[Write On Wednesday] Portrait of the Artist

Writers are inspired by many things, not least of all: other writers and artists.

This week I saw a blurb for a new book called “How Georgia Became O’Keefe“. 1

And it immediately suggested this week’s prompt:

Becoming “X”

(where “X” stands for an artist or author)

The Prompt

Write a story featuring an author you admire (or hate) and how they became an artist, or how a moment in their life sparked their definitive work (this can be completely made up. No need to do any research. Just use your imagination.

Other options:

  • Create a fictional encounter between the author and your main character
  • Write a fictionalized “autobiography” or diary entry by the author,
  • Go the “Possession” route and have your characters researching the artistic development of a writer and having their own adventure along the way.

The Rules:

1. You should use the prompt in your story (however tenuous the connection).

2. You must write the story in one 24 hr period – the faster the better.

3. Post the story in the comments — if you’re brave enough.

4. Find something nice to say about someone else’s story and leave a comment. Everybody needs a little support!

Optional Extras:

Share this challenge on Twitter or Facebook

Some tweets/updates you might use:

Don’t miss my short story: Portrait of the Artist  #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-yu

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is a chance to ‘meet’ your fave author #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-yu

Come and write with us! #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-yu

See my story – and write your own, today: Portrait of the Artist  #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-yu

  1. Isn’t that a great title?

[Write on Wednesday] Why Would You Say That?!

Communication

It happens all the time:

  • You say one thing, your boss hears another.
  • Your kid’s teacher tells him to finish an assignment by Friday, he tell you Monday.
  • He says he’s busy, she hears “I don’t love you anymore”.

Miscommunication is part of life. It can lead to hilarity or it can be tragic. Crises can be averted, or opportunities can be missed. A story based on miscommunication can be frustrating or poignant.

The Prompt

Write a story where two characters misunderstand each other.

Tip

  • Try to make the miscommunication something that couldn’t easily be solved if the characters simply ‘fess up and talk like adults. Keep them apart, have someone interfere, find another way to make the miscommunication believable.
  • Make sure your story travels from start to end: don’t just write a scene, make someone or something change between the first word and the last.

The Rules:

1. You should use the prompt in your story (however tenuous the connection).

2. You must write the story in one 24 hr period – the faster the better.

3. Post the story in the comments — if you’re brave enough.

4. Find something nice to say about someone else’s story and leave a comment. Everybody needs a little support!

Optional Extras:

Share this challenge on Twitter or Facebook

Some tweets/updates you might use:

Don’t miss my short story: miscommunication  #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-ym

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is all about miscommunication #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-ym

Come and write with us! #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-ym

See my story – and write your own, today: Why Would You Say That?  #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-ym

[Write On Wednesday] Changing Seasons

Sprinkler

I don’t know about you, but where I live, the season has definitely changed.

A month or so ago, the weather was changeable, spring-like and hanging on to the old season. Now we are fully into the next season: hot, humid, and surrounded by school-free kids running wild through the backyards.

The Prompt

Set a story on a day when your character notices the season has changed.

Include details in your story that let the reader know how this new season expresses itself in your character’s setting. (And, if you’re writing something futuristic, on a space station, it can be the turning of a new season without any reference to weather at all. Humans have a way of dividing up time and marking it off on the calendar.)

Use the change of season to echo some significant change in your character. Be as subtle or obvious as you please.

Tips

• Make sure your story travels from start to end: don’t just write a scene, make someone or something change between the first word and the last.

The Rules:

1. You should use the prompt in your story (however tenuous the connection).

2. You must write the story in one 24 hr period – the faster the better.

3. Post the story in the comments — if you’re brave enough.

4. Find something nice to say about someone else’s story and leave a comment. Everybody needs a little support!

Optional Extras:

Share this challenge on Twitter or Facebook

Some tweets/updates you might use:

Don’t miss my short story: Changing Seasons  #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-yh

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is all about change #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-yh

Come and write with us! #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-yh

See my story – and write your own, today: Changing Seasons at #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-yh

[Write On Wednesday] Passages

Just a number

Today is my birthday!

