In honor of this month’s theme, here at StoryADay, of Refilling The Well, I’m issuing a very odd writing prompt:
Don’t write/watch/read any stories today
- You’re probably a writer because you love stories/reading/storytelling.
- Since you decided to become a writer, your ‘work’ is storytelling, and so everything related to stories is now tinged with a different color.
- You used to relax by reading a good book, or watching a good show, but now those things make your subconscious go “oy, my character development isn’t as good as this” or “oo, I could do that in my third act…”
- You need to find, and indulge in, activities that are completely unrelated to writing/storytelling.
- Think about things you used to love to do as a kid (yes, I know, I know. I mean *apart from reading*). Did you like to roller-skate? Dance? Skip? Play tennis? Play piano? Sing? Knit? Paint? Build things? Garden? Hang out with friends? Lip synch?
- Pick one and try it. Clear 30 minutes out of your schedule and do something completely unrelated to storytelling.
P. S. Leave a comment to let us know what you picked and whether or not you felt rejuvenated afterwards.
In which I trick you into sending me cake…
It’s my long-suffering husband’s birthday today! (Happy birthday, dear!) In honor of that, here’s your prompt:
Write A Story That Features A Birthday
- You can take this in any direction: happy, creepy, silly, romantic, horrific…go wild.
- You could go a little ‘memoir’ on this: recount the story of your best or worst birthday.
- “Birthday” can be interpreted to mean anything from an actual human birth, to the day a supercomputer is switched on, to the anniversary of some other significant event.
- Feel free to send low-carb cake recipes.
- I just put that one in to see if you were still reading. But seriously: cake recipes. Nomnomnom.
This is it! You’ve made it!
This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. Today you’re going to take everything you’ve learned this month and write the story you’ve been waiting to write—the story you could not have written before today.
Go big or go home
- If you have written at all this month, you’;; have shaken loose some writing muscles, learned ways of creating time, making your writing a priority, and silencing your inner critic sot hat you can get that first draft written. Now, take all the lessons you learned about what you do best, stuff your inner critic and your inner editor into the sack, shove it under the bed, close the bedroom door, lock it, put on some earmuffs and write the story you want to write, today.
- Go big. If you light dark stories, but think you’re too nice a person to really be writing dark…forget it. Go really dark.
- If you discovered this month that you’ve a talent for being funny, go big today, be hilarious. Be outrageous. Write something so silly, so funny that you make yourself laugh.
- If you’ve discovered a talent for romance, go gushy today. Target their heartstrings, make yourself cry, make yourself swoon. Don’t worry what anyone else will think. You never have to show the stories to anyone!
- Maybe you discovered you’r good at writing things a little bit sexy. Go wild today. Say the things you never thought you could say. If you’re worried, handwrite it and then have a ceremonial burning. If you’re really shy, tell the story to yourself by whispering it, in the shower.
- Go further than you ever thought you would. You can always dial it back and rewrite or use this memory as a yardstick for future writing when you know you’ve gone too far. But try to go too far today.
- Today is all about joy. Make sure you are feeling the joy, and whatever you decide to write. It can be short, it can be long, it can be brilliant, it can be a mess. Just have fun.
Thank you so much for playing along this month
. I hope you learned a few things. I hope you’ve got the creative kick in the pants you were looking for. **Leave a comment and let us know what you wrote today, what you learned this month just how glad you are to be finished 🙂
And remember, keep writing!!
Haven’t joined the mailing list yet? today’s a perfect day to do it. We’ll be back here tomorrow with the SWAGr accountability group to declare our writing goals for the next month. Come back each following month to tell everybody how you got on. The accountability group is the most powerful way I’ve discovered to stay true to my writing. I hope you’ll join us.
If you wrote every day this month, you’ve written a decade of stories three times already. Three batches of 10 stories. Doesn’t that feel neat?
That’s because it conforms to the Rule of Three. For some reason humans love things that come in triplets.
This is a really powerful technique for making stories feeling balanced and deep.
Write a story using the rule of three
You’ve probably noticed that, in many stories, somebody tries and fails, tries and fails, tries and fails, three times. They might succeed on the third try. But they won’t succeed on the second try. That story structure has less resonance than if they fail twice and succeed n the third.
Character groupings often come in threes as well: you have the the hero, the smart one, and the funny one.
Even the fundamental story structure is made up of three parts: the beginning, the middle, and the end.
