Sept 28 — See, Hear, Smell

Today, take a few minutes to notice your surroundings (you can do this at home, but going out may work better): Write down five things you see, five sounds you hear and three to five smells.

The Prompt:

Write a story with a character who has a difficult decision to make. Put this character in the setting you observed and use your sensory detail in the story.

Tips:

  • Your setting doesn’t have to be the literal place where you collected your details. Turn it into a fiction if it works better for your story.
  • I left out touch because depending on where you are, touching stuff might be out of the question. But add tactile details if you can.
  • Use the details as reminders of what the character has to do.
  • Use them as distractions.
  • Use them to present a solution.
  • Difficult decisions don’t have to be huge: your character might be an old person who’d like to get a dog but who can’t walk well anymore. Will the character choose more loneliness or physical discomfort?

Now go write!

Sonya Oldwin publishes a 100-word story every day – yep, it’s as crazy as it sounds.  

Don’t forget to share a link to your story in the comments below.

Visibly Invisible

Prompt: Visibly Invisible

Today’s prompt is about the inner self of your character trying to break out, to be seen, to be heard, to simply be acknowledged.

Think along the lines of being present in a group, yet you’re being discussed as if you were not there.  Now multiply those feelings by 100 for your character who, for reasons you will develop, cannot (at the moment) speak up for themselves.

Tips

  • Why is your character ‘invisible’?
  • You may want to go down the path of personal knowledge, for instance someone with a severe disability which restricts their line of communication.  Yet they are ‘in there’ and fully aware of what is going on around them.  How do they feel?  What can they do to get attention, and help?
  • Perhaps you want to go the fantasy route and your character has had a spell put on them.  What or who will break it?  How does the ‘invisible’ one deal with the situation they are in and what do they do to help themselves?
  • Your story should conclude with your character achieving ‘visibility’.

Not too many tips this week – let your imagination, and your emotions run free with this one.

Let’s GO!

Sept 4 – Friday Favourites 1

Hi, all! I’m Monique and I’m going to be posting prompts each Friday this month.

The theme is “Friday Favourites” and means that each prompt will be a generic premise for a story that is also the description of a classic (or favourite!) novel.

The Prompt

A person wakes up, not quite remembering what happened the night before, and is surprised and upset by what they see outside the window.
(The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams)

Tips

Change the genre. Instead of science fiction, turn it into a mystery. Or a romance. Or a children’s story.

Where (or when) do they wake up? ‘Window’ can be interpreted broadly.

Have fun!

Monique Cuillerier has always loved to write. She also enjoys procrastination. These two interests are frequently in conflict. Her stories have appeared in Round Up Writer’s Zine, Black Heart Magazine, (parenthetical), and elsewhere. She blogs sporadically (although more frequently during Story A Day!) at notwhereilive.ca

Guest Prompt from Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary Robinette KowalMary Robinette Kowal is the author of The Glamourist Histories series of fantasy novels and the a three time Hugo Award winner. Her short fiction appears in Clarkesworld, Tor.com, and Asimov’s. Mary, a professional puppeteer, lives in Chicago. Visit her online at maryrobinettekowal.com.

We’re rounding out our month with a multiple-award winning, working writer’s advice to take a look at scenes (or stories) from another angle. It seems to be working for her, so let’s give it a try! Thanks for sharing, Mary!

The Prompt

Take the last scene [or story – Ed.] that you wrote. Now rewrite it from the point of view of a secondary character. You have to keep all the physical actions and dialog in the same order, but make it clear what is at stake for the new POV character. Why do they say the things they do? What are they trying to achieve?

Now go back to your original scene [or story – Ed.] and adjust it to incorporate the new things you’ve learned about your secondary character.

Often when a scene seems flat, it’s because we haven’t thought through the motivations of any of the people in the scene except the point of view character.

 

Go!

Guest Prompt from John Dixon

John DixonJohn Dixon’s first novel Phoenix Island was not only the inspiration for the CBS series Intelligence (starring Josh Holloway), but was this year awarded the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel. (Well-deserved, too! It’s an excellent book!). John is a former Golden Gloves boxer, youth services caseworker, prison tutor, and middle school English teacher.

Like the expert in horror and all-things-creepy that he is, John gave us a very creepy prompt.

The Prompt

Write a story about someone trying to escape a subterranean space.

Go!

