Today’s prompt comes from another wonderful writer from my local network.
I had a nightmare last night. I woke up and started writing….
About Maria Hazen Lewis
Maria Hazen Lewis writes women’s fiction in Pennsylvania.
Today’s prompt comes from another wonderful writer from my local network.
I had a nightmare last night. I woke up and started writing….
Maria Hazen Lewis writes women’s fiction in Pennsylvania.
Today’s prompt is about the (sometimes comedic) art of misapprehension.
Today’s prompt focuses on misapprehension – that is, interpreting something incorrectly. Too often, in fiction, every character communicates perfectly. That’s not the way it happens in real life.
Example: award-winning author Harlan Ellison once misheard a conversation at a party. He overheard a woman say, “”Jeffy is fine. He’s always fine.”” What Ellison actually heard was “”He’s always FIVE.”” That inspired the story “”Jefty Is Five,”” about a boy who never grows up.
Alternately, the misapprehension could be visual. True story: when I graduated college, I moved to a southern town – one of those places where anti-intellectualism seemed to be the prevailing attitude. I met lots of girls there, but I was looking for an intellectual girlfriend. One day, while sitting in dingy waiting room, I saw a pretty girl outside. To my amazement, she wore a tee-shirt with the letters “”SPQR”” on it. SPQR stood for – in Latin – “”The Senate and the People of Rome.”” What kind of woman wore a tee-shirt that referenced Ancient Rome? I had to meet her! I rushed outside, saw the girl…and discovered that her shirt didn’t say “”SPQR.”” It said “”SPORT.”” Stretched around her well-endowed chest, the final letter was hadn’t been visible from where I sat. (I was so disappointed, I didn’t even speak to her.)
So that’s your prompt: misapprehension, either verbal or visual.
Born in Philadelphia, PA, Tony Conaway has written and ghostwritten everything from blogs to books. He has cowritten non-fiction books published by McGraw-Hill, Macmillan and Prentice Hall. His fiction has been published in eight anthologies and numerous publications, including Blue Lake Review, Danse Macabre, Rind Literary Magazine, qarrtsiluni, The Rusty Nail and Typehouse Literary Magazine.
His odder work includes co-writing the script for a planetarium production, and jokes performed by Jay Leno on The Tonight Show. He blogs at http://wayneaconaway.blogspot.com/ He was recently a guest on the Indy Writer Podcast, talking about writing short fiction.
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…
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’s prompt, from author Sarah Cain, features a chance encounter. This is going to be fun!
The chance encounter. Have you ever run into someone you know when you look grubby? Or maybe you see an old boyfriend at Starbucks. Or perhaps, as in Alfred Hitchcock’s famous Stranger’s On a Train, you run into a stranger who offers to do you a service, like murder, in return for you returning the favor. Think of a chance encounter that could leave you shaken, stirred, or in deep trouble.
Sarah Cain is the author of the Danny Ryan political thrillers, The 8th Circle and One By One. She lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with her husband Howard, a former political consultant, and her two insane cats, and spends a great deal of time contemplating murder. In her spare time, she reads, plays Cards for Humanity, and dreams about moving to Ireland.
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.
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.
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.
Today, Stuart Horwitz invites us to a bit of self-reflection.
Think back to a time earlier in your life, maybe high school, when you knew a good person with whom you have fallen out of touch.
If you were to reconnect with this person right now, what one question would you ask them? Why are you asking that question — what does it say about your journey right now?
What piece of yourself are you currently focused on finding?
For memoir writers: write this now.
For fiction writers: turn yourself and your friend into characters. Write the story of their encounter.
Stuart Horwitz is a ghostwriter, independent editor, and founder and principal of Book Architecture (www.BookArchitecture.com). Book Architecture’s clients have reached the best-seller list in both fiction and non-fiction, and have appeared on Oprah!, The Today Show, The Tonight Show.
He is the author of three books on writing: Finish Your Book in Three Drafts (2016), Book Architecture (2015) which became an Amazon bestseller, and Blueprint Your Bestseller (Penguin/Perigee, 2013), which was named one of that year’s best books about writing by The Writer magazine.
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Today, Angela Ackerman invites us to think about our character’s past emotional trauma and how it affects them in the present.
This is a really useful exercise for deepening any character in any length of story. Use it for a character from a novel, or for the character in a short story. It can’t help but make your story more rich.
And remember: emotion is the key to a reader connecting with your story.
Emotional trauma is an experience, or set of experiences, that can change your character in fundamental ways, altering their personality, embedding fears in their minds, affecting their ability to connect and trust others, and steering their needs and desires during your story.
Write about a wounding experience from your character’s past that changed them into who they are today.
HINT: most wounding experiences involve someone close to the character as it is the people closest to us who are able to do the most psychological damage.