You can use send your character on a quest where they must complete three actions.
Perhaps your character gets three wishes, or three questions.
Maybe you can really play with this and drop the power of three in all over the place: every paragraph has three sentences; every sentence has a three syllable word in it. (I’m not sure that would make for great story but hey, we’re getting to the end of the month and were all getting a little punch-drunk!)
Leave a comment telling us how you use the power of three in your story today.
One of the biggest problems in fiction is when a writer creates nice characters and then doesn’t want to hurt them. Today, let’s make it hurt!
Torture your protagonist
This may come easily to some of you, so you don’t need to read any further. If you’re already good at torturing your protagonist. Just go and get writing!
For the rest of us, there’s a temptation to let our characters be funny and nice and lovable. We don’t want to make unsympathetic. However, if they’re too perfect, they’re not interesting.
Let’s think back to the earlier story, where I asked you to create a flawed protagonist. Wasn’t that fun? You can still have a sympathetic character by letting them be terrible at one thing, especially if they’re very, very good at a lot of other things.
You want the reader to root for your character and the won’t if she’s perfect.
Torturing your character doesn’t really mean doing terrible things to them. It just means separating them from their goals and desires.
Remember my story about the person who wants the chocolate cake? She’s witty and feisty and could be running around the world getting everything she wants, but the real story doesn’t start until she separated from her heart’s desire: the chocolate cake. I could write all day about my witty-and-feisty character and eventually you would stop reading, if I didn’t torture her little bit.
Think about your character’s desires their wants and needs. How can you separate them from the things they want, at least temporarily.
It can be their own internal demons that are keeping them from what they want. Or it can be an antagonistic force such as a natural disaster. Or it can be an antagonistic character such as an loving, but overbearing mother. Or it can be a straight-up villain.
Did you torture your character today? Leave a comment telling us what you did to your character and if it came naturally to you or if this is something new. If you are ignoring these prompts and writing your own stories, leave a comment and let us know how it’s going!
As you look back at your stories this week did you notice anything in particular about pacing — How quickly the action flowed from one incident to the next?
Write a story paying attention to the pacing
In a fast, plot driven story your pacing will be fast, too. Things happen quickly. We’re off. We run. Things happen. The language reflects that. There’s not a lot of standing around looking at things once the action gets underway. That’s not to say that you can’t have slow passages and descriptive moments. However, they generally come before the quick action happens.
In a literary or inward-focused story, the pacing is more languorous, with your characters pausing lots of delicious description, a whole lot of internal dialogue and long sentences with lots of complex clauses.
Within every story the pacing should vary. If you attempt to write a whole story at one pace, you will either leave your readers breathless, or bored.
Remember to make the language match the emotion of the moment: choppy and brisk when things are exciting, long and complex sentences when things are relaxed.
Leave a comment telling us what piece you were aiming for today, overall. Did you notice anything about your writing as you looked over your pieces this week?
Continuing the theme of reaching to your strengths, this week.
By necessity, in a challenge like this, you will likely have been writing very short stories. (I do know some people who managed to stretch to a few thousand words on some of the days, but for the most part if you’re finishing stories during this challenge it’s probably flash fiction.) For me, that’s fine. If you naturally trend long, today’s your day.
Write to your natural length
- I’m a natural sprinter (like Gimli the dwarf). Some people are ultra marathoners, like Brandon Sanderson. What’s your natural length?
- Today I give you permission to write a partial story, a scene, and extracts from a longer tale. It doesn’t have to feel complete, like a short story should, but it should still have something of a story arc. Use today to practice that.
- For example, if you have novel-in-progress, use today to write a scene from that novel. Because you’re continuing the longer work you don’t have to explain the setting and the characters, just jump in.
- If you don’t have a novel or longer project that you’re working on take a few minutes to daydream. If you were writing a novel what would it be about? Spend a few minutes imagining the setting the characters and then pick a dramatic moment in the story. Write that scene, as if you’ve already written everything that comes before this point in your “novel”.
- Even if you are writing a novel, you can write a dramatic scene from a hypothetical-other-novel, if that sounds like fun to you)
- After having spent the best part of the month writing short stories you may find that your scenes start to come out with a stronger narrative shape than they used to.
Leave a comment telling us how your writing went today. What did you write that? I don’t forget, if you’re enjoying this prompts, share them.
