[Prompt] May 31 – Best Friends and Endings

Today is the last day of StoryADay May 2012.

I don’t know about you but I’ve had a blast – not just writing but meeting up with old friends and making new ones. And now the challenge is ending. So I decided to make the prompt celebrate both those things:

Write a Story Featuring Your Best Friend

and

Give It A Kick-Ass Ending

This can be a fictional version of your real life best friend, or it can be a story about best friends, but make us love the hero as much as you love your very best friend ever.

Put problems in her way, kick him when he’s down, then let him rise up towards a kick-ass, crowd-cheering, fist-pumping ending. Make us care and make us cheer. Imagine the best, funniest, more heart-warming, most satisfying ending you would want for your real-life bestie, and let your character live out the dream.

Go!

 

(But don’t forget to come back and nominate a story or two for StoryFest, then come back June 8-10 to read a whole bunch of StoryADay short stories. Bring your friends!)

[Prompt] May 27 – Dialogue

Today it’s time to work on our dialogue.

Write a story that focuses on writing realistic dialogue

I’m a fan of the podcast Writing Excuses hosted by 3-4 working science fiction/fantasy/speculative fiction/comic authors and occasional guests. Even if you don’t write in these forms, don’t let that put you off. It’s 15 minutes long and almost always inspiring.

The reason I mention this is because of their episode with guest Jon Scalzi who gave an excellent, and kind of hilarious theory of why dialogue often comes out sounding less than realistic. I recommend you listen here, but the embarrassingly-accurate gist is that writers spend a lot of time reading. That means that when it comes time to write dialogue we have a tendency to write it as if we are, well, writing it. We don’t tend to write how people really talk, with all the interjections, interruptions and selfishness of people in everyday conversation.

So lets try to capture some of that in our stories today. Let’s write how people really talk and not how we wish they would.

Go!

[Prompt] May 25 – Shifting Perspectives

Today’s prompt is a little different. It’s going to show you just how much difference Point of View can made.

Rewrite A Story From A Different Perspective

Take a story that you have written (either this month or at some other point) and rewrite it from a different point of view. If it was third person, limited, try making it first person, or third person omniscient. What new avenues of empathy does that open up for you? What new language can you use (see this article for useful examples).

You can choose to rewrite someone else’s story for this exercise (as long as you promise not to try to get it published and get yourself — and me — for breach of copyright for producing unauthorized derivative works) but it’s better to try this with one of your own. I’m not actually terribly worried about us getting sued. It’s just that rewriting one of your own will show you just how much the same story, written from a different point of view, changes even when written by the same person.

I strongly suggest choosing a story you are already happy with, for this exercise. If you already love the story, you’re much more likely to enjoy playing with it from a different point of view. Or you might hate doing it, but remember: you’re not deleting anything. You’re just doing an exercise.

Go!

[Prompt] May 16 – Love Story

Daily Prompt LogoOne of the nine plot patterns highlighted in James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure is:

The love story.

(A billion romance readers can’t be wrong!)

You don’t have to write a traditional romance to be writing a love story. There’s a love story embedded in almost every story you read or watch. From Homer’s Odyssey to Homer and Marge Simpson, love is in the air.

All that is required for a love story is for two protagonists who are in love, and an obstacle to that love. Resolving the obstacle, one way or another, is the plot of your story.

To avoid writing a schlocky, saccharine formulaic romance, “one or other of your lovers [should] grow as a result of the pattern,” says Bell.

Write A Love Story

Go!

[Prompt] May 15 – Fairy Story

Whether you like the Disnified Happily Ever After versions or the grim Grimm originals, fairy stories are a great source of inspiration for a writer.

You can rewrite the tales with a modern twist, or a funny one, or you can simply take the morality-play form and use it for your own story.

I come back to this prompt idea again and again because it is such fertile ground and because EVERYONE knows a fairy story or folk tale (if you need a reminder of some, go here).

Alternatively, you could choose to write an allegory (think: Narnia, or Animal Farm). If you do write an allegorical story, however, bear in mind this advice from James Scott Bell’s book Plot & Structure:

“Allegory is difficult to do well, since it may just come off as merely preaching in the guise of an imaginative tale…Make the characters real and not just stand-ins for your ideas.”

Rewrite a fairytale/folk story or Get Allegorical

Go!

 

[Prompt] May 14 – Fish Out Of Water

After last week’s character focus, this week’s prompts are going to focus on different plot archetypes.

First up: the fish out of water story.

This ties in nicely with the focus on character, since the fish out of water story lays a great emphasis on the characters – either the alien character, or the ones who are trying to deal with having him in their lives. Think: Mork and Mindy, The Wizard of Oz, Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy… It also allows you scope to have fun with descriptions, point of view, dialogue, belief systems, you name it.

Write A Fish Out Of Water Story

Go!

[Prompt] May 13 – What Your Character Wants

Go

Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

-Kurt Vonnegut

A concrete way to ensure that you are writing a story — not a scene or a character sketch — is to make sure your character wants something. Give your hero a want or a need, then move them towards or away from that thing. Et voilà! You have a  story.