It’s a big one too: one of those round numbers that everyone finds so significant. The big four-oh.

When I saw it coming I decided to emulate a friend of mine and and throw myself a party. Another friend is running away to a secluded beach when her time comes next month.

 

We humans love to mark our lives with milestones like this: New Year, birthday, anniversaries, this-time-last-year-s. The milestones can be happy or sad, full of surprise or deeply disappointing.

The Prompt

Write a story in which a character reaches, anticipates or reminisces about a milestone. 

How does she react? Is it as meaningful as everyone said it would be? Does he run towards it or shy away from it? Does it change anything?

 

Go!

 

The Rules:

1. You should use the prompt in your story (however tenuous the connection).

2. You must write the story in one 24 hr period – the faster the better.

3. Post the story in the comments — if you’re brave enough.

4. Find something nice to say about someone else’s story and leave a comment. Everybody needs a little support!

Optional Extras:

Share this challenge on Twitter or Facebook

Some tweets/updates you might use:

Don’t miss my short story about milestones!  #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-ya

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is all about milestones! #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-ya

Come and write with us! #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-ya

See my story – and write your own, today: Passages at #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-ya

[Prompt] Picaresque

I first came across the term “picaresque” when I was about 13 and assigned “Catcher In the Rye” to read for school.

It meant, I learned, a story about a journey: literal or figurative, or ideally both.

Today I’m traveling to New York for Book Expo America 2012 and while I’m taking a literal journey, your assignment is to

Write A Story In Which Your Hero Takes A Literal And Figurative Journey

Go!

20120606-082116.jpg

[Prompt] May 30 – The Climax

We’re almost there…but not quite. You might call this The Climax: that moment right before the resolution. So today’s prompt really has to be:

Focus on writing a great climax

The climax is the action the protagonist chooses to take after facing the moment of crisis, where he or she is pushed to the edge with no way out.
Candace Kearns Read

(If you need to ‘cheat’ and take a previously-written character or plot for this one, that’s fine. If that helps you move through the early parts of the story quickly enough to focus all your energy on writing a great climax.)

This is a great moment to show that thing I’m always banging on about: the journey of the character. How has she changed since the beginning of the story? Or how have we?

Remember, the climax is not the resolution (that comes tomorrow, sob!). The climax is action packed (even if the action is internal, or is, in fact, inaction). No wishy-washy stuff here. This is the moment to let your characters shine.

Go!

[Prompt] May 17 – The Chase

This week’s prompts are all inspired by ‘plot patterns’ from James Scott Bell’s Write Great Fiction – Plot & Structure.

Write a story in which your protagonist is being chased by someone or something. If you choose to show what/who the hero is running from, make sure that pursuer has a vested interest in catching the hero (make it their obsession). Will your hero get away? Stay on the run? Find a safe haven? Convince their pursuer it’s all been a terrible mistake?

Write A Story About A Chase

Go!

[Write On Wednesday] – Leap

Today’s prompt is, rather appropriately, about the moment before something big.

It’s the breath before the scream; the crouch before the leap; the blink before the resolute stare; The moment with her hand on the door frame before she leaves for good.

The Prompt

LEAP!

IMG_1614

Tips

• Make sure your story travels from start to end: don’t just write a scene, make someone or something change between the first word and the last.

The Rules:

1. You should use the prompt in your story (however tenuous the connection).

2. You must write the story in one 24 hr period – the faster the better.

3. Post the story in the comments — if you’re brave enough.

4. Find something nice to say about someone else’s story and leave a comment. Everybody needs a little support!

Optional Extras:

Share this challenge on Twitter or Facebook

Some tweets/updates you might use:

Don’t miss my short story: Leap!  #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://storyaday.org/wow-leap

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is the deep breath before the plunge! #storyadayhttp://storyaday.org/wow-leap

Come and write with us! #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://storyaday.org/wow-leap

See my story – and write your own, today: Leap at #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://storyaday.org/wow-leap

 

If you would like to be the Guest Prompter, click here.

[Write On Wednesday] Location As Character

Sherlock Holmes has Victorian London.

John Irving has New England.

John O’Hara’s short stories couldn’t work without their small-town Pennsylvania backdrop.

