Turning Point – A writing prompt for novelists

This week I’m focusing on prompts that novelists can use. If you’re  novelist, I don’t want you to feel like you’re wasting your time here at StoryADay May. While short story writers can easily use these prompts, too, you novelists will find much in them that enriches your work-in-progress.

Let’s dive in:

The Prompt

Write a story that investigates a turning point in your protagonist’s past.

Tips

  • Every interesting character has an internal struggle fighting with (or complementing) the external struggle of the plot. It usually stems from a character flaw/defect/protection mechanism they’ve been building for years. Use this prompt to write a story that captures the beginning of that character development.
  • If you don’t have a novel or work in progress, investigate a character from an earlier story you’ve written (or one you hope to write).

Lisa Cron’s Story Genius (referenced in the video) can be found here or requested through your local indie bookstore.

Second Look – A writing prompt from Julie Duffy

Today I encourage you to take a second look at a story you’ve written before.

The Prompt

Take a story you’ve written before and write it again from a different point of view.

Tips

You can rewrite the events of the story, as viewed by someone else.

You could choose to use the original story as a jumping-off point, that simply informs your knowledge of this formerly-secondary character.

Feel free to write the story in a completely different form (if the first one was a series of letters, you could write this one in a more narrative form.

Nightmare – A writing prompt from Maria Hazen Lewis

Today’s prompt comes from another wonderful writer from my local network.

The Prompt

I had a nightmare last night. I woke up and started writing….

About Maria Hazen Lewis

Maria Hazen Lewis writes women’s fiction in Pennsylvania.

Misapprehension – A writing prompt from

Today’s prompt is about the (sometimes comedic) art of misapprehension.

The Prompt

Today’s prompt focuses on misapprehension – that is, interpreting something incorrectly. Too often, in fiction, every character communicates perfectly. That’s not the way it happens in real life.

Example: award-winning author Harlan Ellison once misheard a conversation at a party. He overheard a woman say, “”Jeffy is fine. He’s always fine.”” What Ellison actually heard was “”He’s always FIVE.”” That inspired the story “”Jefty Is Five,”” about a boy who never grows up.

Alternately, the misapprehension could be visual. True story: when I graduated college, I moved to a southern town – one of those places where anti-intellectualism seemed to be the prevailing attitude. I met lots of girls there, but I was looking for an intellectual girlfriend. One day, while sitting in dingy waiting room, I saw a pretty girl outside. To my amazement, she wore a tee-shirt with the letters “”SPQR”” on it. SPQR stood for – in Latin – “”The Senate and the People of Rome.”” What kind of woman wore a tee-shirt that referenced Ancient Rome? I had to meet her! I rushed outside, saw the girl…and discovered that her shirt didn’t say “”SPQR.”” It said “”SPORT.”” Stretched around her well-endowed chest, the final letter was hadn’t been visible from where I sat. (I was so disappointed, I didn’t even speak to her.)

So that’s your prompt: misapprehension, either verbal or visual.

About Tony Conaway

Born in Philadelphia, PA, Tony Conaway has written and ghostwritten everything from blogs to books. He has cowritten non-fiction books published by McGraw-Hill, Macmillan and Prentice Hall. His fiction has been published in eight anthologies and numerous publications, including Blue Lake Review, Danse Macabre, Rind Literary Magazine, qarrtsiluni, The Rusty Nail and Typehouse Literary Magazine.

His odder work includes co-writing the script for a planetarium production, and jokes performed by Jay Leno on The Tonight Show. He blogs at http://wayneaconaway.blogspot.com/ He was recently a guest on the Indy Writer Podcast, talking about writing short fiction.

Poetic Inspiration – A writing prompt from Elise Holland

 

Poetic Inspiration: Let a Favorite Poem Breathe Life into Your Short Story

Reading poetry is a great way to inject beauty and inspiration into our daily lives. Select a poem that resonates with you, and let it inspire you as you write your next short story!

In order to provide a specific prompt, I suggest Shakespeare’s Sonnet 25, which showcases a theme of the power of love. Beneath the poem, you will find suggestions for other poets (both classic and contemporary), as well as specific ideas for incorporating poetic tools such as theme, imagery and rhythm into your prose.

