[Writing Prompt] Guest Prompt from Gregory Frost

Continuing our Guest Prompt week, today’s prompt comes from novelist and teacher Gregory Frost. Thanks, Greg!

The Prompt

Unusual Ways of Seeing

Imagine a person with a very idiosyncratic way of seeing the world (for example, a low-end drug dealer who’s perpetually paranoid because he’s sure everyone wants to steal his stuð; or an accountant for whom everything is numerical and anally precise)—anyone who, because of mental challenges, profession, or self-medicated state, negotiates the world in a distinctly peculiar, complicated, or unhinged way.

For this prompt, have your character witness a traumatic event that does not directly involve him or her (a traffic accident, a robbery, an explosion, etc.).

Narrate the event from this character’s first-person POV, incorporating the idiosyncrasies of this invented personality.

If you need examples from literature, look at George Saunders’ “Tenth of December” which includes both the portrait of a deteriorating mentality and the interiority of a child’s imaginings, or Jonathan Nolan’s “Memento Mori,” or Donald Barthelme’s “Game.”

Tips

  • The narrative should be focused upon the observed event, whatever it is.
  • The background/ biographical elements of this individual should be limited, which is to say implied rather than presented outright in the core of things. You know who they are. Get that across to us without resorting to our narrator saying something like “I’m a junkie.”
  • The details presented about the event–especially how they’re presented–should suggest everything about our narrator.

 

Gregory Frost’s YA-crossover SHADOWBRIDGE duology (Shadowbridge & Lord Tophet) from Del Rey (Random House) was a finalist for the 2009 James Tiptree Award and named one of the year’s four best fantasy novels by the American Library Association.  His Nebula-nominated science fiction novel, THE PURE COLD LIGHT is now available in ebook formats from Book View Cafe (as is his first novel, LYREC)

 For more:
Facebook: gregory.frost1

[Writing Prompt] Guest Prompt from James Scott Bell

Today’s prompt is from best-selling novelist and popular writing teacher James Scott Bell. Thanks, Jim

The Prompt from JSB

Write about your antagonist’s life at the age of sixteen. What were the events that shaped this character back then, and still haunt today?

James Scott Bell is a best-selling author of books for writers and thrillers like Deceived, Try Dying, Watch Your Back, and One More Lie (International Thriller Writers Award finalist).  He writes frequently for Writer’s Digest magazine and blogs every Sunday at The Kill Zone. You can find some of his books for authors here.

Tips from Julie

  • Choose the antagonist/villain of a previous story.
  • Or choose the antagonist of a work-in-progress or the novel you’ve been planning to write but can’t get a handle on.
  • Remember that an antagonist isn’t necessarily the villain — just the character that gets in the way of your hero’s dream

Go!

[Writing Prompt] Copycat Story

Today’s prompt is adapted from one of the most popular segments of the Warm Up Writing Course that I run here as an online course (and a home-study version).

The Prompt

Write A Copycat Story, based on one of your favorite short stories by another writer

Tips

  • Take a story by a writer you really, really admire — preferably a short short story that won’t take for ever to reproduce. Analyze it in minute detail: from word choice to sentence length. Now, choose a different setting and different characters with different dreams from that of the originals, and write a copycat story, following the exact structure and tone of the original.
  • During the Renaissance — the great flowering of European art and culture during the 16th and 17th centuries — great artists and artisans enrolled apprentices to train with them. The apprentices learned the principles of their craft not by creating their own unique works but by painstakingly copying the works and style of their masters. Why shouldn’t we try the same thing?
  • Don’t attempt to get any of our trainee copycat work published. That’s a plagiarism scandal just waiting to erupt!.

 

(If you want more details about this, and examples to follow, try the Warm Up Writing Course (home study version), the work-at-your-own pace version of the popular online course I run periodically here at the site.)

 

Go!

[Writing Prompt] Let’s Get Started!

Welcome to StoryADay May 2013!!

Well done you, for deciding to take on this challenge. Check out the community and all the support you can find in there. But first, let’s get started!

The Prompt

Write A 100 Word Story (“Drabble”)

I’m starting the challenge with a Drabble because although a 100 word story will probably take longer than you expect, it’s still going to take a manageable amount of time.

