[Write On Wednesday] Overwhelmed

The Prompt

Write a story about a character who is, in the moment the story takes place, completely overwhelmed.

Tips

  • This story can be dramatic, comedic, or both!
  • Perhaps your character is, oh I don’t know, preparing for a big family holiday on top of all their normal commitments. How do they feel? What are their triggers?
  • Give the character a moment of crisis that forms the kicking-off point for the plot of the story. Then think about how he/she would react on a good day, and how differently they react under stress. Show us that reaction.
  • Brainstorm three or four things that could be the tipping point for your stressed character and choose your favorite.
  • Start right at the tipping point and then make things much, much worse: if your character is planning for Thanksgiving dinner, let her always-better-then-her sister call to say she’s inviting a food critic as her date. Then break your main character’s oven. Then let Grandma get a surprise pass from the nursing home, and have her turn up in full foul-mouthed-rebellion-mode; give your character hives; there should probably be a point at which the police turn up…that kind of thing 🙂

 

  • Go!

4 Magical Ways To Keep Writing Through The Holidays

The holidays are coming! The holidays are coming!

(I know this seems early to some of you but here in the US “The Holidays” start with Thanksgiving which happens in November — even earlier for Canadians — and continue right through until we all heave a collective sigh on Jan 2 — or the 6th if you’re Eastern Orthodox Christian.

Yikes, that’s a long time to have your daily (writing) routine interrupted.

So here’s a re-blog of a popular post chock full of strategies to get you through the winter holiday season without losing your mind or becoming a curmudgeonly recluse.
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How To Write Through The Holidays

[Write On Wednesday] Family Drama

Oh families. The source of so many off the stories we whisper to friends, but are afraid to commit to paper for fear of offending anyone. Today’s prompt encourages you to dig into that vast repository of family stories for a ‘cheap’ way to find a plot.

The Prompt
Write a story about a stranger at a family gathering.

Tips
Think about a family gathering you’ve been to (yours or someone else’s) – preferably one where one of your most colorful relatives was on great form.
What would that look like to a stranger? (Uncle Bob’s new girlfriend or the lonely new neighbor someone invited as a nice gesture)
Take that real-life story as a jumping-off point.
Decide on a protagonist: is it your stranger or the person who invited them? Think about the protagonist’s history. What’s in their past that’s going to make this situation especially hilarious or poignant or tragic? (You don’t have to explain this in the story, but if you know about it, you’ll be able to make this character richer as you write.)
Pick one tiny incident — someone storms out, someone smashes a plate in frustration, someone swears inappropriately. Illustrate the moment and/or the ripples around the room after it happens. (Remember, this is a short story. You can’t tell too much.)
Concentrate on making the reader feel something: make me cringe with embarrassment, make me love the old grandpa, make me feel your protagonist’s regret when he misses a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to say what he really feels…

Go!

Writing Through The Holidays

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You’re busy. Or you’re sad. Or you’re conflicted. Or over scheduled. Or delirious with excitement.

Whatever the holidays mean to you, this time of year can be a killer for your writing productivity.

Depending on what you’re working on, that can be OK. Or perhaps you will need to continue to carve out some serious work time even though the 12 Tribes of HisFamilyAndYours are descending on you, daily.

Here are some encouraging words from me to you, on how to keep your inner writer and your outer productive-member-of-society happy together at the year’s end.

What Do You Need?

We’re used to asking what our characters need, but for once, let’s look at what YOU need, as a writer.

If You’re In The Middle Of A Project

If you have an ongoing project like a long short story, a story you’ve just started or a novel, you really will have to make time every day to write. The good news is you don’t have to do much. Even 250 words a day will keep your head in the project and your characters in your head. The even better news is that getting back to your imaginary world for even this little time every day, will be an incredible mood booster. Sneak off to a spare room for 30 minutes, come out smiling (and get the extended family talking about what on earth you keep in there!).

If You’re Between Projects

If you don’t have an ongoing project, my best advice for you is: don’t worry.

  • Don’t worry about trying to craft stories when you’re temporarily overwhelmed with commitments.
  • Don’t worry about writing stories when you have people you enjoy hanging out with.
  • Do keep a notebook or your smartphone nearby and make notes. Capture moments, turns of phrase, jaw-droopingly inappropriate comments by in-laws (note: you may have to excuse yourself and run to the bathroom so people don’t know you’re writing about them). Use this time of enforced activity and sociability to capture all these things and call them Story Sparks.
  • Don’t worry about what these Story Sparks might or might not turn into, just yet. Write them down. Keep them safe.

Keep Yourself Sane By Journalling

We write because we need to get the voices out of our heads, or because we need to know how we feel about things.

Just because you don’t have time to craft short stories over the holidays, don’t let that drive you insane.

Take a pretty notebook with you (keep it safe) and your favorite pen, and just write. At the start or end of the day, or in any stolen moment, write about your day.

  • Write about what pisses you off.
  • Write about what delights you.
  • Write about what scares you.
  • Let your handwriting reflect your mood. Write tiny letters or huge scrawls or in jagged, stabby motions.
  • Try to write at least one sentence in there that uses some of your writerly skills, but mostly, just let the voices out.

You don’t need ever look at this journal again (though it might be useful to drag it out in July when you are both thinking of writing holiday stories for submission to winter holiday markets and making your own Christmas plans for next year!)

Here’s wishing you a peaceful and fruitful holiday season. I hope you get some rest, and manage to keep your inner writer healthy, wealthy and raring to go in the New Year.