Even fantasy settings need to feel real in order to succeed (think Middle Earth, or Earthsea, or Deep Space Nine). So today we’re going to practise writing stories in which the location is as vivid as any character.

 

And in this age of Google Maps, Wikipedia, Flickr, Pinterest, a billion hobby blogs and online tourist information sites, there is no excuse for writing a thin, anemic version of any place you can imagine. (Even if you write fantasy, you can base the details in something real.)

The Prompt

Simcoe St in Toronto

Simcoe St in downtown Toronto, ON.

  • Pick a place you have never been (preferably somewhere you have a friend – online or otherwise).
  • Spend no more than 30 minutes researching it. Use Google Street View, search for blogs based there and ‘listen’ to how its residents talk, scan newspaper archives and obituaries, look at the high school and local library’s websites.
  • Set a story in the location you have learned about. Paint a vivid picture of the place; weave it through your action; salt your character’s dialogue with local flavor.
  • Then ask your long-distance friend how close you came to getting it right? What bloopers did you make? What slang did you get wrong? Was it too generic? Was it spot on?

Tips 

  • Remember to tell a story about characters in your location. This is not a travel brochure.
  • Write fast. It’s just a fun exercise.
  • Make sure your story travels from start to end: don’t just write a scene, make someone or something change between the first word and the last.

The Rules:

  1. You should use the prompt in your story (however tenuous the connection).
  2. You must write the story in one 24 hr period – the faster the better.
  3. Post the story in the comments — if you’re brave enough.
  4. Find something nice to say about someone else’s story and leave a comment. Everybody needs a little support!

Optional Extras:

Share this challenge on Twitter or Facebook

Some tweets/updates you might use:

Don’t miss my short story: Location, Location, Location!  #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-qb

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is to write in a concrete location! #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-qb

Come and write with us! #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-qb

See my story – and write your own, today: Location As Character at #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-qb

If you would like to be the Guest Prompter, click here.


[Write On Wednesday] – Style Switch

The Write On Wednesday story prompts are designed to prompt quickly-written stories that you can share in the comments. It’s a warm-up exercise, to loosen up your creativity muscles. Come back every Wednesday to see a new prompt.


This week’s prompt was inspired by yesterday’s Tuesday Reading Room story, The  Sellout by Mike Cooper. In that story, the author uses traditional hard-boiled detective tropes, but his detective is investigating… accounting fraud.  

The Prompt – Style Switcheroo





Write a story where you use a familiar style of writing (Romance, space opera, Western, literary fiction, YA paranormal, political thriller, whatever you’re most familiar with) but use it to treat a subject that is outwith the normal subject matter  for that genre.

(Think: Pride & Prejudice and Zombies, or Tom Clancy trying to write a bodice-ripper, FF. Scott Fitzgerald on a space station…)

What will you write?

Tips

  • Don’t worry about your audience and who might read it. 
  • Do feel free to cross over into parody or be ridiculous. It’s just a fun exercise.
  • Make sure your story travels from start to end: don’t just write a scene, make someone or something change between the first word and the last.

The Rules:

  1. You should use the prompt in your story (however tenuous the connection).
  2. You must write the story in one 24 hr period – the faster the better.
  3. Post the story in the comments — if you’re brave enough.
  4. Find something nice to say about someone else’s story and leave a comment. Everybody needs a little support!

Optional Extras:

Share this challenge on Twitter or Facebook

Some tweets/updates you might use:

Don’t miss my short story: [style] meets [subject]  #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-qb

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is a style switch! #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-qb

Come and write with us! #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-qb 

See my story – and write your own, today: Style Switch at #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-qb

If you would like to be the Guest Prompter, click here.

[Write On Wednesday] Trapped

The Write On Wednesday story prompts are designed to prompt quickly-written stories that you can share in the comments. It’s a warm-up exercise, to loosen up your creativity muscles. Come back every Wednesday to see a new prompt.

If you’d like more accountability, support and structure as you warm up your writing for StoryADay May 2012, why not join the Warm-Up Writing Course?  Click here for details.