Guest Prompt from Gabriela Pereira – with submission guidelines

 Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 7.36.08 PMGabriela Pereira is the Chief Instigator at DIYMFA.com, the home of the do-it-yourself MFA in creative writing. In her new podcast series she has interviewed everyone from agents, novelists, writing teachers to marketing and networking guru Guy Kawasaki! You should definitely check that out!). She is hard at work on a DIYMFA handbook due out next year from Writer’s Digest Books.

This prompt is a little bit different today — and it comes with the possibility of publication.

Over at DIYMFA they’re launching an anthology and the only stipulations are that you write to the theme and use the custom-built Writer Igniter feature at DIYMFA to somehow spark your story. It’s a fun little slot-machine of a prompt generator that Gabriela had custom built for her site. It’s kind of irresistable…DIYMFA.com logo

The Prompt

The theme for the anthology is ORIGINS. The deadline is August 31, 2015, so you have plenty of time to brush up whatever story you sketch out today.

The rules are as follows: spin the Writer Igniter (no more than three spins!); take a screenshot of your result (ALT + Print Screen on Windows; CMD + SHIFT + 4 on Mac, then draw a box around whatever you want to capture); then write a story.

The finished story should be up to 2,000 words. See more guidelines for submission here.

Go!

Guest Prompt from Marta Pelrine-Bacon

The Blue Jar, novel coverToday’s prompt comes from Marta Pelrine-Bacon, who was a StoryADay participant in its first year, 2010. She is an artist and the author of The Blue Jar (a novel about two teen girls in trouble). She’s also a mom, wife, teacher, cancer survivor, and coffee-addict.

The Prompt

What is a picture (a photograph or a painting) that you love or at least that has caught your attention?

Write about the artist or the subject. What happened just before or after the scene in the image? (If possible, share the image with us too.)

Go!

Guest Prompt from Charlotte Rains Dixon

Your main character can have anything in the whole world that she wants. Anything!

Charlotte Rains Dixon headshotCharlotte Rains Dixon is a writer who has made the jump from non-fiction to fiction with her new series of mysteries, the Emma Jean books (the first is available now). Her short stories have been published in The Trunk, Santa Fe Writer’s Project, Nameless Grace, and Somerset Studios. Check out her blog for writing tips and inspiration that are very much in tune with the ethos here at StoryADay.

The Prompt

Your main character can have anything in the whole world that she wants. Anything! Doesn’t matter if it is illegal, immoral, or illicit. Explore what that thing is, why she wants it, and perhaps most importantly, what the consequences of getting that thing might be.

 

Go!

 

(Remember, all prompts are optional and you certainly don’t have to do two stories, or combine the prompts, on days when there’s a celebrity guest.)

 

Guest Writing Prompt from Jacob Tomsky

Jacob Tomsky of Short Story ThursdaysJacob Tomsky is a best-selling writer and host of Short Story Thursdays, a weekly email dispatch that somehow manages to be snarky and sweet at the same time. (If you haven’t signed up to receive a story a week from Tomsky yet, do it now).

Read our interview with him, talking about how he moved from a short-story-hater to one of its best champions.

As you can see from the prompt below, Jacob has Opinions. Do not disappoint him.

The Prompt

Story told in first person or third person only. NO SECOND PERSON, GODDAMN IT.

Past tense. You can do current tense or whatever it’s called but that would piss me off too.

Prompt: Main character is being interviewed on television, live, for the first time ever. Story begins at the moment the camera goes live on the main character.

 

Go!

Guest Prompt from Gregory Frost

Today’s prompt is a real treat: a writing exercise from author Gregory Frost. (Side note: his classes are the kind that writers only tell their best friends about … and then only after their own application has been accepted!)

Here he shares a prompt that seems to be about setting but turns out to be all about character. Flex those writing muscles, people!

The Prompt

Character through Setting

There’s a tale that John O’Hara once wrote a story in which all he did was describe the contents of a room, and by the end you knew that the occupant had committed suicide. No person appears in the story. It’s all done by inference.

For this exercise, select a character. Think about who they are and what you think you know. Then pick a setting. It can be a room, a landscape, the interior of a car…

Now describe the setting in in very specific detail: Use as many senses as you can, as are appropriate. The person you are telling us about is not present in this setting, but by the time you’re done, we should know the important aspects of him or her.

One more thing…

O’Hara also said that getting the details of a character exactly right is critical—especially the detail that is wrong.

So for this setting, add one element that does not belong there (one of these things is not like the other), and see what sort of story that wrong element suggests.

