

Adele: “It’s the Real Part of Me”

The popularity of Adele is almost impossible to grasp. On the day of 25‘s release, it sold one thousand copies per minute in the US, and it became 2015’s best-selling album worldwide. But the story behind 25 is mostly one of failure and crises.

After the jaw-dropping success of her second album in 2011, Adele worried she could never top it. She even considered walking away from music: “There was quite a long period where I didn’t believe in myself when I was making [25]. I lost my confidence.”

For years Adele wandered in and out of the studio, frustrated and confused, until she realized that the songs she was writing were “great to the ear, but they didn’t move [her].” Finally, she started focusing on what was important to her: “25 is about getting to know who I’ve become without realising.” After the album’s release, Adele said, “I’ve made the realest record I can make. It’s the real part of me.”

Your Key to Success

“Seinfeld” was a failure for years. Gwen Stefani hadn’t had a hit in a decade. Adele didn’t think she could ever top her previous album. But they all found outward success by, ironically, turning inward. They ignored “commercial” and focused on personal. To them it wasn’t about, as Thornton Wilder said, impressing other people. It was about expressing themselves.

Prompt: Write the Real You

The scariest part about creating art (real art) is that it demands exposure. The human instinct is to protect—after all, that’s how we’ve survived for thousands of years. More often than not, we become afraid and drag down our real art until it’s only a pale, flabby imitation. But not today.

Today you write the story you’ve been too afraid to write—the story that is too personal, too boring, too weird, too serious, too comical, too embarrassing. You write the story that you think everyone will judge and no one will understand. You write the story that interests you, inspires you, fulfills you, and you write it with confidence.

CS Plocher pictureC. S. Plocher is a freelance editor with an award-winning blog. Her job is to help people chase their dreams, and she loves it.

Guest Writing Prompt from Jerry Jenkins

Today’s guest prompt is from the legendary Jerry B. Jenkins, co-author of the Left Behind series and many, many other best sellers, and host of the fabulously generous writing resource: JerryJenkins.com. I’ve been poking around inside his new Writers’ Guild (a memership site for writers). It’s well worth a look, and I’ll be posting a review of it later in the summer.

Updated: As a bonus, Jerry’s asked me to share this article with you:How To Become An Author

The Prompt

You head the credit union at a company that requires employees to explain needs for loans. One pleads privately for confidentiality, and you talk the the board into his loan, based on their trust in you. You go to your grave without revealing his secret, which is…

Jerry Jenkins, author pictureJerry B. Jenkins has written 187 books with sales of more than 70 million copies. He’s had 21 New York Times bestsellers, including the Left Behind series. He now shares his writing knowledge with aspiring authors at JerryJenkins.com.

[Write On Wednesday] Get Your Kicks on Route 66

Detours Sometimes Lead to Conflict

How often do our travels – or our lives, for that matter –  go exactly as planned? The detours often lead to conflict, and conflict drives drama. Conflict provides the impetus for action and the catalyst for your characters to change. Conflict keeps things interesting – if it doesn’t get everyone killed! Don’t leave your reader wondering, “Are we there, yet? When are we gonna get there?” Road trips are meant to be fun, interesting, enlightening experiences for the whole family. All too often, we get lulled into complacency, boredom, and “white line fever.” Roadside attractions provide opportunities to stray from the planned path – and opportunities for it all to go terribly, shockingly, or hilariously wrong.

Today’s Prompt

Your character is taking a road trip cross country with two people who are not family or close friends. Something goes horribly wrong at the World’s Largest Cockroach and Frozen Custard Stand (or other odd or humorously cheesy roadside attraction) located in the middle of nowhere.

Ideas to Explore:

  • Who are these characters and why are they traveling across the country together? Was it by choice? Will they be closer by the end of the trip – friends for life, perhaps – or will one or more of them (barely) live to regret it?
  • Now’s your chance to camp it up – you can use an actual roadside attraction (the more ridiculous, the better!) or invent one. Don’t just describe it, though – make us feel like we’re there.
  • What could possibly go wrong? Here’s your opportunity to add over-the-top drama, nail-biting action, or hilarious comic relief. Can you work in all three?

Tips:

  • Create 5-10 brief character sketches on scraps of paper. Fold them up, drop them into a Mason jar, and pull out three of them. Throw them into the car together and see where it leads.
  • Build your own roadside attraction. Make us feel like we’re there. If it really existed, would we want to visit it – or would we pray we didn’t have a flat tire within 30 miles of it?
  • Use descriptive language that appeals to all five of the reader’s senses.
  • Add additional characters who are not in the car with your main characters. Throw in an animal, maybe a pet. Maybe it’s part of the attraction.
  • How do your characters solve their problems? What does that reveal about them that we didn’t know before?