Today we’re taking your readers on an emotional ride!
Write a story designed to elicit specific emotions in the reader
In looking back at your stories this month, have you noticed that you are better at eliciting certain emotions than others? Perhaps you’re good at scaring people. Perhaps you’re good at writing tearjerkers. Perhaps you good at making people laugh. Or making people feel the beauty of the situation or your words.
Even if you’re not sure what you’re best at, pick an emotion today that you would like to make your readers feel. This is your chance to go all “Stephen King”, or “50 Shades Of Gray”.
In order to elicit emotions in readers you’re going to have to make them care about your character. Then you have to put that character in peril.
Peril doesn’t necessarily mean dangling them off a cliff. Just remember to focus on what they really, really want…and then take it away from them.
The more you can keep the reader inside the heart of your character the stronger their reaction will be.
Leave a comment to let us know which emotion you went for today. And remember, if you’re enjoying these prompts, why not share them?
Today were looking at point of you again, but in a slightly different way
Pick a point of view you don’t usually use and write a story in it
*Look back at the stories you’ve written this month or in the past. Do you have a favorite point of view? Do you always default to first person or third person? Write a story today in a different POV.
If you flip back and forth between different perspectives frequently, just decide which to use today based on what you’ve written so far this month. What have you done most of? Choose that.
Each point of view brings with it restrictions and possibilities. If you frequently right in the same point of view you may be limiting yourself
To demonstrate the power of POV, you may want to repeat the exercise we tried earlier in the month of taking a story that you’ve previously written and writing it from another point of view. This time however I want you to keep the same character as the protagonist. Simply change the “I said “to “he/she/it/they said”.
Try to focus on the opportunities that this new perspective offers. If you’re shifting from third person omniscient to a limited/first person perspective, **really dig into the facts really dig into the characters thoughts and emotions. In these more limited perspective there’s no excuse for “Telling Not Showing”. Everything can be written as if we’re riding along on their shoulder, experiencing everything with them.
If you’re moving from a limited perspective to a third person omniscient, celebrate the fight that you cannot see things from different peoples’ perspectives. The most effective, least confusing way to do this is to have seen breaks between each head hop in the short story. (You probably don’t want to do it more than a couple of times but it can be quite fun to have most of the story told one person’s perspective then have a line break and give another character’s perspective as the conclusion of the story revealing a lot about the truth of the situation that, perhaps, the first character didn’t know.)
If you hate moving away from your favorite point of view that’s fine. You don’t ever have to do it again. Sometimes creative failures are essential to teach you what to avoid in future.
Leave a comment telling us what you discovered in your writing today. Perhaps you are very versatile with point of view or perhaps this was ridiculously hard. What did you learn? And remember, if you’re enjoying these prompts,share them.
Since we talked since we touched on the genre yesterday when talking about the tone of your story, today we’re going to take a deeper look at genre and the expectations readers have, based on that genre
Write a story focusing on genre expectations
- Pick a genre that you know well. (It’s all very well to say that you’ll write a noir mystery, because the noir style is so easy to copy. But if you don’t really know noir you’re just making life harder for yourself.) If you spend most of your day reading Regency romance, then by all means write a Regency romance today. (I’m looking at you, fellas.)
- Grab a book in your chosen genre and take a look at the first page. How does the author let the reader know — immediately — that they are reading a particular genre? Look at the choice of words. Look at the names of the characters. Look at the length of the sentences. Each genre has specific norms and you need to be using these norms if you want to please a lot of readers. (If you’re making experimental art, you may be able to skip these things. But, even if you are writing for your own pleasure, you’ll be dissatisfied if you feel like you’re missing the mark. Looking at reader expectations in your genre is one way to narrow your focus and hit that mark.)
- Make a list of the features you notice on the front page of the book you chose.
- Now that you have a list of norms (and a cheatsheet) for your genre, grab a Story Spark and start writing in the style of the genre you’ve chosen. Don’t be afraid to go over the top and write almost a parody. It can be a useful lesson in what makes this genre tick.
Leave a comment telling us what genre you are writing in today. Was this exercise hard or easy for you? Did you know what genre to pick? And remember, if you’re enjoying these prompts, please share them!
Look back at your stories from this month and see which tone comes most naturally to you…
Continuing the journey of discovering what comes naturally to you and harnessing that.
