Today’s prompt was, er, prompted by a brief literary feud that flared up recently.
A TV critic took issue with the latest episodes of the BBC’s Sherlock, complaining that our hero was more James Bond than Conan Doyle’s Holmes. The episode’s writer wrote a response in verse, then the critic wrote back with his own poem. BUT, in the last couple of lines of the poem, he pointed out that he had embedded a hidden message in his words (the second letter of the first word of every line spelled it out).
I was so tickled that I’m stealing the idea (which he stole from Conan Doyle, so I don’t feel bad).
Write a story with a hidden message
- You could make the first letter of every sentence spell out a message.
- You could make the first/second/third/last word of every sentence add up to a secret message.
- You should probably start by writing out your secret message and then figuring out the rest of the words in your story, so it fits!
- This will force you to break all the normal rules of your process of storytelling. Don’t be afraid. Be bold. At the very least you’ll learn something about your process!
Write a story in the form of a list
- You could write
- a ‘to do’ list,
- a list of grievances addressed to your character’s boss/children/spouse;
- a shopping list;
- a McSweeney’s style list;
- a list of steps you are advising someone to take,
- any other type of list you like.
- The title is hugely important. You might need to write it last. It should perhaps have a double meaning: it might mean one thing to the reader before they read the story and yet peel away a layer once the story is in their brains.
- Don’t be afraid to let the reader work. Leave things out. Imply much, explain little.
- Don’t feel the need to wrap this up neatly. Jennifer Egan doesn’t.
- The twist in this kind of tale, comes because the form betrays the meaning: a list is a utilitarian, ephemeral thing. The more important/dramatic the issue your character takes on in the list, the more impact the story will have (this can be dramatic, funny, ridiculous, dark, or anything else!)
Continuing our week of prompts aimed at creating rich backstory for novelists and short story writers alike, today we create an alternate story for your protagonist.
There is a moment in every story where a protagonist has to make a choice: to take up the challenge of the story or to turn away. Everything else flows from that.
Today, write a story in which your protagonist makes the other choice.
- This will, of course, result in a shorter story than otherwise.
- It will still have fallout. (Think: It’s A Wonderful Life, Sliding Doors etc.)
- Examine that fallout in a story.
Don’t forget to leave a comment, or do your Victory Dance in the community.
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:
Write a story that investigates a turning point in your protagonist’s past.
- 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.
Today I encourage you to take a second look at a story you’ve written before.
Take a story you’ve written before and write it again from a different point of view.
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.
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
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…
- 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.
Today, Charlotte Rains Dixon indulges in some whimsy, and I can’t wait to see what you come up with for this!
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
Charlotte 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.
Today, Marta Pelrine-Bacon encourages us to get a bit mysterious.
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.
In the last of my publication-related writing prompts, we sound a note of optimism, courtesy of Helios Quarterly Magazine.
Continue reading “[Writing Prompt] Redux & Progression”
Sticking with this month’s theme of writing for publication, today I bring you another prompt associated with a themed issue. This time it’s from Splickety Magazine…
Sticking with this month’s theme of writing for publication, today I bring you another prompt associated with a themed issue.
Continue reading “[Writing Prompt] Medieval Mayhem”
This week’s prompt comes from Mad Scientist Journal who are putting together a special edition with a theme that really tickles me!
Continue reading “[Writing Prompt] Utter Fabrication”
In keeping with this month’s theme of “Publication”, this prompt comes from a market that is actively looking for short stories right now!
Continue reading “[Writing Prompt] Diamonds And Toads”
Yesterday I reviewed Shakedown by Elizabeth Gonzalez, a story that doesn’t seem to be able to make its mind up whether it wants to be about the renovation of an old steam train, or about a fiesty old man in a Pennsylvania mountain town. It’s a wonderful example of a quiet climax: no car chases or bullets flying, but a satisfying story climax nonetheless. Continue reading “[Writing Prompt] Sleight of Hand”
In James Blish’s Surface Tension (which I reviewed recently), the author took the idea of space travel and did something a bit different with it: instead of humans arriving on a new planet and terraforming it to suit themselves, they genetically-engineer versions of humanity that would thrive on the planet.
Now that’s what I call ‘subverting reader expectations’. But it’s still a satisfying story that sticks to the rules of an off-planet adventure story (lots of ‘wonder’ and new environments, inter-personal conflict, conflict with the environment, bad guys, a struggle to unite the ‘good’ forces and to survive. Even a little romance.)
Write a story that subverts reader expectations but still works in genre Continue reading “[Writing Prompt] Turn A Trope Upside Down”
Today’s writing prompt is ripped straight from my 6th Grader’s homework folder, but that doesn’t make it any less relevant.
I’m steeped in (as well as 6th Grade homework) Lisa Cron’s fabulous latest book Story Genius, in which she makes the compelling point that you cannot begin to tell your character’s story until you know about their past.
It’s a delightfully obvious (and surprisingly overlooked) observation that ought to be front and center in every writing class. So here we go.
Interview a character from one of your stories. Find out as much as you can about their past and what formed the character they possess on Page One of their story. Continue reading “[Writing Prompt] Interrogate A Character”