[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.

 

[Write On Wednesday] Digital Story Cubes

OK, so I’ve used my real-life Story Cubes to generate a prompt once before, but now the cute game has an even cuter app, and who am I to resist?

So, behold: this week’s story prompt comes from the Rory’s Story Cubes app.

 

storycubesapp

I’ll leave it up to you whether you use ALL the cubes, but I think I have to insist that you use at least five. Good luck!

(P.S. With a shooting star, a magic wand, a turtle and a world, how many of you are going to be writing Discworld fan-fic?)

 

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 StoryCube-inspired short story:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is dice-based! #storyaday

Come and write with us:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday

See my story – and write your own, today:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday

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

[Write On Wednesday] – Stories From The Everyday

Sometimes it’s fun to write about big, grand, dramatic themes: war, a break-up, a life-changing event.

But sometimes the most effective stories come from a meticulously detailed moment in everyday life: someone opens a letter, someone puts down a phone, someone opens a door.

Of course, what matters in stories like these is character: how does your character anticipate, react; what’s at stake?

Tudou office

The Prompt

Write a story in which you examine a small moment from every day life and illuminate something – about your character or about the world. Keep the inciting incident mundane, and the consequences too, if you can. But show us something big about life.

Tips

  • Don’t make the drama too big. Let it spring from a tiny, everyday encounter. But make it matter to your character in some way.
  • Take an incident from your life today (or yesterday) that vexed you, or delighted you. Give it to a character who is weaker than you, or stronger than you, or more exuberant, or more of a wall-flower. Show us how you would have dealt with it in a more or less ideal world.
  • Write fast, as fast as you can.
  • 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 must write the story in one 24 hr period – the faster the better.
  2. This week, DON’T post the story in the comments — but do leave a comment saying you wrote something.
  3. 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:

Can you find the story in everyday things?  #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://storyaday.org/wow-everyday/

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is Everyday Experiences: #storyaday http://storyaday.org/wow-everyday/

Come and keep your writing resolution with this week’s prompt:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://storyaday.org/wow-everyday/

I wrote my story today – will you write yours?  #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://storyaday.org/wow-everyday/

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

[Write On Wednesday] Six Sentences

This week’s prompt comes with a built-in market to submit your work to after you’re finished: Six Sentences. I subscribe to their daily stories by email and I often find it inspiring to wake up to a micro-story written by someone else. Surely, my brain says to me, you could manage a story in six sentences today.

Six Sentences screenshot

The challenge of course is that even (especially?) a six-sentence story has to have a beginning, a middle, a end, a clever idea, some action and (incredible, instantly) engaging characters. Micro-stories often have a twist to give them a kick, but they don’t have to – as today’s submission shows.

The Prompt

Write a story in six sentences.

Six sentences.

You can do that, right?

Tips

  • It’s probably best to emphasize only one feature (character or setting or action, or the twist) but all the other elements must be there too.
  • Write fast, as fast as you can.
  • 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 must write the story in one 24 hr period – the faster the better.
  2. This week, DON’T post the story in the comments — but do leave a comment saying you wrote something.
  3. Find something nice to say about someone else’s story and leave a comment. Everybody needs a little support!

Optional Extras:

Submit your story to Six Sentences!
Share this challenge on Twitter or Facebook

Some tweets/updates you might use:

Could you write a six sentence short story?  #WriteOnWed #storyaday

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is Six Sentences: #storyaday

Come and keep your writing resolution with this week’s prompt:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday

I wrote my story today – will you write yours?  #WriteOnWed #storyaday

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

[Write On Wednesday] Starting Over

The Prompt

Any resolution for 2oo7?

It’s January: the time of resolutions and fresh starts.

Write a story in which your character is starting over, has a fresh start, or resolves to do something differently from now on.

 

Tips

  • Your ‘character’ doesn’t have to be a human. It could be a fresh start for an old building; a story written from the perspective of a newly-laundered curtain flapping on the clothes line; a demon with a quota to fill…go wild.
  • Write fast, as fast as you can.
  • 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 must write the story in one 24 hr period – the faster the better.
  2. Post the story in the comments — if you’re brave enough.
  3. 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 Starting Over short story:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is Starting Over: #storyaday

Come and keep your writing resolution with with this week’s prompt:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday

See my story – and write your own, today:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday

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

[Write On Wednesday] A Letter To A Friend

Sometimes, while writing, I get hung up on my style.