The Prompt

“Let those who are in favour with their stars
Of public honour and proud titles boast,
Whilst I, whom fortune of such triumph bars,
Unlookt for joy in that I honour most.
Great princes’ favourites their fair leaves spread
But as the marigold at the sun’s eye;
And in themselves their pride lies buried,
For at a frown they in their glorie die.
The painful warrior famoused for fight,
After a thousand victories once foil’d,
Is from the book of honour razed quite,
And all the rest forgot for which he toil’d:
Then happy I, that love and am beloved
Where I may not remove nor be removed.”
– William Shakespeare
Sonnet 25

Tips

There is a vast array in styles of poetry, and not every single poem will resonate with you. With a little persistence, you will find the unique voices and poignant words to inspire your prose and warm your soul.

 

  • Interested in classic poetry? Consider delving into this book, which serves as a lovely anthology, showcasing the work of thirteen classic poets.
  • Consider that various aspects of a poem can inspire your short fiction. Here, we will examine theme, imagery and rhythm.
  • When studying a poem, look closely at its theme.
    Did the poet wax melodic about love?
  • Did he or she speak ardently about a particular social issue or current event that resonates?
  • What aspect of this theme are you drawn to, and how might you incorporate it into your own work?
  • Evaluate the imagery in the poem you study.
    • In the above poem, Shakespeare says “Great princes’ favorites their fair leaves spread, But as the marigold at the sun’s eye; And in themselves their pride lies buried, For at a frown they in their glory die.” What he is referring to, is that happiness found in shallow pursuits (in this case, in the fickle favor of those in high places) is fragile, and is often found wanting.
    • Later in the above poem, Shakespeare says “Then happy I, that love and am beloved Where I may not remove nor be removed.” In this way, the poem states that it is in unwavering love (where I may not remove or be removed) that true happiness is sought and found.
    • What images speak to you? How might you incorporate versions of them into your next story?
  • When considering rhythm:
    • Consider sentence length variety. For instance, one very short, moving sentence can have significant impact after a longer, complex or compound sentence.
    • Are you drawn to rhyme? You might include a subtle use of rhyme in a paragraph you are trying to drive home, or make memorable.
  • Once you’ve written your story, think about submitting it to literary magazines and/or journals. We would love to review your work at 2 Elizabeths! (2Elizabeths.com)

About Elise Holland

Elise Holland is co-founder and editor of 2 Elizabeths, a short fiction and poetry publication. Her work has appeared in various publications, most recently in Darling. Through 2 Elizabeths, Elise strives to create value and visibility for writers, through writing contests, events, and more!

A Mysterious Situation – Writing Prompt from Bea from The Busy Muse

Today, Bea from The Busy Muse gives us a scenario and encourages us to stretch our genre expectations…

Don’t forget, you can listen to the audio-only by subscribing to the podcast

The Prompt

Your company sends you to meet a costumer at their house. It’s a standard, nice neighborhood.

You ring and ring but nobody answers. The door is ajar, and you enter, calling aloud.

All is in order in the living room apart from an overturned potted plant on the expensive-looking rug…

Tips

  • You choose the atmosphere. Did the costumer run out to get milk or got kidnapped?
  • The setting is quite anonymous: can you create a fantasy story out of this? What about a science fiction piece?
  • Have fun thinking outside the box!

About Bea from The Busy Muse

Bea is a bilingual writer and freelancer currently living near Venice, in Italy. She blogs and helps writers with their writing and creativity at  . The Busy Muse. She brainstorms new ideas with her cat, who is very good at listening but not at providing solutions.

Chance Encounter – Writing Prompt from Sarah Cain

Today’s prompt, from author Sarah Cain, features a chance encounter. This is going to be fun!

Podcast version:

The Prompt

The chance encounter. Have you ever run into someone you know when you look grubby? Or maybe you see an old boyfriend at Starbucks. Or perhaps, as in Alfred Hitchcock’s famous Stranger’s On a Train, you run into a stranger who offers to do you a service, like murder, in return for you returning the favor. Think of a chance encounter that could leave you shaken, stirred, or in deep trouble.

About Sarah Cain

Sarah Cain is the author of the Danny Ryan political thrillers, The 8th Circle and One By One. She lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with her husband Howard, a former political consultant, and her two insane cats, and spends a great deal of time contemplating murder. In her spare time, she reads, plays Cards for Humanity, and dreams about moving to Ireland.

An Unlikely Meeting – a writing prompt from Charlotte Rains Dixon

Today, Charlotte Rains Dixon indulges in some whimsy, and I can’t wait to see what you come up with for this!