For emotional wound ideas, try this list: https://onestopforwriters.com/wounds
Angela Ackerman is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of The Emotion Thesaurus: a Writer’s Guide to Character Expression and four other bestselling writing guides. A proud indie author, her books are available in five languages, sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors and psychologists around the world.
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Phil Giunta gives us a situation today that suggests mystery, but you don’t have to write a full-on mystery if you don’t want to.
It is, however, a great reminder that suspense plays an important role in all storytelling…
You walk into your office and see a new message written on your whiteboard: “Whatever happens, don’t die. See you Monday.”
The note is not signed and you’re not certain who wrote it…
LJ Cohen brings us a fabulous writing prompt today, for Day 4 of the challenge.
This is an example of how you can put limits on your writing options, to increase your chances of getting your writing DONE on a day when it seems impossible.
I know, it sounds counterintuitive, right? Limits make things easier?
But it’s true (you can Google it. Lots of experts say too much choice is a bad thing!).
Play along with LJ today, as she encourages you to fill in the blanks, and then flesh out a story from your notes.
You’re back! It’s Day 2 of StoryADay May 2017 and you’re still here. That’s pretty impressive (believe me, not everyone makes it!)
Today’s prompt is from uber-best-selling author Jerry B. Jenkins. Check out the links below for more (free!) writing advice from Jerry.
Three unexpected people were in the headlines last year: Adele, Gwen Stefani, and Seinfeld. Each of them achieved phenomenal success in different ways and for different reasons. But as I followed their stories, I realized that they had a common denominator—one key ingredient to their success—and it’s something every writer needs.
In 2015, Adele finally released her album 25 after four long years—a hiatus no one, including Adele, had expected. The album came out at the end of the year, but it still easily swept away its competition, selling eight million copies in six weeks in the US alone. (To put that number in perspective, Taylor Swift released her album 1989 the previous year and it sold 3.66 million copies in eight weeks, less than half of Adele’s sales.)
I doubt anyone expected Gwen Stefani to be on the Billboard charts in 2016—she hadn’t had a solo album or even a hit single in over a decade. True, in 2014 she was a coach on “The Voice,” but her appearance didn’t even ruffle the music industry.
Then in 2015, Gwen rocketed into the headlines, but not for the reason she would have liked. After thirteen years of marriage, she divorced Gavin Rossdale, the lead singer of Bush. Somehow, despite the tsunami of scrutiny and gossip, Gwen was on stage at the Grammys only seven months later, live-filming her new hit song “Make Me Love You” (in Rollerblades, no less).
In 2015, Hulu paid more than $150 million for the rights to air “Seinfeld”—that’s over $80,000 per episode for a twenty-year-old TV show. Jerry Seinfeld called it a “mind-blowing moment.”
When Jerry announced Hulu’s multi-million-dollar deal, he reminisced not on the show’s success, but on its initial failure. The first four years, he said, were dismal: “people were not catching on to it,” it was “barely scraping by,” and it had “very low ratings.” Jerry recalled saying to a friend, “I don’t get it. This show seems funny to me.”
Then “Seinfeld” got an unexpected boost when it was moved to Thursday nights, airing right after the popular “Cheers.” All of the sudden it took off. But Jerry’s point was that, for half of the show’s life, “it didn’t seem to be working,” yet he and the rest of the crew kept at it simply because “it was fun to do.” “We were really doing it for ourselves for a long, long time.”
After her divorce, Gwen was distraught, embarrassed, and “down all the way.” But she refused to let it define her. She told herself, “I have to turn this into something. I can’t go down like this.” Music was her answer. She walked into the studio and said, “I don’t care about the charts, the hits, the style of music, I just want to tell the truth.”
Gwen wrote and recorded song after song—she felt empowered and confident—but when she sent her record company a demo, she was told that her songs were “too personal, too artistic,” people wouldn’t relate to them. Gwen called it a “punch in the face.”
Still, she walked back into the studio the next day and said, “Let’s write the most non-commercial, personal record ever.” The result was “Used to Love You,” which became the first single off her first solo album in eleven years. She called the album This Is What the Truth Feels Like, and it debuted last month at number one on the Billboard albums chart.
The popularity of Adele is almost impossible to grasp. On the day of 25‘s release, it sold one thousand copies per minute in the US, and it became 2015’s best-selling album worldwide. But the story behind 25 is mostly one of failure and crises.
After the jaw-dropping success of her second album in 2011, Adele worried she could never top it. She even considered walking away from music: “There was quite a long period where I didn’t believe in myself when I was making . I lost my confidence.”
For years Adele wandered in and out of the studio, frustrated and confused, until she realized that the songs she was writing were “great to the ear, but they didn’t move [her].” Finally, she started focusing on what was important to her: “25 is about getting to know who I’ve become without realising.” After the album’s release, Adele said, “I’ve made the realest record I can make. It’s the real part of me.”