This week’s prompt was conceived as a character study, but the more I think about it, I realise it can focus on descriptive writing, point of view, or almost anything!

The Prompt – Trapped

Trapped #1
“Trapped #1” by Waltimo

Write a story where the main (or only) character is trapped, literally or figuratively.

Literal traps can be prisons, a locked room, the side of a mountain, inside an alien spaceship, a bear trap, a maze, anything you can imagine!   (Personally, I’d love to see someone write a claustrophobic locked-in-a-box story with only one character, and see how you manage to sustain that — great opportunity for character and description!)

Figurative traps could be anything from a bad marriage to con and could be a fairly conventional short story that lets you work on your dialogue or plotting.

What will you write?

Tips

  • Don’t worry about your audience and who might read it
  • Make sure your story travels from start to end: don’t just write a scene, make someone or something change between the first word and the last.

The Rules:

  1. You should use the prompt in your story (however tenuous the connection).
  2. You must write the story in one 24 hr period – the faster the better.
  3. Post the story in the comments — if you’re brave enough.
  4. Find something nice to say about someone else’s story and leave a comment. Everybody needs a little support!

Optional Extras:

Share this challenge on Twitter or Facebook

Some tweets/updates you might use:

Don’t miss my short story: Trapped  #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-pA

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is a cool old map! #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-pA

Come and write with us: Trapped! #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-pA

See my story – and write your own, today: Trapped! #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-pA

If you would like to be the Guest Prompter, click here.

[Write On Wednesday] Story Sparks

“Where do you get your ideas?”

Every established writer has a tale to tell about being asked that question.

Some of them lie and tell people they order them from an Idea store. Some wearily answer that they think really hard until the ideas come. Still others joyfully shout that ideas are everywhere, what are you crazy? Don’t you see them?!

The truth is, the more you look for ideas, the more you’ll see them. But you do have to look

The Prompt

This week’s prompt is not a writing prompt, but a prompt-prompt. This week you’re going to look for Story Sparks.

We’re just over a month away from StoryADay May. You’re going to need at least 31 ideas (more in case a few don’t work out).  I’m not talking about outlining your stories, or even coming  up with great ideas, just about writing a list of sparks for stories, or places you can find those sparks.

Ray Bradbury in Zen In The Art of Writing, talks about one method of gathering what I’ve come to think of as “story sparks”:

“I began to gather long lists of titles, to put down long lines of nouns. These nouns were provocations, finally, that caused my better stuff to surface.”

Today, set a timer for as long as you can manage (ten minutes? 20? Half an hour?) and then use that time to write down as many Story Sparks as you can.

Write down:

  • Lists of nouns (things that scare you, matter to you, frustrate you)
  • Your favorite colorful metaphors. (Consider them as titles for a story)
  • Aphorisms you can play with (“See No Evil” “A Bird In The Hand”)
  • The names of the weirdest people you have met in your life (or a quick description if you can’t remember their real names)
  • Lyrics and lines from poetry that have stuck in your brain for years
  • The titles of your favorite artworks
  • The most striking places you’ve visited (potential settings)
  • Historical tidbits you’ve learned on trips (or in your own town)

Extra Credit

Capture three more story sparks every day for the next week: eavesdrop, read obituaries, browse the front page of Wikipedia, bookmark quirky photographs, read poetry, delve into medical textbooks, looks, listen, smell, breathe in the world around you. Capture three sparks from all that living you do every day.

Share in the comments a source of story sparks that you discovered or found most productive.

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

[Write On Wednesday] – The Ambiguous Protagonist

I/Eye illustrationMy nine-year-old son recently volunteered that he hates “I” stories, because you can’t know the main character’s name until someone else says it.

I found it interesting that he finds this lack of information about a character annoying. Perhaps I did, at age nine. Now, however, I enjoy the gaps in a short story, in the descriptions. I relish the mystery, the sense of discovery. Sometimes the discovery is simply the true character of the protagonist. Sometimes, the character turns out to be not human at all.

The Prompt

Write a story in which the reader does not know a key piece of information about one of the characters. It can be as simple as making the story a first-person narrative, or you can offer a twist in the tale.