Have fun! Be sure to come back and share your story links in the comments.

 


Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. She blogs at It’s All a Matter of Perspective. You can find her books on Amazon at http://amazon.com/author/hollyjahangiri. For more information on her children’s books, please visit http://jahangiri.us/books.

Sept. 30 – A Dozen Roses

The Prompt

Jeff  was walking to the parking garage after work when he comes upon a flower stand full of beautiful roses. Jeff decides to buy a dozen roses for his lover. 

Go!

Deanna Denny is retired after many years of working in Human Resources. She became interested in writing in 2014 and started her blog with opinion pieces but has since been exploring different forms of writing. She has taken Writing 101 through WordPress, and Gentle Introduction to Meter through Allpoetry.  Deanna will be joining the Story A Day challenge to adventure into short stories. You can follow Deanna’s journey into writing at deannadenny.com.

Be sure to leave a comment below.

 

Sept 28 — See, Hear, Smell

Today, take a few minutes to notice your surroundings (you can do this at home, but going out may work better): Write down five things you see, five sounds you hear and three to five smells.

The Prompt:

Write a story with a character who has a difficult decision to make. Put this character in the setting you observed and use your sensory detail in the story.

Tips:

  • Your setting doesn’t have to be the literal place where you collected your details. Turn it into a fiction if it works better for your story.
  • I left out touch because depending on where you are, touching stuff might be out of the question. But add tactile details if you can.
  • Use the details as reminders of what the character has to do.
  • Use them as distractions.
  • Use them to present a solution.
  • Difficult decisions don’t have to be huge: your character might be an old person who’d like to get a dog but who can’t walk well anymore. Will the character choose more loneliness or physical discomfort?

Now go write!

Sonya Oldwin publishes a 100-word story every day – yep, it’s as crazy as it sounds.  

Don’t forget to share a link to your story in the comments below.

Visibly Invisible

Prompt: Visibly Invisible

Today’s prompt is about the inner self of your character trying to break out, to be seen, to be heard, to simply be acknowledged.

Think along the lines of being present in a group, yet you’re being discussed as if you were not there.  Now multiply those feelings by 100 for your character who, for reasons you will develop, cannot (at the moment) speak up for themselves.

Tips

  • Why is your character ‘invisible’?
  • You may want to go down the path of personal knowledge, for instance someone with a severe disability which restricts their line of communication.  Yet they are ‘in there’ and fully aware of what is going on around them.  How do they feel?  What can they do to get attention, and help?
  • Perhaps you want to go the fantasy route and your character has had a spell put on them.  What or who will break it?  How does the ‘invisible’ one deal with the situation they are in and what do they do to help themselves?
  • Your story should conclude with your character achieving ‘visibility’.

Not too many tips this week – let your imagination, and your emotions run free with this one.

Let’s GO!

Sept 15 – Tension Tuesday

A Blind Date

For today’s prompt we’re looking at romance. In today’s world of Internet dating, there must be many more blind dates than ever before. But meeting someone you’ve never met in person before can still be very tense. Exchanging emails is not quite the same thing as talking face to face.

The Prompt

Write a short story about two people meeting up for the first time. They may have emailed, texted, tweeted or whatever, but this is the first time they’ve met face to face.

Tips

  • This doesn’t have to be all dialogue, and preferably not a lot of backstory.
  • Chose two characters looking for love, they may be young, middle aged or old. Not too much description of each, it’s the interaction we are looking for here.
  • One of the key words to consider for this story is EMOTION, what are they thinking and feeling. This may require an element of head hopping, but try to keep it to a minimum.
  • Even if they have exchanged emails, letters (does anybody still write letters?) starting off may be awkward. Who says what first? What sort of questions do they ask first.
  • It doesn’t have to be in the present, you could set it in earlier times.

OK, now stop swooning and start writing!

Malcolm Richardson has been writing creatively for the last ten years. After a slow start focussing on a novel, which is still only half completed he has concentrated on short stories over the last few years. One day the novel may be resurrected, but his current focus is entering short stories in competitions. Malcolm is a latecomer to blogging, but his Story a Day stories can be found here.

Make sure to post a comment below, with a link to your story.