(Am I using too many adverbs? Am I describing the setting vividly enough? Even if it doesn’t mattter?)

This is an absolute killer for a first-draft of anything.  It’s fine to worry about these things in the editing process. The important  thing for a first draft, however, is getting into the flow.

To help my writing flow, recently I’ve found myself imaging I’m writing for my best friends from high school – to whom I wrote real, paper letters after we went our separate ways.

BFF

Photo by tifotter

In the letters I told stories about stuff that had happened to me, or stuff I was thinking about or what I could see out of my window. They were gleeful, ridiculous, and great fun to write. I wrote as fast as I physically could (apologising at the end for my handwriting) and got equally gleeful and ridiculous letters in return.

Now, whenever I’m having trouble with a story I imagine I’m telling it to Linda or Miranda, who are the perfect audience for me: always supportive, always ready to have a good time and listen to my ramblings.

The Prompt

Write a story as if you were telling it to your best friend.

Tips

  • It doesn’t have to be in the first person (though this might help), but imagine it is being written only for your best friend to read.
  • Write fast, as fast as you can.
  • 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 must write the story in one 24 hr period – the faster the better.
  2. Post the story in the comments — if you’re brave enough.
  3. Find something nice to say about someone else’s story and leave a comment. Everybody needs a little support!

Optional Extras:

Bonus points if you stick it in an envelope and mail it (yes, actually mail it) to the person you wrote it for.

Share this challenge on Twitter or Facebook

Some tweets/updates you might use:

Don’t miss my BFF-inspired short story:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is What Makes You Mad?: #storyaday

Come and write with us:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday

See my story – and write your own, today:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday

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

[Write On Wednesday] What Makes You Mad?

When you see/read/hear something that makes you crazy, what do you do? Rant to a friend? Blog about it? Post a sarcastic comment on Facebook?

Angry_Bread_Large

Photo by Psycholabs

Why not turn it into the premise for a story? There’s nothing better for a story than a bit of passion, so take your pet peeves and turn them into characters, situations or problems. Get yourself good and steamed up and then let rip!

Today I’m writing about people who drive me crazy in my every day life. I feel bad writing about them, because I’m a nice girl who never says this kind of stuff. But you know what? I have some characters who can say all those things I’d never be able to bring myself to say. I’m having a blast!

 

The Prompt

Write about something that drives you crazy!!!

Tips

  • Don’t be too nice.

  • 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 Flickr-inspired short story:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is What Makes You Mad?: #storyaday

Come and write with us:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday

See my story – and write your own, today:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday

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

[Write On Wednesday] Photo Prompt

Sometimes it’s easy to come up with a subject, a character, a problem or an issue on which to hang your short story.

Some days it’s not. But that doesn’t mean you can’t write. I just means getting started might be harder.

If you’re finding it hard to start writing today, hop on over to the Flickr “Interesting” page (pictures someone at Flickr has tagged as ‘interesting’ in the past 7 days).

Screen shot 2011 09 21 at 10 53 26 AM

The Prompt

Grab a picture and start writing. See where it leads.

Tips

  • Don’t try to force your usual style onto this story. See what comes out.
  • Don’t try to do too much. Whatever you start will probably be a brand new idea. Keep it short and simple.
  • Make sure your story travels from start to end: don’t just write a description, 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 Flickr-inspired short story: http://bit.ly/nEQ6Mc  #WriteOnWed #storyaday

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is a Photo Prompt: http://bit.ly/nEQ6Mc #storyaday

Come and write with us: http://bit.ly/nEQ6Mc  #WriteOnWed #storyaday

See my story – and write your own, today: http://bit.ly/nEQ6Mc  #WriteOnWed #storyaday

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

[Write On Wednesdays] Escape

Tomorrow is the birth date of escapologist and magician Harry Houdini, so it seems a good time to write a story about escape.

Conversely today marks the 10th anniversary of the Russian Space Station Mir falling back to the Earth that had held it in is gravitational embrace for so long. Mir never really escaped from Earth, but it did soar above us, suggesting the promise of escape to those of us who look to the stars in our dreams.

photo courtesy of NASA

The prompt

Write a story about escape – or the failure to escape.

This week, try starting in the middle of the action and unpacking the back story as you go.

Continue reading “[Write On Wednesdays] Escape”