Many people who sign up for StoryADay are looking for a creativity boost. Plunging into a 3,000 word story on the first day is a bit intimidating.

Tips

To make a drabble work,

  • Choose one or two characters
  • Take one single moment/action/choice and show us how it unfolds
  • Give us one or two vibrant details in as few words as possible
  • Show us (hint) how this moment/action/choice is more significant than the characters probably realize in the moment

[Write On Wednesday] At The Gym

The Write On Wednesday story prompts are designed to prompt quickly-written stories that you can share in the comments. It’s a warm-up exercise, to loosen up your creativity muscles. Come back every Wednesday to see a new prompt or subscribe.

Zumba

It’s that time of year again. Everyone’s made their New Year Resolutions and they’re all hitting the gym. I admit it. I’m one of them.

As I looked around my Zumba class last night I was struck by what a great setting it would be for a story. All those people from all different walks of life, all with their own stories and their own reasons for being there. And guess what? That’s your prompt today!

The Prompt

Write A Story Based Around A Set Of Characters From A Gym (Class)

Tips

  • You could write the story from one observer’s perspective, or hop from head to head, following each participant’s thoughts.
  • Remember the story must have a shape, so inject some tension (someone is worried about something; someone wants someone else to notice them, someone desperately wants no-one to notice them…)
  • If you don’t have much time, limit this to a single perspective and keep the word count short. Ask yourself what your character wants, before you put pen to paper, then run through the scene in your head. Don’t start writing until you know what happened in the hour before the class (or the first half of the class). Leave all that off the page, and just jump in when something interesting’s about to happen.

The Rules:

You should use the prompt in your story (however tenuous the connection).

You must write the story in one 24 hr period – the faster the better.

Post the story in the comments — if you’re brave enough.

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: TEXT #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/LINK
This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is TEXT! #storyaday http://wp.me/LINK
Come and write with us! #WriteOnWed #storyaday LINK
See my story – and write your own, today: TEXT at #WriteOnWed #storyaday LINK

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

[Writing Prompt] Write A Compelling Opening

Want to bore your readers and ensure they never get past your first paragraph? Write your opening as it were stage directions: describe a character or a room or the light or the hills…

YAWN!

It’s a familiar trap and we do it for a good reason — we’re trying to create an atmosphere or paint a picture in the reader’s head. The problem, from a reader’s perspective, is that we haven’t given them a reason to care about the pretty picture we’re painting.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve seen to combat this problem is to start your scene as close to the action as possible (and by ‘action’ I mean ‘conflict’, and by ‘conflict’ I mean ‘the thing that’s going to torment/delight your character and therefore your reader, until the story is finished.)

How Quentin Tarantino Slapped Me in The Face

Color-coded Criminals by
Buy this as a t-shirt at Threadless.com

Reservoir Dogs is a deeply unpleasant, unsettling movie, but when I went to see it in the theaters I came out stunned, not just by the gore, but also by the masterful storytelling. And it started right from the opening.

The opening scene takes place in a diner. No, there’s no ‘action’ in the scene but the conversation sets up all the characters (including a discussion about tipping). The meal is over, we’re entering the scene at the last possible minute, right before the interesting stuff happens and the characters reveal themselves. We feel that the characters existed, knew things, had lives, before we started to observe them.

Immediately after the credits, we jump to the interior of a car where, clearly, something has gone wrong. Mr Orange has been shot and Mr White and he are racing away from somewhere. Granted, Reservoir Dogs ‘cheats’ a little because the rest of the movie is told in flashbacks, but for our purposes, this scene illustrates my point. This scene could have started with the crime going wrong. It could have started with Mr Orange injured and being dragged to the car. But it doesn’t. They’re in the car. He’s sure he’s dying. Mr White appears to be helping him (quite tenderly, for a foul-mouthed criminal…). Horrifying as the scene is, you are fascinated. It’s hard to resist finding out what is going on.

And all because we walk in to the story when the action has already started. This is something we, as writers, need to do in our stories.

The Prompt

Write a heist story, but start it as late in the action as you possibly can.