 

Sep 10 – The Tunnel

The Prompt
Today’s prompt has your main character is about to enter a tunnel, what sort is for you to decide but here are some tips

  • The Tunnel – You are in control.  Is it dark or are there lights along the walls or roof ?  Is it long and winding or can you clearly see the thrs ugh to the other end?  Is it running through a cliff face making it impossible to go over or round because there’s a sheer drop to the ocean below, or through a mountain.  Set the scene.
  • Are memories of those childhood fears of the dark and/or enclosed spaces triggered.  Or perhaps the entrance ignites an excited sense of adventure, the sort that can be lost with the responsibilities of adulthood.
  • Is your main character alone, or with company?  Does this add to the fear or confidence or make it worse?
  • Are they in a vehicle or walking?
  • If in company, why are they at this point and what is the tone of conversation?
  • This could be cHildesheim good fun, a comedy or a bit of a thriller. Which is it to be?
  • Maybe they are being chased. If so are they the good or bad guys?
  • Once  through dops the fun end,  maybe they man age to lose their pursuers and have a clear run to freedom.
  • Let your imagination place you right there .  What first came into your mind when you read the title of today’s prompt?  Run with it. Don’t think too hard or long about it, sit down start typing and just…
    GO!

Vanessa ‘Rosie V’ Cooper is mum to five and Nanna to two wonderful (though rather noisy and ‘full on’) children/grandchildren. In Feb 2016 she will begin a degree course with The Open University in English Literature and Creative Writing.   Check out how she’s faring so far at one of the two sites she is gradually building up: Rosie Speaks About…  or The Book Lover 

September 9 – Will Reader Response Work in Fiction?

Today’s prompt is all about turning a trigger into a larger piece. We’re all inspired by something, and that likely changes daily. Today, we’ll focus on a specific inspiration and then see how each person interprets it.

 

pavane

 

The Prompt

Write a story based on Gabriel Fauré’s “Pavane.”

Tips

• Listen to this orchestral piece written in 1887: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWW7pfXlYLY. As you listen to this song, what do you hear? What do you see? What kind of a scene does this song provide a soundtrack for?

• I chose this piece because of my affinity for its modern interpretation by the legendary British band Jethro Tull. Listen to the band, led by master flautist Ian Anderson, perform this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zAWQtM7X8k.

• Feel free to use either version for what you write. In fact, you might find that both provide plenty of needed scenarios.

• When I was in college, I took an education class where we learned about reader response. We discussed how to encourage students to write nonfiction essays by playing music, showing them art, and having them listen to or read short pieces of fiction or poetry. I’m curious to see how this might translate to fiction, and I think music is the best option for this experiment.

• If neither version moves you enough to inspire you to write a story, you might consider finding an instrumental that means something to you. Use that song to encourage your muse.

Let’s do this—and have fun!

Post a comment to the blog to let us know what you wrote about (including linking to your story on your own site or elsewhere) and/or join the community and post in the Victory Dance group.

 

Christopher Stolle is a professional book editor and sometimes writer. You can find his stories for this month at https://storiesbystolle.wordpress.com, and you can find some of his recent poems at https://www.facebook.com/stolle.poems. He has published dozens of poems in several countries, and he has written two nonfiction books for Coaches Choice: 101 Leadership Lessons From Baseball’s Greatest Managers (2013) and 101 Leadership Lessons From Basketball’s Greatest Coaches (2015). He finds inspiration in cooking, taking long walks, and ASMR videos. He lives in Richmond, Indiana—the cradle of recorded jazz.

Sept 8 — Use These Elements

Today’s prompt comes from writer Sarah Cain, who suggested a list of elements that your story must contain.

The story should be around 1000 words, but since she’s feeling kind, Sarah has said you can have a limit of plus-or-minus 200 words.

The Prompt

Write a story that includes the following elements: a black-and-white cat, a pot of gold, hair curlers, a terrible storm, a chess game, and a cow.

Can’t wait to see what you do with that!

Sarah Cain is a Philadelphia-based suspense author, and long-time StoryADay participant. Her debut novel, The 8th Circle will be published by Crooked Lane Books in January 2016.

 

Don’t forget to leave a comment!

Sept 6 — Abandoned

Today’s prompt is a look at location. Location can define characters, shape plots, and create conflict. So what happens if your location is a place that has been abandoned, or seems to be abandoned? Who lived there? Who left it? Why?

The Prompt

Write a story set in an abandoned location. It could be a foreclosed house, a closed-down theme park, a ghost town, or anything else. Think about the location’s past and its story, and use those ideas to fuel your plot.

