What We Crave

“In a digital world saturated with technicolor brilliance and filtered, unobtainable beauty, modern humans seem unmoored and at sea. We crave stories to tell us who we are.” – Min Jin Lee, Best American Short Stories 2023

When I first logged on to the Internet in 1993, I was thrilled by the possibilities of connection.

When, some time later, I clicked on my first hyperlink (on a page that gloried under the catchy address of something like “74.6.143.25”) I distinctly remember thinking,

“This is exactly how I want life to operate,”

and, at the same time,

“I am in sooooo much trouble.”

Picture me, hunched in front of a mushroom-colored 14-inch monitor, clicking and reading, and clicking and reading, and leaping down the rabbit hole

We Were Warned

That first hyperlink was the start of something that changed the world and I was there for it.

But it turns out I was Mickey Mouse in the Sorcerer’s hat, summoning a wave I couldn’t control.

I was the old woman with the magic porridge pot.

I was King Midas.

We all were.

(It’s 1999, and the distractions have only got shinier! Like my cheeks!)
  • The Sorcerer’s Apprentice thought he wanted power. What he really needed was control.
  • The old woman with the magic porridge pot thought she wanted an endless supply of food. What she needed was ‘enough’.
  • We thought we wanted endless facts, exposure to more people, more ideas. What we need is the wisdom that comes from enough knowledge.

The stories tried to warn us.

Writers Have A Head Start

Yes, we get distracted by the glossy online world sometimes, but writers really do have a huge advantage over other mortals.

We go out of our way to make time to create worlds and characters who wrestle with big human questions:

  • What if I break the rules, just this once?
  • What if I had everything I ever lacked?
  • What if they won’t love me?
  • What’s beyond the fence at the end of the garden?

Believe it or not, most people are rushing through their days NOT staring into space and thinking about these things.

But when they do have time to unwind, they all want to do it with stories: in books, on screens, in song.

Because stories — not facts, not reels, not personality quizzes — tell us who we are.

Your Turn

Make some time for your writing in the next three days.

Use this prompt if you need a nudge.

And please believe me when I say

“You are a writer. Stories are what make us human. Stories keep us safe. Stories show us how to be human. Stories are the way we learn. No matter how ‘big’ or ‘small’ your stories and your subject matter, your stories matter.”

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What’s your biggest distraction from your writing? How did you last conquer it. Leave a comment!

Day 5 – Put It Into Practice

Ready to put a ring on it?

5-Day Challenge Banner

Make it work, long-term

Today’s task is to make a plan to make it stick.

You’re inspired (and inspiring!), but will you still be working towards unleashing your awesomeness into the world, two weeks from now?

In a moment, I’ll offer you one way you could build your practice and skills (in the StoryADay I, WRITER Course), but before that, let’s talk about one more principle that will strengthen your practice.

The Question To Ask, Every Time Your Approach Your Desk

I first heard this question from high-performance athletic coach Kevin Willis, but it made so much sense to me that I knew it would apply to a writing practice, too.

(Big surprise, huh? Athletes and writers are both humans, trying to change their behavior and achieve extraordinary things.)

When you sit down to play with your words, ask yourself if, today, you are trying to

    • Be Good or

    • Get Better?

If you’re focused on ‘be good’, you’re comparing yourself to others. 

There’s a time for this– when you’re sending work out into the world– but it’s not where every day should start.

You can’t compare your first drafts to William Faulkner’’s published works!

If you’re focused on ‘getting better’, you are comparing yourself to your own best, to your yesterday, your skills and output last year…

This is a much more helpful place to be, as you approach your desk.

If you’re feeling stuck, unable to make progress, as yourself “Am I trying to be good, or get better?’

How To Make Progress, Long-Term

As you take your manifesto into your world, making today’s excitement last is going to require

    • A plan of study

    • A commitment to come back, week after week, no matter what lies your emotions tell you

    • Support from other writers

And you can absolutely build that, by yourself.

Or…you can take advantage of the structure, lesson plan, and community I’ve put together in the upcoming StoryADay I, WRITER Course.

(Did you like that segue? I know you see what I did there)

Seriously, though, you do not have to do this by yourself.

In fact, if you’re anything like me, with the best will in the world, you CAN’T do this by yourself.

And maybe, like me, you’re getting sick of repeatedly doing that experiment.

It’s time to try something new.

The I, WRITER Course

The StoryADay I, WRITER Course is your chance to spend 6 weeks, going through lessons (like the work you’ve done in this challenge) and workshops that let you build your writing skills in around 90 minutes a week.

You’ll get 2 writing assignments each week (do one, or both) so that you can practice what you’re learning AND build your writing practice week after week, until it feels natural to be making time for your writing and for getting better.

And it’s all broken out into different areas of study (Imagine, Write, Refine, Improve, Triumph, Engage and Repeat) so you  never feel overwhelmed.

