[Writing Prompt] Epistolary Stories

Breaking with the narrative form again today, after flogging it’s poor dead horse corpse at the beginning of the week. Today we tackle a form for which I have an inexplicable and enduring love: letters!

The Prompt

Write An Epistolary Story (i.e. One Told As A Series of Letters/Documents)

Tips

  • Take the term “Letters/Documents” with a huge pinch of salt. Write a story made up of Tweets, Facebook updates, text messages between friends, comments on a Vine video, an author Q&A, whatever tickles your fancy.
  • Write a ‘story’ as a list (think McSweeneys).
  • Write a mock guidebook to some place you know well (or some experience you’ve been through)
  • Write an open letter to someone your character hates/loves/has a bone to pick with. Consider including a response from their object of scorn/affection/correction.

GO!

What form did you choose? How did it work out for you? Leave a comment or join the conversation in the community.

[Writing Prompt] Multiple Perspectives

I’ve been going on (and on) about the importance of not ‘head-hopping’ between characters in a different scene, to take things easy on the reader. Today I say: mix it up! Make the reader work for their entertainment!

The Prompt

Write A Story From Multiple Perspectives

Tips Continue reading “[Writing Prompt] Multiple Perspectives”

[Writing Prompt] Third Person, Limited Perspective

Today, it’s back to the tried and true, a format you’re probably much more familiar with than yesterday’s Second Person. Yes, today we write in Third Person, Limited Omniscience, perspective.

All of which means, you get inside a character’s head and stay there.

The Prompt

Write A Story in The Third Person, Limited Perspective

Tips Continue reading “[Writing Prompt] Third Person, Limited Perspective”

[Guest Prompt] Charlotte Rains Dixon

The Prompt

Write about the best gift your character was given.  Incorporate one of the seven deadly sins (wrath, gluttony, sloth, greed, pride, lust, envy) into the story.

 

Charlotte Rains Dixon is the author of Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior. She is a novelist, writing teacher, free-lance journalist, ghostwriter, and author. Continue reading “[Guest Prompt] Charlotte Rains Dixon”

[Writing Prompt] Second Person, Awkward

In the Second Person, the story is told like this, “You are walking around in the depths of winter and you find yourself shivering”.

It’s not a format that we see much and as a result it can be tricky to pull off. But it’s worth a try if only to show up the advantages of the other points-of-view available to you. Or maybe you’ll be one of those people, like Jay McInerney, who turns it into a work that is acknowledged as a contemporary classic.

The Prompt

Write A Story in the Second Person Perspective Continue reading “[Writing Prompt] Second Person, Awkward”

[Writing Prompt] Putting ‘I’ First

This week we’re going to be playing with point of view. It’s easy to get stuck writing from the same perspective in every story. To break you of that habit, we’re going to be trying the all this week! Feel free to write the same story over and over again, this week, playing with perspective.

The Prompt

Write A Story Told In The First Person

Tips

  • First person is relatively easy because it’s how we tell all our stories in every day life (“Oh, you’ll never believe what happened on the way in this morning! I was standing in the line for coffee, and …”)
  • Because your story is all from the perspective of one person, we can never know what any other character is thinking. We can know what the “I” character thinks another person is thinking, but remember that this is always colored by the protagonist’s feelings about the issue and the other person.
  • Grab a book off your shelf to see how this is done: check-lit and Young Adult are often written in First Person. If you have a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird, Jane Eyre, Gulliver’s Travels or The Great Gatsby, pull them off the shelf and see how First Person was handled by the masters.

GO!

[Writing Prompt] Your Voice Is Unique

One of the things newer writers worry about most is originality: how can I have an original idea when all the stories have been told.

Today we’re going to do a little exercise to prove that originality is not about the characters, the even the events of the story. Originality comes from you, writing in your voice, as only you can.

The Prompt

Write A Cinderella Story. Share (At Least An Excerpt) In The Comments 

Tips Continue reading “[Writing Prompt] Your Voice Is Unique”

What People Are Saying About StoryADay May 2014

What strikes me about this, is how often the words “fun”, “happy”, “yes!”, “accomplished” and “glad” come up in people’s comments about the StoryADay challenge.

It’s not to late to join in. Just pick up a pen, and off you go! You won’t regret it!
What people are saying about StoryADayMay 2014

“I have a slew of new things to write that I wouldn’t have thought of if I hadn’t tried StoryADay, so this is pretty great.”
-k.c.

“I’m very much looking forward to spending May with you again! Should be great!”
-s.c.

“I’m so glad I found out about this. Thank you xxx”
-l*

“Great post, exactly what I needed…Thank you!”
-l.n.

“I have surprised myself wit the creativity I have produced.”
-m.r.

