Daily Prompt – May 9: A Thousand Words

Write A Story Inspired By A Picture

Daily Prompt LogoIf a picture says a thousand words that should save us some time, right?

Write A Story Inspired By A Picture

This could be a piece of art that you love, or you can go to the ‘Explore’ page of Flickr.com and start poking about until you find a picture that speaks to you. (Do this quickly. Allow yourself no more than five minutes to find a picture. Choose the first one that stands out to you).

Write a story connected to that picture. Keep the picture in mind as you go through your story. Always bring it back to the impulse that made you choose the image.

If you can, provide a link to the picture that inspired your story (even if you’re not posting your stories online I’d love to see what images and ideas people get from this).

Go!

Daily Prompt – May 8: 55 Fiction

It is possible to write a story in 55 words

Daily Prompt LogoA lot of people aim to write Flash Fiction because they think it’s going to be quicker than writing a longer story. Don’t they know their Blaise Pascal? (“”I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter.”)

55 Fiction

It is possible to write a good story in 55 words (the title isn’t part of  the word-count, but must not exceed seven words), but it’s not necessarily a quick thing.

Still, Saturdays tend to have more ‘running around’ time than ‘sitting at a desk time’ for many of us, and that might equal ‘thinking time’ if we’re lucky.

So grab your idea right now. Then, while you’re folding laundry, or taking the kids to soccer, think about how you can deliver a punch in 55 words. Think about which elements of your story you can strip away to cut it down to 55 words. What is essential in your story?

Week 1 – Story A Day So Far

Thanks to everyone who responded to my questions about how your week is going. I’ve collected some of the responses…

We’ve made it to Day 7! Congrats to everyone who has written anything, or still plans to! And thanks to everyone who responded to my questions about how your week is going. I’ve collected some of the responses below.

When I had this idea to write A Story A Day, back in March, I knew I was going to need a crew to keep me honest, because I knew it would be hard. My non-writer friends a families gave me that ‘uh-huh!’ look and said things like “that’s ambitious”.

With the help of a few people like Debbie, Carol, Robert and Eden, and the Twitterati, word spread rapidly and I discovered that there are tons of writers out there just as hungry for an excuse to focus on their writing as I was. Tons of people who took “That’s ambitious” and made it a cheer, not a groan.

So now, I have — according to my Story A Day Dashboard — 77 new friends, who are all serious enough about their writing to want to do this challenge. Not everyone is writing every single day and not everyone is finishing a story every day they start one, but everyone is serious about their writing and that is such an inspiration to me.  (Sorry, I’m gushing)

FEEDBACK

Story length:

The shortest story people are laying claim to is 25 words. The longest is over 3000

Tips for keeping going:

@mapelba says  “As Ann Lamott said–butt in chair. It helps to listen or read an interview with a favorite author sometimes. Oh, and I’ve given up a lot of TV. That helps.”

@Cidwrites says: “The excitement of my friends who are doing this helps a lot!”

@KristenRudd says: “My trick so far is to mull my story all day, while I’m doing whatever it is I do. I think about the directions it could go, but I mostly think about how to open it. Then, when I can finally sit down after the kids are in bed, the dishes are washed, and I’ve done everything else that needs doing, I’m excited about the story that’s been buzzing all day. If I have the opener, I can sit down and just WRITE (That said, neither story went where I had planned. Characters kept popping in and announcing themselves, changing the story). Who knows if this will hold up – we’ll see! Ask us again in two weeks!

“My other trick was to sign up my kid. I have too much pride to be outdone by a seven-year-old, so I’lm guaranteed to write every day.” (I love this one!)

@Wendolin says: “I keep going because every day I wake up and the first thing I think about is . . . what will I end up with today? I go about my morning chores thinking about possibilities. I make this challenge the focus of my day, and though I have many other things to do, I keep the story in the back of my miind, cogitating, adding and subtracting, until at last, I just have to sit down and start writing, no matter how much laundry there is in the hamper.”

Thanks everyone! Keep writing!

Daily Prompt – May 7: Steal An Opening

Getting started can be a huge obstacle to overcome…so cheat!

Daily Prompt LogoGetting started can be a huge obstacle to overcome. Faced with the prospect of having to start a new story every day we can start second-guessing our ideas, our style, our ability…All of this makes getting started even harder.

So cheat.

Steal An Opening

Go to your bookshelf and pull down a book you admire. Look at the first paragraph. How does it start? Is it a description of a place? Does something dramatic happen? Does someone talk?

Look at the structure of the opening and use it for your own stories (this is how apprentices have always learned, they copy their masters’ work, and gradually find their own style). Copy your master-writer’s structure, but insert your own details.

For example, I pulled Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea off the shelf. Its opening sentence is,

The island of Gont, a single mountain that lifts its peak a mile above the storm-wracked North-East sea, is a land famous for wizards.

(Isn’t that a great sentence?)

My story might begin,

The Arcologie Sando, a huge fractured semi-dome that rose up from the rock-strewn desert floor, was famous for producing arcolonists.

OK, hers is still better, but borrowing from the master, gave me a way in to my story.

Go to your bookshelf and steal an opening line from the best. Make it your own, and see where it leads you.

Go!

Daily Prompt – May 6: Field Day

Field Day

Write a story set at a school sports day/field day or other special event where parents turn up and the worlds of home and school collide.

Today I’m off to supervise hordes of screaming children at Field Day at the kids’ school. (It’s what my school would have called “Sports Day”, with sack races and obstacle course and suchlike, except I don’t remember my parents ever having to help out).

In honour of my noble sacrifice, today’s prompt is:
Primary school children, sports day

Field Day

Write a story set at a school sports day/field day or other special event where parents turn up and the worlds of home and school collide.

Work from your own memory of school or your experiences as a parent/aunt/grandparent/child-free-friend, whatever you have.

Surely there are a few opportunities for conflict and resolution among the sack races and the potato-and-spoon contests!

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