The Prompt

Write a story about what happens when a nun in a wimple, a man in cowboy hat and boots, and a bartender with a handlebar moustache wearing a red and white polka-dot bow tie meet in a tavern on a rainy night.

About Charlotte Rains Dixon

Just Prompt Me Book CoverCharlotte Rains Dixon mentors creative writers from passionate to published. Charlotte is a free-lance journalist, ghostwriter, and author.

She is Director Emeritus and a current mentor at the Writer’s Loft, a certificate-writing program at Middle Tennessee State University. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Spalding University and is the author of a dozen books, including The Complete Guide to Writing Successful Fundraising Letters, and Beautiful America’s Oregon Coast. Her fiction has appeared in The Trunk, Santa Fe Writer’s Project, Nameless Grace, and Somerset Studios and her articles have been published in Vogue Knitting, the Oregonian, and Pology, to name a few. Her novel, Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior, was published in 2013, and she is represented by Erin Niumata at Folio Literary.

Her prompt book, Just Prompt Me, was released in 2016, and is the first in a series.

Learn about her annual writing workshops in Europe at letsgowrite.com, and visit her blog at www.charlotterainsdixon.com, where you can find all kinds of tips and techniques on writing and creativity.

 

The Secret – a writing prompt from Marta Pelrine-Bacon

Today, Marta Pelrine-Bacon encourages us to get a bit mysterious.

The Prompt

She waited a week before revealing the secret.

About Marta Pelrine-Bacon

Marta Pelrine-Bacon is an artist, a writer, and a long-time StoryADay participant. Her debut novel The Blue Jar has recently been re-released, with a new cover, featuring Marta’s artwork.

Self Reflection – a writing prompt from Stuart Horwitz

Today, Stuart Horwitz invites us to a bit of self-reflection.

The Prompt

Think back to a time earlier in your life, maybe high school, when you knew a good person with whom you have fallen out of touch.

If you were to reconnect with this person right now, what one question would you ask them? Why are you asking that question — what does it say about your journey right now?

What piece of yourself are you currently focused on finding?

For memoir writers: write this now.

For fiction writers: turn yourself and your friend into characters. Write the story of their encounter.

About Stuart Horwitz

Stuart Horwitz is a ghostwriter, independent editor, and founder and principal of Book Architecture (www.BookArchitecture.com). Book Architecture’s clients have reached the best-seller list in both fiction and non-fiction, and have appeared on Oprah!, The Today Show, The Tonight Show.

He is the author of three books on writing: Finish Your Book in Three Drafts (2016), Book Architecture (2015) which became an Amazon bestseller, and Blueprint Your Bestseller (Penguin/Perigee, 2013), which was named one of that year’s best books about writing by The Writer magazine.

Getting Emotional – a writing prompt from Angela Ackerman

For audio only, subscribe to the podcast

Today, Angela Ackerman invites us to think about our character’s past emotional trauma and how it affects them in the present.

This is a really useful exercise for deepening any character in any length of story. Use it for a character from a novel, or for the character in a short story. It can’t help but make your story more rich.

And remember: emotion is the key to a reader connecting with your story.

The Prompt

Emotional trauma is an experience, or set of experiences, that can change your character in fundamental ways, altering their personality, embedding fears in their minds, affecting their ability to connect and trust others, and steering their needs and desires during your story.

Write about a wounding experience from your character’s past that changed them into who they are today.

HINT: most wounding experiences involve someone close to the character as it is the people closest to us who are able to do the most psychological damage.

For emotional wound ideas, try this list: https://onestopforwriters.com/wounds


About Angela Ackerman

Angela Ackerman is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of The Emotion Thesaurus: a Writer’s Guide to Character Expression and four other bestselling writing guides. A proud indie author, her books are available in five languages, sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors and psychologists around the world.

Angela is also the co-founder of the popular site, Writers Helping Writers, as well as One Stop For Writers, an innovative online library built to help writers elevate their storytelling.

http://writershelpingwriters.net/
https://onestopforwriters.com

A Friendly Warning – a writing prompt from Phil Giunta

Audio-only: (if you like this, subscribe to the podcast)

Phil Giunta gives us a situation today that suggests mystery, but you don’t have to write a full-on mystery if you don’t want to.