Tips

  • You can focus on how your location came to be abandoned, or you can focus on the consequences of abandonment, or how your characters ended up there.
  • Write about the atmosphere of the location. An abandoned place has a very different feel compared to a crowded city block, or even a lived-in home.
  • Maybe your characters are tied to this location. Why? Did they live there, work there, get hurt there?
  • Maybe you want to go for an  unexpected mood. Not one of sadness, but one of excitement or romance.

Enough of my blabber. Go for it!

If you found this prompt helpful, please share your story and comments below! Stay tuned for more guest prompts.

Sept. 5 — Dark, Gloomy Forest

Today you’re going to drop your character into the depths of a Deep, Dark Forest, and let him or her fend for their self.

You Heartless Author you!

The Prompt

Your character is alone in the woods and finds blighted trees, drooping plants…rot and slime everywhere. It once was beautiful but overnight is turning into a swamp–its not natural. Your character must get to the bottom of this and stop it before something they love very much is threatened also. Extra points if your character actually doesn’t know this forest and ends up getting lost. Maybe the trees have turned evil and… *gulp* developed something of an appetite?

Will your character make it out alive?

Start writing, quick, so we can all find out!

Leslie Marie Dawson is an indie author, blogger and artist who revels in stories of fantasy, romance, and comedy. She can be found hiding in her hermit cave with her laptop, a stack of good books, and a glass of water (sadly she’s given up soda). Please stop by her Hermit’s Cave to see the cool things she makes!

Don’t forget to comment below and share what you wrote!

Sept 4 – Friday Favourites 1

Hi, all! I’m Monique and I’m going to be posting prompts each Friday this month.

The theme is “Friday Favourites” and means that each prompt will be a generic premise for a story that is also the description of a classic (or favourite!) novel.

The Prompt

A person wakes up, not quite remembering what happened the night before, and is surprised and upset by what they see outside the window.
(The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams)

Tips

Change the genre. Instead of science fiction, turn it into a mystery. Or a romance. Or a children’s story.

Where (or when) do they wake up? ‘Window’ can be interpreted broadly.

Have fun!

Monique Cuillerier has always loved to write. She also enjoys procrastination. These two interests are frequently in conflict. Her stories have appeared in Round Up Writer’s Zine, Black Heart Magazine, (parenthetical), and elsewhere. She blogs sporadically (although more frequently during Story A Day!) at notwhereilive.ca

Sept 03 — Lost in a Maze

This prompt will place your character in a maze or a labyrinth. Only you, the Mighty and Invincible Author holds the key to your character’s freedom! *Mwahahaha*

Savor your awesome powers for a moment.

Now, let’s get writing!

The Prompt

Your character is lost in a maze with the instructions to find a very important document or treasure hidden in its center. Or perhaps the character has lost this important thing, and must find it before the wrong person does. Added bonus points if they must battle a minotaur, dragon or fearsome magical villain. 😉

(Never fear. If your story isn’t fantasy, this prompt can still work!)

Alright, Awesome and All-Powerful Author. Its time to get writing.

Now go!

Leslie Marie Dawson is an indie author, blogger and artist who revels in stories of fantasy, romance, and comedy. She can be found hiding in her hermit cave with a laptop, stack of good books, and glass of water (sadly she’s given up soda). Please stop by her Hermit’s Cave to see the cool things she makes!

Be sure to comment below and share what you came up with!

 

 

Guest Prompt from Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary Robinette KowalMary Robinette Kowal is the author of The Glamourist Histories series of fantasy novels and the a three time Hugo Award winner. Her short fiction appears in Clarkesworld, Tor.com, and Asimov’s. Mary, a professional puppeteer, lives in Chicago. Visit her online at maryrobinettekowal.com.

We’re rounding out our month with a multiple-award winning, working writer’s advice to take a look at scenes (or stories) from another angle. It seems to be working for her, so let’s give it a try! Thanks for sharing, Mary!

The Prompt

Take the last scene [or story – Ed.] that you wrote. Now rewrite it from the point of view of a secondary character. You have to keep all the physical actions and dialog in the same order, but make it clear what is at stake for the new POV character. Why do they say the things they do? What are they trying to achieve?

Now go back to your original scene [or story – Ed.] and adjust it to incorporate the new things you’ve learned about your secondary character.

Often when a scene seems flat, it’s because we haven’t thought through the motivations of any of the people in the scene except the point of view character.

 

Go!