There isn’t much room in a short story. You can’t afford to give your main character two or three things she wants (unless it’s two things that are diametrically opposed). She will have other things that matter to her, of course. It’s just that now — at this moment in her life, the one we’re spying on — she has one overriding want or need that she must resolve.

Secondary characters have wants and needs too, but you don’t have much room to talk about them. If your secondary character is the antagonist (or villain) you can spend more time on their ‘wants’ since exploring them is probably part of explaining why your hero isn’t getting what she wants yet. Otherwise, mentioning their dream in one sentence can be a great way to flesh out secondary characters.

Make Your Characters Want Something

Today, write a story in which you give a character a very specific want or need (you don’t have to spell it out at the start). Move them towards their goal, put rocks in their path, grant or deny their wish.

Give every secondary character a specific need too – even if it never makes it into the story, be sure you know what that person’s dearest wish is.

 

For more inspiration on this subject, check out Nathan Bransford’s post on the subject.

 

 

[Prompt] May 12 – Other Than Human

WRITE ABOUT A NON-HUMAN CHARACTER

Can you write a non-human character without making it react like a human? How would a table/tree/robot/alien think? How would it speak? How would it react compared to the reactions of someone born and raised in the West in the 21st Century?

Can you write a truly non-human character?

Go!

[Write On Wednesday] Trapped

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.

If you’d like more accountability, support and structure as you warm up your writing for StoryADay May 2012, why not join the Warm-Up Writing Course?  Click here for details.


This week’s prompt was conceived as a character study, but the more I think about it, I realise it can focus on descriptive writing, point of view, or almost anything!

The Prompt – Trapped

Trapped #1
“Trapped #1” by Waltimo

Write a story where the main (or only) character is trapped, literally or figuratively.

Literal traps can be prisons, a locked room, the side of a mountain, inside an alien spaceship, a bear trap, a maze, anything you can imagine!   (Personally, I’d love to see someone write a claustrophobic locked-in-a-box story with only one character, and see how you manage to sustain that — great opportunity for character and description!)

Figurative traps could be anything from a bad marriage to con and could be a fairly conventional short story that lets you work on your dialogue or plotting.

What will you write?

Tips

  • Don’t worry about your audience and who might read it
  • Make sure your story travels from start to end: don’t just write a scene, make someone or something change between the first word and the last.

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: Trapped  #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-pA

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is a cool old map! #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-pA

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

See my story – and write your own, today: Trapped! #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-pA

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

[Write On Wednesday] Story Sparks

“Where do you get your ideas?”

Every established writer has a tale to tell about being asked that question.

Some of them lie and tell people they order them from an Idea store. Some wearily answer that they think really hard until the ideas come. Still others joyfully shout that ideas are everywhere, what are you crazy? Don’t you see them?!

The truth is, the more you look for ideas, the more you’ll see them. But you do have to look

The Prompt

This week’s prompt is not a writing prompt, but a prompt-prompt. This week you’re going to look for Story Sparks.

We’re just over a month away from StoryADay May. You’re going to need at least 31 ideas (more in case a few don’t work out).  I’m not talking about outlining your stories, or even coming  up with great ideas, just about writing a list of sparks for stories, or places you can find those sparks.

Ray Bradbury in Zen In The Art of Writing, talks about one method of gathering what I’ve come to think of as “story sparks”:

“I began to gather long lists of titles, to put down long lines of nouns. These nouns were provocations, finally, that caused my better stuff to surface.”

Today, set a timer for as long as you can manage (ten minutes? 20? Half an hour?) and then use that time to write down as many Story Sparks as you can.

Write down:

  • Lists of nouns (things that scare you, matter to you, frustrate you)
  • Your favorite colorful metaphors. (Consider them as titles for a story)
  • Aphorisms you can play with (“See No Evil” “A Bird In The Hand”)
  • The names of the weirdest people you have met in your life (or a quick description if you can’t remember their real names)
  • Lyrics and lines from poetry that have stuck in your brain for years
  • The titles of your favorite artworks
  • The most striking places you’ve visited (potential settings)
  • Historical tidbits you’ve learned on trips (or in your own town)

Extra Credit

Capture three more story sparks every day for the next week: eavesdrop, read obituaries, browse the front page of Wikipedia, bookmark quirky photographs, read poetry, delve into medical textbooks, looks, listen, smell, breathe in the world around you. Capture three sparks from all that living you do every day.

Share in the comments a source of story sparks that you discovered or found most productive.

Need more help? Get the ebook that grew out of this article: Breaking Writers’ Block, A StoryADay Guide

[Daily Prompt] – May 1: They Said It Couldn’t Be Done

Daily Prompt LogoHuge thanks to StoryADay-er @cidwrites for today’s prompt.

They Said It Couldn’t Be Done

Cid has created an imaginary book cover at her own StoryADay site, and invites you to use it as a writing prompt.

If the graphic doesn’t work for you, you can still use the prompt by writing a story that contains the line “They said it couldn’t be done.”


Writing prompts are optional, but do leave Cid a comment if you use hers!