Daily Prompt – May 5: Cinco de Mayo!

Write a story based on an incident at a cultural festival.

Daily Prompt LogoIt’s Cinco de Mayo, which people in the Americas know as an excuse for a party, thanks to immigrants from the Mexican state Puebla (according to Wikipedia it  “commemorates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862,”

Mostly now it’s an excuse to don over-sized sombreros and drink Corona. But it brings us to today’s prompt:

Festivals

It’s hard to grow up anywhere without attending some kind of cultural festival, whether it’s the English village fete, a religious festival (St Anthony’s Feast in the North End of Boston, for example) , or a nationality-based one (a Burns’ Supper in Scotland, St Patrick’s Day in the US).

Write a story based on an incident at a cultural festival. Add details from the activities, colours and smells of the festival to make your story real.

Daily Prompt – May 3: Gadget Lust

Write a Story Featuring A High-Tech Gadget

I love my gadgets.

But even if you’re not a gadget freak, an early-adopter, a lover of all things tech, you can’t really escape the stuff.

So today’s prompt is

Write a Story Featuring A High-Tech Gadget

It could be a cell phone that accidentally redials, and gets the owner in big trouble.

It could be an iPad, a Kindle, a GPS unit.

Maybe the hero of the story hates technology. Maybe she loves it.

OK? Go!

Daily Prompt – May 2: Obituaries

…Obituaries are wonderful sources of lifestories, character sketches, intriguing stories.

I know, kind of morbid for a spring day, but obituaries are wonderful sources of lifestories, character sketches, intriguing stories.

I like to think of stealing from the obituaries less as grave-robbing and more as creating a tribute to a life lived. So, today:

  • Go to Obituaries.com (yes, it exists!). Pick an obscure newspaper, Ignore the celebrities. ‘
  • Try to find the most ordinary person, or the person with the most detail. Think about what it might have been to live their life, know them, encounter them once.
  • Write a story based on one incident in your person’s life, including at least one detail your learned in their obit.

[Could you write about Bonnie and a great-grandchild on their first trout-fishing afternoon together? Would it be a perfect moment? A farce? A dramatic turning point? What did the river look like, sound like? What did she notice?]

Go!

Daily Prompt – May 1: Wikipedia Newest Articles

Today’s prompt: go to the Newest Articles section of the front page of Wikipedia…


Today, go to the Newest Articles section of the front page of Wikipedia.

  • Choose one. Scan the titles, stop at the first one that grabs you and click. Don’t second-guess yourself.
  • Read the article. As you read, look for some detail or phrase or idea that strikes you.
  • Write your story. Don’t try to retell the story as it was told in the article. Focus on the idea or detail that caught your imagination. Turn that into a story.

GO!

Story A Day: 2 Days To Go!

AKA: What Was I Thinking?!

OK, I”m a little nervous. Two days until we begin this journey of writing a story a day.

But it’s a good nervous. It’s an energetic nervous. I’m like a stallion in the gate, ready for the off. Quivering a little.

Already I’m noticing benefits from this Story A Day project…

starting gate

Photo by:letsbook / Permission:CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

AKA: What Was I Thinking?!

OK, I”m a little nervous. Two days until we begin this journey of writing a story a day.

But it’s a good nervous. It’s an energetic nervous. I’m like a stallion in the gate, ready for the off. Quivering a little.

Already I’m noticing benefits from this Story A Day project:

I’m looking at the world in a different way: looking at everything as a story idea, noticing details, smelling things, wondering how I would describe situations, feelings, people, objects.

I’m connecting with other writers.

I’m blogging about writing and making it a priority.

This might get tough around May 13 or so, but I’m ready. I’ve got my family and friends primed to nag me about my writing, I’ve got a little black book of ideas. I have some backup strategies for days when it’s tough (keep watching this blog and your inbox for those strategies as the month rolls along).

What about you? Are you making preparations? Are you winging it? What do you do when you need to write but get stuck? Are you excited?

Let me know!

Four Days Until Story A Day in May – Some Thoughts and Links

So, only four days left until we begin our Story A Day challenge.

Nervous? Thinking about backing out?

Yeah, me too 😉

panicked eye
Don't Panic!

So, only four days left until we begin our Story A Day challenge.

Nervous? Thinking about backing out?   Yeah, me too 😉

Some Things To Expect From Me

Daily Prompts

I’m going to be posting a daily prompt, which you should feel free to use or ignore. The prompt will be on this blog, but you can also

(I think I’ve got most of my bases covered there but if you have somewhere you’d like it to appear, let me know and I’ll look into it.