Tips

You don’t have to go all Reservoir Dogs. You can write a gentle, comedy ‘heist’ where no-one is really in peril (a little old lady trying to make off with a pie from one of those rotating cases in a diner, armed only with a crochet hook…)

Try not to use ‘flashbacks’. Instead, start the scene when it’s getting interesting (when the crook is confronted? When the pursuit is in full flight?)

Make sure your readers know, early on, what’s at stake, and gradually unfold the reasons for your main character’s actions as the story goes on.

You can make the criminal sympathetic by giving them a good reason for attempting robbery, or you can make someone else the hero.

Keep putting obstacles in your protagonist’s way.

The Rules:

1. You should use the prompt in your story.

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:

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is about openings #storyaday http://storyaday.org/wow-openings

Come and write with us! #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://storyaday.org/wow-openings

See my story – and write your own, today: openings! #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://storyaday.org/wow-openings

Don’t miss my heist story #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://storyaday.org/wow-openings

[Writing Prompt] Ageism

Today we’re going to take a look at a character from the perspective of age.

The Prompt

Write About A Character In A Different Age Group

By “different age group” I mean either someone who is not the same age as you or someone of an age that you don’t normally write about. Also, you can decide to write about someone in an age band that no-one ever writes about (well hardly ever. Not ‘never’. It’s a big universe…)

Tips

Get inside the skin of the character
Don’t write ABOUT their age, just let them BE that age
How does their age affect their thoughts, reactions, physicality, the scope of the story setting?
How do other characters react to them, and is that affected by their age?

Go!

And when you have written your story, log in and post your success in The Victory Dance group or simply comment on this post and let the congrats come flying in.

[Writing Prompt] Cross Dressing

Today (and by the way, Day 25?! You’re still turning up and giving this a shot on Day 25? You amaze me!)…ahem. As I was saying. Today we’re going to try a little cross-dressing, just for fun.

The Prompt

Write A Story From The Perspective of the Opposite Gender

…and if you’re in the habit of writing from the opposite gender’s POV, feel free to take this as an opportunity to write from the perspective of your own gender for a change.

Tips

*Remember that a character of the opposite gender does things other than button up their shirts the ‘wrong’ way.
*Show us some of the interior life
*Change the speech patterns you’re tempted to use (guys don’t generally want to talk things through the way women can)
*Feel free to teach me a lesson by writing a very feminine man or a masculine woman — hey, it’s your story.
*Go more than skin deep.

Go!

And when you have written your story, log in and post your success in The Victory Dance group or simply comment on this post and let the congrats come flying in.

[Writing Prompt] Fanfic

Yet more stealing! After stealing from actors on Friday and songrwiters yesterday, today I’m just going to advocate just plain old ripping off your favourite authors today.

The Prompt

Write a Fanfic Story

That’s it. Steal from your favorite writers, screenwriters, people in your writing group, me, whoever.

Tips

  • Don’t break any ‘rules’ of the world that you are writing in.
  • Have fun.
  • Don’t try to get this published. That would be a breach of the original author’s rights. Just have fun with it.
  • f

    Go!

    And when you have written your story, log in and post your success in The Victory Dance group or simply comment on this post and let the congrats come flying in.

[Writing Prompt] Dialogue Attributions

We’ve been focusing on dialogue – from realistic to stylized.

Today we’re going to work on the thorny issue of dialogue attribution. Should you say “he said” or “he whispered seductively”?

How about neither?

The Prompt

Write a story that is dialogue-heavy but features no dialogue attributions at all.

You know what this looks like, right? Picture a fast-paced thriller where the protagonist and his boss are talking about the probability that the volcano will explode, or the Russians will invade. The conversation pings back and forth, snaking its way down the page without a ‘he said’ in sight. Or maybe it’s a romance where, one hopes, it’ll be pretty clear who’s saying what and to whom. But you never know…

Tips

  • This is easiest to do if only two people are involved in an exchange at a time and if it doesn’t go on too long.
  • It is possible to make it clear who is speaking by having very strong characters (one curt, one longwinded; one snarky, one sweet)

How long can you make the exchange run before it becomes hopelessly confusing and you have to insert a stage direction?

(Remember, this is just a fun exercise.)

Go!

And when you have written your story, log in and post your success in The Victory Dance group or simply comment on this post and let the congrats come flying in.

