[Write On Wednesday] 100 Words For Thanksgiving

It’s almost Thanksgiving here in the US (for those non-US people: it’s a Big Deal with lots of travel and turkey and non-productivity).

So, in an effort to keep you writing but not overwhelm you, this week I’m assigning a Drabble, a 100 word story.

The Prompt

Write A 100 Word Story


  • 100 word stories sound like they won’t take up much time but they will take more than you think.
  • Remember that you don’t have much time/space to create your story. This stops you from including too much backstory, any rambling, or losing your way in the middle. Keep your mind firmly on the end.
  • Do write more than 100 words if you need to, then trim.
  • If you find yourself writing fewer than 100 words, look back and see if you can beef it up with pointed dialogue, expressive description or more of your main character’s emotions.
  • You can make the theme of the story ‘Thanksgiving’, ‘gratitude’ (or lack thereof), or something completely different if inspiration strikes.


[Writing Prompt] Limit Yourself To 100 Words


One of the first internet-era writing challenges I ever attempted was over at 100words.net . The challenge was to write 100 words (exactly) every day for a month (I think the brain behind the idea originally did it for 100 days, but by the time I discovered the challenge it was a calendar month).

It was hard, but it was freeing too. And it was my experience with those limitations (and the rhythm of writing every day for a month) that set me thinking about my own StoryADay challenge, years later.

The Prompt

Write 100 words. Exactly 100.


  • It can be helpful to think of this as an exercise, not a story
  • Start with an experience of your own. As you whittle your words and ideas down to exactly 100, you will inevitably be creating fiction.
  • 100 words isn’t much. You don’t have room for traditional story structure, or to worry about all those writing rules you’ve been working to absorb. Just write.
  • If you need a more specific prompt, write about something you did yesterday morning. Give me details, colors, emotion.


Oh, and thanks to everyone who left comments or got in touch about the five-a-week prompts in September. The deal was that someone who commented would win a copy of my Time To Write Workshop. And (drumroll please) the winner is: Sarah Cain!! (I used the random number generator at Random.org — and got ridiculously excited waiting for the winning number to appear! Congrats Sarah. Hope it helps!

[Writing Prompt] The Bit Before The End

Remember when your teachers told you every story had a beginning, a middle and an end? Well, they missed a bit.

The Prompt

Write a Flash Fiction Story With Emphasis On The Climax
I love disaster movies — even the really cheesy ones — so my story today will be a mini disaster movie.

I don’t have time, in flash fiction, to build up all the characters a disaster movie would visit at the beginning (the screw-up anti-hero, his ex-wife, the wise elder who’s doomed to die, the young person who hates the anti-hero but will eventually become reconciled with him, the comic relief, the unrequited love interest, the bull-headed person in authority who hampers the anti-hero’s efforts to save the world and, of course, the villain who causes it all through action or arrogant inaction…see? I REALLY love my disaster movies!).

nstead, I’m going to have to concentrate on quickly establishing my flawed character, what he thinks he wants, what he actually needs, his wise-cracking character and his long-suffering assistant/love interest. Then I’m going to wreck his life — quickly — which is fine, cos his life was a wreck anyway. Then I’m going to threaten the last people he cares about, just like we practiced earlier this week.

Finally, I’m going to really concentrate on the climax. I only have up to 1000 words, so I’m not going to be able to go the full Bruce-Willis/Sharknado here, but I’m going to put everything on the line and do my best to pull at the reader’s heartstrings.
FInally, I’m going to spend 100 words or fewer wrapping up.


  • Before you even start writing, imagine a killer climax
  • This mean you’re going to have to know your character and his/her problem before you start writing.
  • You’re also going to have to think of a few complications you might throw at your character.
  • How can you show the reader why this matters? (Disaster movies usually do this by having the main character’s best friend tell point it out in a conversation, wherein the anti-hero shrugs and makes a witty, self-deprecating joke.)
  • Don’t be afraid of the cheese factor. This is an exercise, not your last shot at literary immortality (and even if it was, someone got paid to write Sharknado, after all!)
  • Concentrate on your climax. Everything is at stake, but you don’t have to be writing a disaster movie to make this dramatic. How will your hero change to get out of this problem? If he’s a ranging drunk, can he put down the bottle? If she never talks back to anyone, does she finally stand up for herself? If she’s living under an oppressive regime, can she put three fingers to her lips in a gesture of defiance and have that gesture returned by the crowd (no, wait, that’s been done. But see how totally silent, non-violent act, can be electrifyingly dramatic?)


You have a maximum of 1000 words.



What Does Your Character Want? Five September Writing Prompts

This week’s prompts have all been about exploring character needs. Without a desire, why are we reading about your character? Without an obstacle to that desire, where’s the story?

Use these prompts to spark a few stories of your own. Don’t forget to leave a comment and let me know which ones worked best for you, and be entered to win a copy of my Time To Write Workshop.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Prompt 1 — Filthy Lucre
Your character needs money, and fast! Why? How? You tell us!