“I have been looking forward to May for months, now I know why! I love having a new writing experience every day,”
-c.l.

“Haven’t written fiction IN A LONG WHILE, and I’m glad I came up with something!”
-y*

“Today’s prompt really helped me get over a block for a scene I needed for a larger work I am writing.”
-c.jr.

“I like being forced to get something down…good daily discipline.”
c.g.

“mission accomplished!”
-k.d.

“I loved this – brought a delighted grin to an old lady’s face…thanks for a good start to a sunny morning.”
-a.r.

“the guest prompt was excellent.”
-m.s.

“…only 706 words, bt I like where that prompt took me.”
-e*

“Hooray! I’m having such fun with Drabbles.”
-c.k.

“It’s late in the day, but I got a story done so I’m happy. I feel a sense of accomplishment…”
c.g.

“yes yes yes. I did it. Woo-hoo!”
-k.m.

“…a good warm up for the other writing on the agenda today.”
-s*

“glad I tried it…”
-s.j.b.

“…not bad for a first draft, I think!”
-s.j.m.

“I’m not really happy with [this] story…but it was fun to write.”
-c.s.

“Thank you for another good story idea,”
-s.c.

“Very rough, but…I feel good about writing it.”
-r.s.

“So much fun.”
-s.c.

“Missed a few days, but I’m back on track!”
-m.l.

“Loving StoryADay!”
-k.l.

“Happy dance !!!!!!”
-b.o.

Special thanks to all the people who are writing, providing feedback, supporting each other and inspiring me to keep writing!

[Writing Prompt] Descriptive Writing

Yesterday’s prompt about dialogue, probably didn’t leave you much room for descriptive writing .Today, on the other hand, is you change to channel your inner Tolkein.

The Prompt

Write A Story Rich In Description

Tips

  • The trick to good descriptive writing is to pick which details to highlight and which to exclude. You are like a photographer, framing a shot, not a draughtsman, capturing every detail of a room.
  • Description sets the mood: a dark and stormy night suggests something about the story that’s about to be told. You can, of course, play with the reader’s expectations and set a funeral on a sunny day, but again that sets the mood. The jarring quality of the weather and the occasion tell us something about how the characters feel about the events.
  • A description of a person can tell the reader more than simply what you, the author, sees in the character you’re describing. It can tell them how the character sees herself, or how the character is viewed by the person viewing them. Perhaps you can have two different characters describe the same person, and show how their feelings about the person color their description.
  • Don’t forget to include action and character development in your story. Use the descriptive writing to serve them. Remember, you’re writing a story, not painting a still life!
  • Browse the archives for other articles about descriptive writing, if you’re stuck.

GO!

Are you a fan of descriptive writing or do you tend to skip over those parts when you’re reading? Did you find this an easy or hard exercise. Did you learn anything today? Leave a comment or join the discussion in the community.

[Writing Prompt] Give Your Characters A Voice

Today we’re going to focus on dialogue.

Gripping, realistic dialogue can bring a story and its characters to life. Writing great dialogue, however, takes practice.

The Prompt

Write A Story Told Almost Completely In Dialogue

Tips

  • Remember that how we speak (what we say and what we don’t say) is heavily influenced by how we’re feeling — what kind of day we’re having; how we feel about what we’re saying; how we feel about who we’re saying it to.
  • Use emotions to dictate word choice, length of sentence (if you’re breathless because the object of your affection is actually talking to you, your sentences are going to be fragmentary. If you’re talking about a your life’s work, you’re going to use big words and jargon and hardly pause for breath).
  • Remember that no-one really talks like they do in plays: no-one listens carefully and answers appropriately, and no-one tells the whole truth.
  • You can use play format to write this (” STAN: I can’t believe you said that! / MOLLY [walking away]: Believe it, bub.”).
  • You can write this is a more traditionally narrative way (“I can’t believe you said that!” / “Believe it, bub” / “Come back, please! Honey?”)
  • You can include dialogue tags and ‘stage directions’ if you feel you need them. This can be helpful if more than two people are talking. (“‘I can’t believe you said that!’ / ‘Believe it, bub,’ Molly said. / ‘You are so screwed, bro.’ Dan shook his head as he watched his friend’s wife walk away, her head held high. ‘I think she means it this time.’ “)
  • Don’t go crazy with the dialogue tags (…she cheered; she exulted… “She said” is usually fine). And watch your adjectives, unless you’re writing a Tom Swift parody!
  • People rarely use each other’s names in everyday speech. Resist the temptation to have your characters do it. Instead, focus on making each character’s way of expressing themselves distinctive. (How often have you heard a story your friend told you, laughed, and said ‘yup, that sounds like something he’d say’? People DO sound different from each other. Use that.)
  • It might be easiest to limit this story to two characters so you can really focus on each of their voices — with maybe a walk-on part from a waiter or a cop or the person they’ve been waiting for, just to mix things up.