Articles & Interviews

I’m also going to continue posting articles on the craft of writing.

There might be videos and audio, and you should certainly feel free to post the same kind of things.

I may not post my actual stories every day, but I will be posting a log of my writing at in my personal Story A Day journal.

Places You Can Post Your Progress

If you’d like everyone here to know that you have written your story for the day, post about your progress in the Victory Dance group.

You can also post in your personal Story A Day blog or on your own blog, if you have one.

If you need inspiration, check out the posts on this blog, the resources page, and the various Story A day groups.

An Interview With Robert Brewer, Host of WD’s Poem A Day Challenge

Remember: A little something is still more than a lot of nothing.

Robert Brewer, Poetic AsidesRobert Brewer is the Poetic Asides poetry blogger for Writer’s Digest, and is in the midst of hosting April’s Poem A Day Challenge.

He took a few minutes to talk to me about what this particular creative challenge has meant to him and the poets who took part.

What did you expect to get out of the PAD challenge?

Going into the first challenge, I really didn’t know what to expect. I remember telling my wife (before she was my wife) over the phone the night before the first challenge that I didn’t know if anyone would participate–or even who would participate. Luckily, hundreds of poets participated the very first day, and many of the poems were very good.

What did you actually get out of it?

First, I got 30 poems out of it. Second, I developed a relationship with several poets and found myself with a very active community on the Poetic Asides blog. The best part of these challenges is hearing from first-time poets and poets who have not written in months (or years) who found inspiration in the prompts and then went on to continue writing poems beyond the actual challenge. That’s one of the main things I try to accomplish is to enable poets to easily create their own prompts.

Did you get any surprising feedback from other participants?

I did. The quantity and quality of poems posted always surprises me (even now). Beyond that, I was surprised by how the Poetic Asides community developed as a whole and how some participants created their own Poetic Asides critique groups. One poet even created a database to help poets track their and other poets’ poems.

What should people do to prepare for a creativity challenge like this?

Just try to clear some time each day to write. Outside of that, try to keep an open mind each day, because you never know what the next prompt will be (unless you’re psychic). Also, have fun and don’t worry about revision; there’ll be time for that later.

What are your best tips for keeping going when the novelty wears off around the middle of the month?

I believe in breaking big tasks into smaller tasks. So, think of the month in terms of weeks or 4- to 5-day increments of time. Another trick, write shorter if you’re just struggling in the middle–or get silly. Remember: A little something is still more than a lot of nothing.

Thanks Robert!

Writing The Same Story Different Ways

Stuck?

Here’s a secret weapon to keep you writing every day:

Rewrite the same story in different styles.

How?

Is your story refusing to sing? Are you sick of the sound of your own prose?

There are times when every (good) writer feels this way. It could be a moment of great despair, but it could also be an opportunity to try something new.

Continue reading “Writing The Same Story Different Ways”

Ideas! Ideas! Finding Writing Ideas For Your Short Story

Some days finding ideas is easier than others.

On the days where the story ideas are flowing, stick a bucket under the spigot and catch them all. You’ll need them later. Here are some prompts to get that idea spigot to open. Get ready with your notebook…

Some days finding ideas is easier than others.

On the days where the story ideas are flowing, stick a bucket under the spigot and catch them all. You’ll need them later.

(And when you come back to them, give them your full attention. “Cell-phone trouser call” might not mean much at first glance, but on a second glance you’ll remember the idea you had for a girlfriend whose boyfriend had an amusing habit of putting his bluetooth headset in his pocket and redialing her by accident. If you give it few moments of serious thought you’ll remember how you thought that might go bad and what tone of story it was going to be. If today’s the day for that story, go for it.)

Here are some prompts to get that idea spigot to open. Get ready with your notebook…

Your past

Think of incidents in your life that have stayed with you: the playground fight when you were 10; the day everyone gathered to watch you complete the Rubik’s cube; your wedding day; that time you embarrassed yourself so horribly that you blushed to think about for five years straight. Can you go back and put a fictional character in that situation? Can she go somewhere with it? Why is she there? Does it happen the same way or does she handle it the way you wish you had? play!