Tips

  • Don’t worry about your audience and who might read it
  • Make sure your story travels from start to end: don’t just write a scene, make someone or something change between the first word and the last.

The Rules:

  1. You should use the prompt in your story (however tenuous the connection).
  2. You must write the story in one 24 hr period – the faster the better.
  3. Post the story in the comments — if you’re brave enough.
  4. Find something nice to say about someone else’s story and leave a comment. Everybody needs a little support!

Optional Extras:

Share this challenge on Twitter or Facebook

Some tweets/updates you might use:

Don’t miss my short story about the a mysterious character:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-oJ

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is “the ambiguous protagonist”! #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-oJ

Come and write with us:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-oJ

See my story – and write your own, today:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-oJ

If you would like to be the Guest Prompter, click here.

Write On Wednesday – The Unknown

I came across this delicious map in an online archive, instantly started thinking about story-writing.

Map of North America by George Willdey , 1715

Not only do our stories often start out this way (we can see, maybe as far as Cleveland, but beyond that it is terra incognita), but the whole frontier idea is rich with story possibilities.

The Prompt

Write a story that involves the unknown, the unknowable, a frontier (physical or metaphysical). It could be set any time or place in this world or another universe.Take the idea of that unknown portion of the map from 1714 and find a way to work it into your story’s landscape.

Tips

  • Don’t worry about your audience and who might read it
  • Make sure your story travels from start to end: don’t just write a scene, make someone or something change between the first word and the last.

The Rules:

  1. You should use the prompt in your story (however tenuous the connection).
  2. You must write the story in one 24 hr period – the faster the better.
  3. Post the story in the comments — if you’re brave enough.
  4. Find something nice to say about someone else’s story and leave a comment. Everybody needs a little support!

Optional Extras:

Share this challenge on Twitter or Facebook

Some tweets/updates you might use:

Don’t miss my short story about the Unknown:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-o7

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is a cool old map! #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-o7

Come and write with us:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-o7

See my story – and write your own, today:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-o7

If you would like to be the Guest Prompter, click here.

[Write On Wednesday] How to Use Pinterest To Write A Short Story

Don’t even think of telling me you can’t think of anything to write.

Not with a site like Pinterest at your fingertips.

How To Use Pinterest To Help With Your Writing

What is Pinterest? It’s a virtual scrapbook where people grab and save images from the web, all neatly categorized and ready for your browsing pleasure. It’s like looking over the shoulder of everyone in the world, but being able to choose only the topics that you’re interested in right now.

This week we’re going to use Pinterest to create the elements of a story that you will write.

The Prompt

First, your setting. Choose a picture of an interior or an outdoor vista, and use that as your setting.

Next, characters. Click here to find the face of your characters in the story. Choose at least two (one can be minor, one should be your major character). If you choose a celebrity, just steal their face for your story. Look at their features, forget about the persona. Use their features in any descriptions in your story.

Now that you have your character and setting, something needs to happen. Browse this eclectic page until a picture jumps out at you, and suggests a question or an event. I found this picture of a teacup and saucer and immediately saw an opportunity for a story  — some kind of inter-generational story with the teacup coming down to a young woman from an elderly relative; the story behind it; life lessons; redemption; who knows? But it’s a spark on which to hang a story.

Tips

  • Don’t worry about your audience and who might read it
  • Make sure your story travels from start to end: don’t just write a scene, make someone or something change between the first word and the last.

The Rules:

  1. You should use the prompt in your story (however tenuous the connection).
  2. You must write the story in one 24 hr period – the faster the better.
  3. Post the story in the comments — if you’re brave enough.
  4. Find something nice to say about someone else’s story and leave a comment. Everybody needs a little support!

Optional Extras:

Share this challenge on Twitter or Facebook

Some tweets/updates you might use:

Don’t miss my Pinterest-inspired short story:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday bit.ly/xk1FwJ

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is all about Pinterest! #storyaday bit.ly/xk1FwJ

Come and write with us:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday bit.ly/xk1FwJ

See my story – and write your own, today:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday bit.ly/xk1FwJ

If you would like to be the Guest Prompter, click here.