Prompt 2 — Gimme Shelter 
One of the most primitive needs of any person is a need for shelter. This prompt explores that in ways from primitive to more civilized.

Prompt 3 — Feed Me, Seymour!
Staying with the basic needs of humanity: your character is hungry. Why? What’s stopping them from ordering in? Tell us the story.

Prompt 4 — Belonging
Now that you’ve explored the most basic needs of your characters, what next? Well, let’s assume they’re safe and fed. What do they want now? To belong. Tell this story today.

Prompt 5 — Appreciate Me!
Beyond mere belonging, people need to be appreciated for who they are. Write the story of someone fighting to be appreciated.

Could You Use More Instruction, From Writing’s Hottest Teachers? Watch this video!

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(Not an affiliate link, because I want you to get the 50% discount you get by joining the DIYMFA list!)

Video notes

  • Chuck Wendig actually blogs at terribleminds.com, not the fake site I made up in this video!
  • Also, I forgot to mention James Scott Bell, the most generous man in publishing, and Stuart Horowitz of bookarchitecture.com, will both be speaking too. It just keeps getting better 🙂


Keep writing,
P.S. Don’t forget, everyone who comments this month will be entered in a drawing to win a free copy of the StoryADay Time To Write Workshop.

[Writing Prompt] Belonging

This week our themes are focused on characters’ needs. Today, something above a survival need, but something that is nevertheless deeply important:

The Prompt

Write a story about a character who desperately wants to belong

Cafe BeLong at the Brickworks


  • This can be any kind of relationship story: love, friends, family, career.
  • The character must NEED to belong so badly that they’re willing to go through hell to pursue their need.
  • Your story should take your character somewhere: will they change to fit in, or will they realise that’s too big a step for them. Will they be OK with that (in either case)?
  • Show us why your character needs to belong and how that need drives her every action.
  • Put obstacles in her way as often as possible and show us about your protagonist’s character by showing us how he/she reacts to the obstacles.



[Writing Prompt] First Person Practice

I/Eye illustrationWriting in the first person seems simple, since this is the way we talk, write letters, tell our own stories. Introduce a keyboard or a notebook, however, and suddenly we get a bit frozen. So today we’re practicing telling a First Person story

The Prompt

Write A Story Narrated In The First Person


  • Go and grab a book from your shelf that has a strong main character and that is written in the first person. (Think Bridget Jones’ Diary or Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series or any number of great stories)
  • Remember that in First Person, no head-hopping is allowed. You cannot tell us what any other character is feeling, only how your narrator perceives their words/actions.
  • Decide on one characteristic (or character flaw) that your character will have. Subvert it (or have it get them into trouble) at least once during the story, but try to make it a defining part of the story.


[Writing Prompt] Inciting Incident

There’s a difference between the first thing that happnes in your story and the thing that becomes the inciting incident.


The Prompt

Write a story in which your main character is going along doing whatever it is he/she does. Very quickly, someone else walks into the scene. This person imparts news of great importance to the character (someone is dead/has been fired/is coming/has escaped/something).

NOW write the inciting incident: Continue reading “[Writing Prompt] Inciting Incident”

[Writing Prompt] The Locked Room

Today you’ll write a story that starts with a set of characters, a location and a problem, all devised by me.

Door Knob Reflection

The Prompt

The Setting: Four blank walls and two doors, both currently locked.

The Characters: Don, a man in his fifties; Sooz, a young woman; Dante, a teenage boy; Charlie, a character of gender, age and appearance that you specify.

The Problem: There are thunderous booms coming from outside the room and the characters must decide what to do next.


  • You can set this story anywhere and at any time.
  • The room may be any size. It can be inside, outside, on a space ship, on a cruise ship, underground, in a forest, whatever you like.
  • You decide on the characters’ personalities. Remember, personality conflicts provide drama.
  • To make your characters more rounded, give us a hint of what they don’t want us to see about themselves.
  • You can reveal the source of the noises or not. It’s up to you.
  • You can give us a nice, neat ending, or leave the situation unresolved. Just make sure something is resolved during the story.


[Writing Prompt] The Little Old Lady

Today we’re concentrating on a character: in particular the kind of person who would have been known to me, when I was a child, as “a little old lady”.

CL Society 208: Old lady shopping

The Prompt

Write a story featuring a little old lady


  • Remember, in the days before hair dye and facial peels and gym memberships and HRT—in the days of hard physical labor from dawn to dusk—being a ‘little old lady’ could start at any age from your mid-forties! Those days were NOT that long ago…
  • Feel free to use your little old lady to play to type (cast her as a fairytale witch or a helpless old woman) or against type (have her, I don’t know, swimming from Florida to Cuba without a shark cage…).
  • The interesting part of this story is going to be perhaps less about how this character changes, and more about how our perception/expectations as readers are changed during the story.