“Seinfeld” was a failure for years. Gwen Stefani hadn’t had a hit in a decade. Adele didn’t think she could ever top her previous album. But they all found outward success by, ironically, turning inward. They ignored “commercial” and focused on personal. To them it wasn’t about, as Thornton Wilder said, impressing other people. It was about expressing themselves.
The scariest part about creating art (real art) is that it demands exposure. The human instinct is to protect—after all, that’s how we’ve survived for thousands of years. More often than not, we become afraid and drag down our real art until it’s only a pale, flabby imitation. But not today.
Today you write the story you’ve been too afraid to write—the story that is too personal, too boring, too weird, too serious, too comical, too embarrassing. You write the story that you think everyone will judge and no one will understand. You write the story that interests you, inspires you, fulfills you, and you write it with confidence.
This prompt…exercises your brain in a new way.
Today’s prompt comes from the Chief Instigator of the DIYMFA program, Gabriela Pereira. Always full of writer-craft goodness, you should definitely be checking out DIYMFA.com, always full of writer-craft goodness, and the wonderful weekly DIYMFA Radio podcast.
Famous Last Words
Most prompts give you a place to start and let you take things from there. Today we’re going to flip the equation. I’m going to give you a last line and you need to write toward it. In other words, your assignment will be to write a piece that leads you to that last line.
The reason this prompt is so useful is that it exercises your brain in a new way. As writers, we’re used to taking a kernel of an idea and running with it, but it’s a totally different proposition to have a fixed ending and finding your way to it.
You may someday find yourself in a situation where you need to use this skill, like if you know your ending but haven’t figured out yet how to get there. This prompt is great practice for doing just that.
Take the last line from your favorite book or choose one from the list below. Now write a short piece that ends with that line.
1. No one has claimed them yet.
2. “Let me tell you about it.”
3. Everything must go.
4. “Make me pretty.”
5. And it was still hot.
These are all last lines from actual books. Can you guess which books they came from? Answers are below.
1) From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
2) Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
3) Feed by M.T. Anderson
4) Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
5) Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Gabriela Pereira is the founder of DIY MFA, the do-it-yourself alternative to a Masters degree in writing. She is also a speaker, podcast host for DIY MFA Radio, and author of the forthcoming book DIY MFA: Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build Your Community (Writer’s Digest Books, July 2016). For more info and email updates, sign up for her newsletter.
Today’s guest prompt is from the legendary Jerry B. Jenkins, co-author of the Left Behind series and many, many other best sellers, and host of the fabulously generous writing resource: JerryJenkins.com. I’ve been poking around inside his new Writers’ Guild (a memership site for writers). It’s well worth a look, and I’ll be posting a review of it later in the summer.
Updated: As a bonus, Jerry’s asked me to share this article with you:How To Become An Author
You head the credit union at a company that requires employees to explain needs for loans. One pleads privately for confidentiality, and you talk the the board into his loan, based on their trust in you. You go to your grave without revealing his secret, which is…
Jerry B. Jenkins has written 187 books with sales of more than 70 million copies. He’s had 21 New York Times bestsellers, including the Left Behind series. He now shares his writing knowledge with aspiring authors at JerryJenkins.com.
JONATHAN MABERRY is a NY Times bestselling novelist, five-time Bram Stoker Award winner, and comic book writer.
Today we’re kicking off StoryADay May 2016 with a prompt from the fabulous Jonathan Maberry. (If you have a chance to hear him speak at a writer’s conference/group/signing, go! You’ll be inspired to run home and write!)
When Terry began scrolling through her phone, none of the photos she found were hers.
JONATHAN MABERRY is a NY Times bestselling novelist, five-time Bram Stoker Award winner, and comic book writer. He writes the Joe Ledger thrillers, the Rot & Ruin series, the Nightsiders series, the Dead of Night series, as well as standalone novels in multiple genres. His new and upcoming novels include KILL SWITCH, the 8th in his best-selling Joe Ledger thriller series; VAULT OF SHADOWS, a middle-grade sf/fantasy mash-up; and MARS ONE, a standalone teen space travel novel. He is the editor of many anthologies including THE X-FILES, SCARY OUT THERE, OUT OF TUNE, and V-WARS. His comic book works include, among others, CAPTAIN AMERICA, the Bram Stoker Award-winning BAD BLOOD, ROT & RUIN, V-WARS, the NY Times bests-selling MARVEL ZOMBIES RETURN, and others. His books EXTINCTION MACHINE and V-WARS are in development for TV. A board game version of V-WARS was released in early 2016. He is the founder of the Writers Coffeehouse, and the co-founder of The Liars Club. Prior to becoming a full-time novelist, Jonathan spent twenty-five years as a magazine feature writer, martial arts instructor and playwright. He was a featured expert on the History Channel documentary, Zombies: A Living History and a regular expert on the TV series, True Monsters. He is one third of the very popular and mildly weird Three Guys With Beards pop-culture podcast. Jonathan lives in Del Mar, California with his wife, Sara Jo.