Your Family’s Past

What about all those stories that you heard, growing up? Yu heard them over and over again until you groaned. You might not know exactly what Poughkeepsie looked lik in 1956, but you know the emotional core of the story and you know one or two details that will give your short story authenticity(didn’t your mother always interrupt your dad’s story to rib him about his finely coiffed ‘DA’ hair? And didn’t your dad get her back by reminding her of the gold necklace she was so snooty about, but that turned her neck green?). Re-purpose these stories, with different people and a different setting if you need to. But stay true to the point of the story, to the point the teller was trying to make.

Your future

You know how interviewers ask you where you see yourself in five years? Well, why not turn that into a story? Maybe it’s not you. Maybe it’s a character you’ve had rattling around in your head. Maybe it’s a ‘real’ fictional character. Where is Moriarty five years after Holmes’s death? What about Harry Potter? (Now, these would count as ‘fan fiction’ and might represent a breach of trademark or copyright, but if you’re just writing them as a creativity exercise for yourself, you probably shouldn’t worry too much. But you might not want to try to publish these ones. [3. there’s a recent book by Melanie Benjamin called Alice I Have Been which imagines the life of the real girl who inspired Alice in Wonderland)

Obituaries

Obituaries of ordinary people contain wonderful character sketches: the whole family, the era they lived in, their interests, their careers. Sometimes you can imagine the person, their hopes and dreams, from the activities they pursued and the comments of those left behind. Online obituary listings often have ‘guest books’ where loved ones add more detail. OK, maybe you think I’m being ghoulish. I prefer to see this ideas as a tribute to the departed person.

Your world

Look around. What do you see that is out of place? What could it mean? Elizabeth Peters saw a trash bag lying lumpily at the side of the road and thought,

‘Oo, what if that was a dead body?’

Then she wrote a novel – a whole novel! – from that kernel of an idea.

What can you see

A man, talking quietly into a cell phone at the coffee shop? Why quietly? Might we say ‘furtively’? Why is he here and not at work or at home with his wife? Is he meeting his girlfriend? Oh look, a beautiful woman just walked in and sat with him. He smiles too much, is way too chatty for that to be his wife. Is he having an affair? What if his wife arrives? What if he is meeting with an event planner to plan a lavish 40th birthday party for the wife?

Is there a traffic cone on top of a statue in town? We all know students put it there, but who were they? How did they feel? Would they do it again?
There’s a kite stuck in a tree? How did it get there?

An old man sits on a bench, staring at his shoes. Who is he? What is he thinking? What has he seen in his life?


Ideas are everywhere. Keep your eyes open and your notebook handy.

Need more help? Get the ebook that grew out of this article: Breaking Writers’ Block, A StoryADay Guide

How To Write A Story A Day

I’m not sure yet (because I haven’t done it), but I think it’s going to be possible to write a story a day.

Here are some of the ways I’m planning to make time every day to tell stories:

Tell Stories To My Children

One of the main reasons I have little time to write is that I have children. It’s tough to sit down and writing a story when someone is likely to burst in and tell you that they *neeeeed* something right now, and another one trails behind him saying that he *neeeeeds* the same thing, or more likely something completely different.

But I have found that one of the best ways to ‘write’ stories is to tell them to my children. Whether at bedtime or during potty-training, or in the car, there’s nothing quite like having a live audience for keeping you going. If their attention starts to wander, you know you have to step up the action. If you pause for a moment, they demand to know what happened next.

Maybe if I can carry my phone around with me and record the stories I tell to the kids, that’ll help me out a few times.

In The Car

Again with the motherhood thing, I spend quite a lot of time driving around. Sometimes I’m alone, and sometimes they’re wa-ay in the back playing with toys. Again, with my trusty phone nearby, I can tell at least part of a story on every journey. I think recording stories is going to be really helpful, even though I love to write (with a fountain pen and everything).

Word Count Challenges

I like limitations. I like to know I only have 1000 or 200 or 55 words into which I have to shoehorn a story. Some days I’m planning to set myself a short word count limit and trying to craft a short story within it.

timer

Time Limits

I always found that seat-of-the-pants writing during exams worked really well for me. With a time limit, I can’t afford to listen to the inner critic. So some days will be Time Limit days. Write a story within an hour, half an hour, by 3pm, whatever seems to work that day.

Genres & Styles

Some days I’ll assign myself a genre to work in. Write a film noir story, write in the style of Virginia Woolfe, write a monologue, write in the third person.

Rewrites

Like the genre/styles assignments I’m planning to write the same story several different ways. I”ve got another blog post coming with more details about that)

So, those are some of my ideas. How about you?