-gf

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 7.33.05 PMAbout Gregory Frost

Gregory Frost is a fantasist, author of adult and young adult fiction (SHADOWBRIDGE, LORD TOPHET, FITCHER’S BRIDES, TAIN, etc.). He has been a finalist for the World Fantasy, Nebula, Hugo, Theodore Sturgeon, and James Tiptree Jr. Awards among others. He is Director of the Fiction Workshop at Swarthmore College.
For more:
Web: www.gregoryfrost.com
Twitter: @gregory_frost
Facebook: gregory.frost1

Guest Prompt from Meg Wolfe

Meg Wolfe‘s prompt introduces a little mystery into our writing, unsurprisingly since Meg is a mystery writer!

The Prompt

An Unexpected Acquisition

What suddenly shows up on your character’s doorstep, or in the mail, or on his or her birthday? It should be something that wasn’t expected or asked for or even thought about–how would your character react, and what hidden truth does the reaction reveal about his or her background, temperament, education, finances, desires, and/or motivations?

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 7.33.59 PMAbout Meg Wolfe

Meg is a long-time nonfiction writer, most recently of The Minimalist Woman blog and its related self-help and cookbooks. She now focuses almost exclusively on fiction, and has written and published two mysteries, An Uncollected Death and An Unexamined Wife. A third, An Undisclosed Vocation, is slated for release in Summer of 2015.

Guest Writing Prompt from Joe R Lansdale

Today’s guest writing prompt comes from master storyteller Joe R. Lansdale, who has won the Edgar Award, eight Bram Stoker awards and The Horror Writer Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award among others!

Our thanks to Mr Lansdale for taking the time to provide this provocative prompt for us.

The Prompt

On the day they saw the blue star swell to gigantic proportions, everyone went blind but Hardy. He was already blind, had been from birth,but he had lifted his head to the heavens because he felt a peculiar warmth.

Moments later the others were still blind, but he could see. All the colors of the spectrum. Even viewed by moonlight, the brightness of it all frightened and puzzled him.

joerlansdaleAbout Joe R. Lansdale

Joe R. Lansdale is the author of over forty novels and numerous short stories. He has received the Edgar Award, eight Bram Stoker Awards, the Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Grinzani Cavour Prize for Literature, the Herodotus Historical Fiction Award, the Inkpot Award for Contributions to Science Fiction and Fantasy, and many others. 

Guest Writing Prompt from Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant

Today’s guest prompter is Seanan McGuire who also writes as Mira Grant. I love these little peeks inside the minds of successful writers, don’t you?

Today’s guest prompter is Seanan McGuire who also writes as Mira Grant. I love these little peeks inside the minds of successful writers, don’t you?

The Prompt

Some little things got left out, and a little means a lot.

 

SeananmcguireAbout Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire was the winner of the 2010 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and her novel Feed (Newsflesh, Book 1) (as Mira Grant) was named as one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2010. In 2013 she became the first person ever to appear five times on the same Hugo Ballot. In her spare time, Seanan records CDs of her original filk music. She is also a cartoonist, and draws an irregularly posted autobiographical web comic, “With Friends Like These…”

Remember: you don’t have to write to either of today’s prompts, but if one or other of them helps spark an idea, you’re welcome!

Guest Prompt: Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin says: Write a short piece inspired by one of William Blake’s Proverbs of Hell from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. There are 72, but here are a few of my favorites…

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 7.32.04 PMGretchen Rubin is the New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness Project, Happier at Home and, most recently, Better Than Before (a book about happiness and habits that has huge implications for writers. You should check it out!)

When I asked her if she’d like to provide a writing prompt this self-confessed quotation collector, of course, went to one of her favorite authors for inspiration. Here’s what she sent.

Continue reading “Guest Prompt: Gretchen Rubin”

[Guest Prompt] Debbie Ridpath Ohi – Illustration

Happy Book Birthday to Debbie Ridpath Ohi, whose illustrations are featured in the new paperback editions of Judy Blume’s classic books (yes, Judy Blume!!). The new editions come out today! Today Debbie has supplied us with a visual prompt that made me laugh out loud. What can you do with this?

The Prompt

2014-LiquidPaperGuy-1000

Debbie Ridpath Ohi writes and illustrates books for young people. Based in Toronto, Debbie is represented by Ginger Knowlton of Curtis Brown Ltd. Her illustrations appear in I’M BORED, a picture book written by Michael Ian Black (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2012) and was selected by The New York Times for its list of Notable Children’s Books.

Her upcoming books include NAKED! (by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Debbie, coming out from S&S in Summer/2014) andWHERE ARE MY BOOKS?, which is written AND illustrated by Debbie (coming out from S&S in Spring/2015). She is currently working with Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, Harpercollins Children’s and Random House Children’s Books.