It is, however, a great reminder that suspense plays an important role in all storytelling…

The Prompt

You walk into your office and see a new message written on your whiteboard: “Whatever happens, don’t die. See you Monday.”

The note is not signed and you’re not certain who wrote it…


About Phil Giunta

A Pennsylvania resident, Phil Giunta’s has published two paranormal mysteries, Testing the Prisoner, and By Your SideHis short stories appear in such anthologies as Beach Nights, the ReDeus series , and the Middle of Eternity series, which he created and edited for Firebringer Press. His paranormal mystery novella, Like Mother, Like Daughters is slated for release in 2017.
Phil is a member of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group and served as chairman of their 2015 Write Stuff conference.
Visit Phil’s website: www.philgiunta.com

Writer’s Clue – Writing Prompt from LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen brings us a fabulous writing prompt today, for Day 4 of the challenge.

This is an example of how you can put limits on your writing options, to increase your chances of getting your writing DONE on a day when it seems impossible.

I know, it sounds counterintuitive, right? Limits make things easier?

But it’s true (you can Google it. Lots of experts say too much choice is a bad thing!).

Play along with LJ today, as she encourages you to fill in the blanks, and then flesh out a story from your notes.

The Prompt

Let’s play Writer’s Clue! Stories are about a person in a place with a problem. We can use the basic structure (modified to inject conflict) from the game.
For this story, write about Mx [1. a non-gendered title, in case you’re wondering. Now I’m wondering how to pronounce it…].___________ in the _________ room with a __________.
You can choose ordinary places or objects, or magical ones, you can set your story in the past, present, or future. It doesn’t need to follow the plot structure of the game in that there’s a murder you are solving; this is just a way to give a story a kick start.
For example, from one of my stories: Ms. Ro Maldonado in the derelict ship’s bridge with a malfunctioning AI. Change any one of the choices, and you have a different story.

About LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen is a fan of the Red Sox, Doctor Who & local food. A physical therapist for over 25 years, she now uses her clinical skills to hurt characters. She describes herself as a relentless optimist, potter, poet, and science fiction and fantasy writer. You can find her novels in all the usual places. PARALLAX, book 4 of her science fiction series Halcyone Space will be available summer of 2017. http://www.ljcohen.net
Don’t forget to check out LJ’s books and to leave a comment or post in The Victory Dance Group to tell us how it’s going!

The Doll Maker – Writing Prompt from Kylie Quillinan

Day Three! How’s it going?

You should be cruising into your writing by now and it probably hasn’t become either a habit or a chore yet. You might have finished stories on days 1 or 2, or you might have discovered that it’s quite hard to finish a story in one day.

Today’s prompt is the perfect one to use to create a flash fiction story: a short story (less than 1000 words).  Some tips: start in the middle of the story; use unusual imagery and word choices  to really make it ‘flash’; try to think of an ending that runs against our expectations. Make us FEEL.

Also, today’s prompt is a great example of why you should delve into writing communities. Kylie and I met at a conference and hit it off immediately. We write different kinds of stories, but it’s lovely to have a connection with someone who treats their writing with the same level of respect that I aspire to.

I highly recommend you make some writing friends and meet a Kylie of your own!

The Prompt

People called him The Doll Maker. Nobody ever wondered aloud why every doll had the same face.

About Kylie Quillinan

Kylie writes about women who defy society’s expectations. Her novels are for readers who like fantasy with a basis in history or mythology.

Her other interests include canine nutrition, jellyfish and zombies. She blames the disheveled state of her house on her dogs but she really just hates to clean. You can find her online at kyliequillinan.com or on Facebook.

 

Leave a comment or post in The Victory Dance to let us know how you got on with today’s story


The Latchkey Kid – A Writing Prompt from Jerry B. Jenkins

You’re back! It’s Day 2 of StoryADay May 2017 and you’re still here. That’s pretty impressive (believe me, not everyone makes it!)

Today’s prompt is from uber-best-selling author Jerry B. Jenkins. Check out the links below for more (free!)  writing advice from Jerry.

The Prompt

A socially awkward girl in her early teens is a latchkey kid, alone at home after school as usual. Flipping through channels she lands on one she soon realizes only she can see—and it’s from the future.

About Jerry B Jenkins

Jerry B. Jenkins has written over 190 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. To get free writing training from Jerry, click here: www.jerryjenkins.com/how-to-write-a-book
Leave a comment to let us know how you got on, or post in The Victory Dance Group.