Story focusing on one consistent tone
Pick a book from your bookshelf. Read the first page. You should be able to tell what kind of tone the entire book is going to have, from that first page. Is it going to be spooky? Is it going to be funny? Is it going to be poetic and lyrical?
Look back at your stories from this month and see which tone comes most naturally to you. It may not be the one you expect. A lot of people think they’re going to write “serious” fiction and find out that instead, they’re hilarious. And sometimes it works in reverse, too.
Pick the tone that came most naturally, even if it surprised you. Consciously write a story today using that tone.
Don’t forget to give us a character to root for, an interesting setting, and a problem that conflicts with the character’s deepest desires.
Don’t forget to finish!
Leave a comment to tell us what you discovered about your best tone. Or, ask for help if you need figure if you need help figuring this out.
Silence all the critics in your head telling you you should be writing some other way…
You been writing for three weeks you have a good body of work under your belt. Now is the time to pause, see what you learned, and start focusing on your strengths.
Write a story in the voice that came most easily to you this month.
- Take a look back at the stories you’ve written this month. Which story came easiest?
- Let’s try to replicate that today.
- Take something from that story—the character, or the universe, or something about the styling which was written.
- Give your character a new setting, or a new problem. Or introduce a new character in the same universe.
- Do whatever it takes to re-create the voice of that story. Silence all the critics in your head telling you you shouldn’t be writing this way. Don’t let them say you should be writing some other style, or in some other genre, or more seriously, or less seriously. Today is all about writing what you are best at, the voice that only you can write.
Leave a comment to let us know what you discovered about your writing and your voice this month, and what you wrote today. And remember, if you’re enjoying these prompts please share them.
Today I’m giving you a classic “story-starter” prompt. I really don’t do this much, do I?!
Begin your story with the line: “Huh!” He said. “I never would have thought that would fit in there…”
- You can go pretty much anywhere with this one.
- That’s all I’ve got.
Leave a comment to tell us where YOU went, with this prompt. I’m dying to know!
More ways for you to steal ideas, as we continue Rescue Week here at StoryADay
Write a Fan Fiction Story
- While you can’t legally use somebody else’s world and characters to write a story and publish it, nothing is stopping you from writing stories for your own pleasure inspired by someone else’s universes.
- There is no limits to what you can do here. Pick a story or character you feel doesn’t get enough air time in your favorite show.
- Change the ending to the series that you love.
- Write the untold story of what came before we first meet character.
- Tell whatever story is going to give you the most pleasure.
- There are lots of places online where people share fanfic (sometimes with the creators’ blessings, sometimes not so much), so you could go and read something and get some idea. However, this is a rabbit hole I’m not sure you want to go down during the StoryADay challenge. Not to mention the fact that some of it gets quite saucy!
- Use all of the tricks you’ve learned about storytelling to play with characters you already love you. Spend some time with them using your talents and your skills along with the knowledge you have amassed by watching/reading about them.
- Think about how you can provide shortcuts and clues that let readers who don’t necessarily know the character catch up. Don’t waste time on backstory unless that’s the story you’re telling. Don’t forget to add in emotion and conflict.
- It can be easy to get carried away writing about your favorite characters. Don’t forget to builds to a climax resolve the crisis to finish the story.
Leave a comment letting us know what you wrote about today and how it’s going. And don’t forget, if you like these prompts, share them!
This is one of my favorite prompts of all time!
Re-write a fairytale
- TYou can find source material in Grimm’s fairytales, in collections of folktales, Aesops Fables, collections of regional tales, all kinds of places… Your own culture has fairytales. Your own family has “fables” that they tell. Steal without remorse. (Just remember if it’s not in the public domain you get into the messy territory of derivative rights and copyright law…)
- You can retell the story from the perspective of a side character.
- You can modernize the story.
- You can twist the fairytale and give it a completely different ending.
- Use any genre for this. A Cinderella story with a happy ending featuring a trans-woman? Go for it! Rumpelstiltskin, as Nick Sparks-style uplifting tale where the goblin is really a good-hearted social worker who saves the kids from a grim fate with their terrible parent? Sure! Want to turn the story of Beauty and The Beast into a modern-day slasher-pic? Be our guest!
Leave a comment telling us what source material you picked, what you did with it, and how it went. Or just post and let us cheer you on, if you’re flagging; celebrate with you if you’re still writing; applaud you if you’re getting back on the horse!