Back To School

OK, so I know it’s not back to school time everywhere (or for everyone), but we’ve all had that clean slate, back to school feeling: starting a new project that is all promise and no disappointment yet; sharpening your new pencils; buying new notebooks; making timetables.

The Prompt

Write a Back To School Story


  • This doesn’t have to be a traditional ‘back to school’. Use this prompt to write any ‘fresh start’ kind of story
  • “Back To School” doesn’t always bring a sense of optimism.
  • Go beyond the obvious ideas. Dig deep. Try to write something with a rounded character or distinctive voice, or with a twist.


[Writing Prompt] Journeys

steam train
photo by K. J. Duffy

I’m reading an autobiography written in the 1830s — when steam travel was the new big thing. The author (a mother of small children) just gave a vivid and opinionated account of a trip she took from Philadelphia to Baltimore. With very few words she conjoured the layout of the carriages and the hot, smoky atmosphere inside — heated as it was by a coal-fired, iron stove in the middle of the carriage (no health and safety, clean air regulations in the 1830s!). She told an amusing story of an encounter with a fellow passenger, while she was at it. I feel like I was ON the train with her.

The Prompt

Tell The Story Of A Journey

Use any transportation technology you can dream up, but include details to allow us to see, feel and perhaps even choke on the atmosphere.

Don’t forget to make something happen, and then resolve it (or leave it unresolved).

Give us a character we can root for (or against).

[Writing Prompt] Holiday Stories

This week sees both Independence Day in the US and Canada Day in the north of the continent.

The Prompt

Write a holiday-themed story


It doesn’t have to be related to this week’s holidays. If fact you might want to start planning ahead for autumnal and winter holidays, especially if you’re interested in releasing those stories this year.

Did you know that magazines, online publications and anthologies are starved for date-appropriate stories?

And think about it, these stories are evergreen: release them yourself and talk them up every year on the same date. Or how about putting together a collection of date themed stories and releasing them as themed anthology of your own writing?

We’ve all lived through holidays – from the ones that give you a day off school, to the ones that come replete with custom and tradition and obligation and anticipation. Use your own experiences to bring the story (and its details) alive for the reader, but don’t forget to include a vivid character with a strong desire for…something.

[Writing Prompt] Perseverance


This is the first weekly prompt since the end of StoryADay 2013. Congrats to all those who took part. If you finished even one story you’ll know something about this week’s prompt:

The Prompt

Write a story with “Perseverance” as the theme


You can write a fast-paced romp in which your protagonist perseveres against ridiculous, comic odds,

You can write a deep and thoughtful piece that reflects on the role of perseverance in a good or bad situation

You get to decide if your hero succeeds or fails and whether or not their perseverance (or lack thereof) helped. (Tip: Don’t be afraid to do the opposite  of what readers might  expect. Perseverance might *cause* things to fall apart…)


The 7DayStory

P.S. Did you sign up to take part in the 7DayStory Challenge? It’s a challenge I’m running with Gabriela Pereira from DIYMFA.com. It takes you through the process of writing, revising and releasing a story in 7Days (a luxurious pace, around these parts!). Check it out: 7DayStory.com


P.P.S. If you don’t want these emails to pop into your inbox every week, but would like to be able to save them for later, why not let your email software filter them so that they drop straight into an archived folder? Here’s how to do it in Gmail.

[Writing Prompt] Guest Prompt from Cat Lumb

Today we have a guest prompt from aspiring-to-be-published writer and StoryADay participant, Cat Lumb. Thanks, Cat!

The Prompt

Your character wants to find the source of a strange noise they can hear. Tell the story of how they find out what that sound is…
Cat Lumb started her blog in 2011 as means to be accountable for her writing dreams. She is currently editing one of her two first draft novels and writing short stories.
Check out her blog: www.nowrittenwords.wordpress.com or link with her on Twitter @Cat_Lumb
You can read all of Cat’s Story a Day in May stories through her blog at: http://nowrittenwords.wordpress.com/a-story-a-day-2013/

[Writing Prompt] Guest Prompt from Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Today’s prompt is from writer, illustrator and all-round good egg Debbie Ridpath Ohi, who shares one of her Daily Doodles with us today to help inspire a story. Thanks, Debbie!

The Prompt

It Wasn’t Me!
Cartoon dog looking guilty

Tips from Julie

  • Use the words or picture in any way that seems right to you
  • If you’re not an animal person, you don’t have to use the dog.
  • If your’e not an animal person, you should consider using the dog anyway. (Hey, this is about stretching yourself, right?)

Debbie Ridpath Ohi (http://DebbieOhi.com) writes and illustrates books for young people in Toronto, Canada. She is the illustrator of I’M BORED by Michael Ian Black, published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, chosen by The New York Times as a Notable Children’s Book. Debbie has current and upcoming book projects with Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and Random House. More info about Debbie and her projects: http://debbieohi.com. Her blog for writers/illustrators:http://inkygirl.com. Twitter: @inkyelbows.