[Writing Prompt] – Time

Write a story that hinges in some way on time: the passage of, warping of, misperception of, freezing of, measurement of, gadgets for tracking, etc.

Hooray! Day 5 and you’re still coming back for more. Hope the writing is going well, but if not, keep plugging away at it. It’ll come. Why not read and comment on someone else’s work to inspire you?

Since this is a time-limited writing challenge I thought it was about time we wrote, well, about time.

The Prompt

Write a story that hinges in some way on time: the passage of, warping of, misperception of, freezing of, measurement of, gadgets for tracking, etc.

If you need a little inspirations on the workings of time and our obsessions with it, try this collection from the British Museum.

Go!

And when you have written your story, log in and post your success in The Victory Dance group or simply comment on this post and let the congrats come flying in.

[Write on Wednesday] – Mnemosyne Remembered

Hollywood is all about the ‘reboot’ these days: taking familiar characters from fairy tales and comics and even TV series, and telling their stories again, in a new way.

It seemed only appropriate to ask you to write a story that features Mnemosyne, Greek titan, mother of the nine muses, and the figure responsible for the telling of all the tales (and committing them to memory) before writing was invented.

Mnemosyne by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

“Of the female Titanes they say that Mnemosyne discovered the uses of the power of reason, and that she gave a designation to every object about us by means of the names which we use to express whatever we would and to hold conversation one with another; though there are those who attribute these discoveries to Hermes. And to this goddess is also attributed the power to call things to memory and to remembrance (mneme) which men possess, and it is this power which gave her the name she received.”

-Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 67. 3 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) source

 

The story also goes that Mnemosyne was the daughter of Gaia (Earth) and Ouranos (Sky). It also says that Zeus spent nine consecutive nights with her and nine months later the nine muses were born. Later still, she watched over a pool in the underworld that was named for her. When people arrived in the underworld they would first drink from the waters of the Lethe (Forgetfulness) to forget all that had come before and then drink from the waters of Mnemosyne (Memory) so that he could remember what was to come.

The Prompt

Write a story in which one of your character shares some traits or life experiences with Mnemosyne.

Tips

  • Perhaps she IS Mnemosyne in a modern, futuristic or fantasy setting
  • Perhaps she only has one of Mnemosyne’s gifts: maybe she works for companies as a ‘namer’ of new products. What power does that give her? What does it cost her?
  • Perhaps she has a fast and furious romance with epic consequences.
  • Perhaps your Mnemosyne works as an counsellor for new immigrants to Mars, or elderly people, newly-arrived at a nursing home.

Optional Extras:

Share this challenge on Twitter or Facebook

Some tweets/updates you might use:

Don’t miss my short story: Mnemosyne, Remembered  #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-Dc

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is all about the mother of the muses #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-Dc

Come and write with us! #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-Dc

See my story – and write your own, today: Mnemosyne Remembered #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-Dc

 

[Write On Wednesday] Portrait of the Artist

Writers are inspired by many things, not least of all: other writers and artists.

This week I saw a blurb for a new book called “How Georgia Became O’Keefe“. [1. Isn’t that a great title?]

And it immediately suggested this week’s prompt:

Becoming “X”

(where “X” stands for an artist or author)

The Prompt

Write a story featuring an author you admire (or hate) and how they became an artist, or how a moment in their life sparked their definitive work (this can be completely made up. No need to do any research. Just use your imagination.

Other options:

  • Create a fictional encounter between the author and your main character
  • Write a fictionalized “autobiography” or diary entry by the author,
  • Go the “Possession” route and have your characters researching the artistic development of a writer and having their own adventure along the way.

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: Portrait of the Artist  #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-yu

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is a chance to ‘meet’ your fave author #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-yu

Come and write with us! #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-yu

See my story – and write your own, today: Portrait of the Artist  #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-yu

[Prompt] Picaresque

I first came across the term “picaresque” when I was about 13 and assigned “Catcher In the Rye” to read for school.

It meant, I learned, a story about a journey: literal or figurative, or ideally both.

Today I’m traveling to New York for Book Expo America 2012 and while I’m taking a literal journey, your assignment is to

Write A Story In Which Your Hero Takes A Literal And Figurative Journey

Go!

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