GO!

What form did you decide on? How did this go for you? Do you usually write a lot of dialogue or was this new for you? Leave a comment below or chat about it in the community.

[Writing Prompt] Lights, Camera, Action!

How did you get on yesterday? Did you post in the comments or the community about your writing? Which proverb or ‘theme’ did you use?

Every story — even the most literary, introspective story — needs action.

Stuff must happen.

Action is the agent of change and your characters must change (even for a moment) or face an opportunity for change,  for your story to interest people. “Stuff happening” is what gives you the opportunity to show that opportunity for change.

The Prompt

Write A Story Wrapped Around An Action Scene

Tips Continue reading “[Writing Prompt] Lights, Camera, Action!”

[Writing Prompt] Gabriela Pereira – Musical Cues

The Prompt

Choose a piece of music from the list below. Listen through it once or twice and get your mind in the mood of the music. Then start writing.

  • Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens
  • Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland
  • Egmont Overture by Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18 (II. Adagio Sostenuto) by Sergei Rachmaninoff
  • The Planets by Gustav Holst (choose one movement)

Gabriela Pereira is the Creative Director and Instigator of DIY MFA, the do-it-yourself alternative to a Masters degree in writing. She creates workshops and tools to help writers get the MFA experience without going to school.

DIYMFA.com logoGabriela holds an MFA in Writing for Children from The New School. When she’s not teaching or designing learning tools for DIY MFA, she enjoys writing some fiction of her own. She especially loves writing middle grade and teen fiction, with a few “”short stories for grown-ups”” thrown in for good measure. Visit DIYMFA.com to learn more about Gabriela and DIY MFA.

[Also, don’t miss the Writer Igniter visual prompt machine at Gabriela’s site. So much fun!]

[Writing Prompt] From Scene To Theme

The theme of a story doesn’t always become clear to a writer until the story is written and revised (and often, ready by others and discussed).

Today, however, we’re going to turn that on its head.

The theme can be summed up as ‘the moral of the tale’, or a proverb, or the overarching lesson in a fable. Let’s take a well-worn proverb and construct a new story to illustrate it.

The Prompt

Choose A Theme And Write A Story That Illustrates It

Tips

  • The danger with starting theme-first is that stories can get preachy. Remember to base your story firmly in the character (unless you’re being intentionally experimental).
  • There’s no need to explicitly quote the moral or proverb you based your story on.
  • Try to go wa-ay beyond the first idea suggested by the theme/proverb you pick (no frogs carrying scorpions across rivers, please). Dig deep for a different idea. Try lots before you settle on one.
  • Use the theme less as a lesson for the reader and more as a guidepost to keep you on the right track as you write.
  • Don’t think I’m telling you to start theme-first with every story you write. Use this as an experiment to see what happens, what changes, when you start writing with a fixed theme in place.
  • If the theme is constraining your story too much, throw it out and follow the story where it wants to go (post about this in the comments or the community, if it happens. I’d be interested.)

GO!

 

[Writing Prompt] Setting The Scene

Write A Story Set In A Hospital
(or any other high-tension setting, if you’re not familiar with hospitals)

This week we are concentrating on the different parts of the short story. Of course ALL the elements need to be there, but each of these prompts focuses on a particular element more than the others.

How did your character writing go yesterday? Did you learn any interesting lessons about creating a character with a strong desire, that you can carry forward into your future stories? Did you leave a comment or post in the community?

Today we’re focusing on setting.

The Prompt

Write A Story Set In A Hospital
(or any other high-tension setting, if you’re not familiar with hospitals)

Tips

  • You still need to include fully-realized characters, each with specific (and possibly opposing) desires. (For example, your patient might just want to go home. Their doctor probably wants them to stay put for now. Their next-of-kin might have a whole other set of issues and the nurses probably just want to go somewhere quiet and put their feet up for a few minutes…)
  • Make the setting integral to the story. Have events that could only happen in this high-tension setting.
  • Use all your senses to set the scene — everyone talks about the smell and the colors of hospitals, but what about the noises? I heard a news story on the radio recently about the incessant beeping of alarms in hospitals. That was something I wouldn’t otherwise have thought of. And again, someone once told me how it hurt them that their child’s hospital blanket felt so rough. All they could think of was getting a fuzzy blanket for the child. These are the kinds of details that bring a story alive.
  • If this setting doesn’t work for you, check out these other prompts I’ve provided with different (possibly more cheerful) settings.

GO!