Everything is shared in video, written and audio form and broken down into convenient bite-sized chunks (kind of like this challenge!) so you can work on each week’s content whether you have a block of 90 minutes or a few minutes on your lunch break.

You can read all about it here.

Doors open today

Bonuses

It’s one thing to sign up for a course, quite another to actually DO the course.

So I’ll email you every week to introduce the topics for the week and remind you to log in and check out the new materials.

PLUS I’m gifting you the StoryADay Challenge PLUS, 31 days of writing prompts and inspirational videos that I created for my StoryADay Superstars group. It’s the best of the prompts and advice that I can give, and it leads you through 31 days of short story writing.

Originally priced at $297, I’m opening it up to you as part of this round of I, WRITER.

Don’t Wait Any Longer

Imagine making your writing stick, this time.

Imagine seeing the pride in the face of your friend who always believed in your talent, when you tell them “I’m writing”.

Imagine hearing friends and relatives casually talk about ‘my Nana/buddy, the writer’.

That’s a gift, not just to you, but to them.

It needs more creative people.

And you? You need – you deserve – to be able to lift your head from the daily grind and be the person you know you’re meant to be…even for a few minutes a day. 

The I, WRITER Course gives you a structure and an excuse, to do that over the next 6 weeks.

I’ve seen people come out the other end of this course with writing firmly anchored in their life. And with this certain knowledge that if they show up, the writing comes.

When they do, they keep getting better and they keep getting happier. 

And they keep living up to their own expectations of themselves and the expectations of the people who love them.

I don’t want you to wait. I want you to start acting on the amazing manifestos that I’ve seen in this challenge.

 I think it’s time that we step up and be courageous and put all of this good out into the world.

 I hope you’ll join me in the course.

 And keep writing,

Julie (signed)

P. S. What’s your plan for putting your manifesto into practice. If you don’t have one, borrow mine and join I, WRITER

 

 

 

 

 

Day 4 – Let’s Make It Real

Ready to put a ring on it?

 Welcome back!

It’s no small thing that you’re still here, still working towards creating a powerful tool to support your writing practice…and I salute you!

Over the past few days you have

This manifesto may scare you a little bit, because it’s deeply connected to your values and the things that make you most uniquely you.

You don’t have to live up to this every minute of every day. It’s a guide. It’s guardrails, for when things start to go wrong. A reminder of where you want to be going.

Today’s Task

When your version of the doucment

  • Is a little bit frightening, or a little bit exciting,
  • Makes you a little bit surprised at yourself,
  • Feels a little ambitious.

Then go ahead and sign it.

And date it.

Keep a copy of it (printed or digitally) somewhere you can see it, every day.

A Living Document

This version will serve you for a while.

I’m encouraging you to date it because you may want to come back to this exercise in the future and see how things have changed.

(Probably your values wno’t have changed but you might have more fairy art parents, and a deeper understand of yourself as a writer).

Every time you sit down to write a new work, every time you pitch a new idea, every time you continue a piece that you’ve been writing before, take a quick look at your manifesto. And remained yourself of what you are trying to achieve.

  • Not what someone else thinks you should be doing.
  • Not how someone else thinks you should be doing it.
  • What you are trying to achieve.

Not just today. But in your writing life as a whole.

Use the manifesto. Every time you sit down to work.

What’s Next?

So now you have your writer’s manifesto. I want you to come back tomorrow so that we can talk more about exactly how you can use this document. To help you. write more, write better, never work on ideas that don’t matter to you or in a way that doesn’t resonate with you.

So come back tomorrow and we’ll talk about that and we’ll really start to put this into practice in your creative life.

How do you feel about the document you have created? What surprised you about this process? Leave a comment:

Day 3 – What Matters To You?

It’s time to write it down!

Welcome back to this five day challenge.

Over the past couple of days (Day 1 | Day 2), we’ve taken some time to look at your role models in your artistic life, your fairy art parents.

You’ve identified who they are and what you admire about them, and analyzed the commonalities among them.

Today, we start putting together your Writing Manifesto, based on what you’ve learned. This is a guiding document for you as you work on play in your creative space.

And it works from project to project, from scene to scene. (Sometimes I get stuck on a scene and I can’t figure out why I can’t go forward and I realize it’s because it’s not following any of the principles that I’ve set down for myself as an artist.

Working on projects that matter, in a way that aligns with your values and inspiration, makes makes finding your voice so much easier.

It makes everything better.

So let’s get started. Are you ready?

STEP 1

Look at all of the notes you’ve made over the past couple of days about qualities in your fairy art parents that resonate most deeply with you.

(They resonate with you because they matter to you too. And once you’ve got that, I want you to write the words. In my.)

Step 2:

Write

“In my creative life I will be…”

…then list the things that matter to you.

My Example

In my work I will be...

In my work and my life I will be OPENHEARTED, OPTIMISTIC, always looking for the HUMOR, even when it is dark. SKEPTICAL, but not cynical. 

FORGIVING of my work’s flaws. 

PROLIFIC and POSITIVE and always producing the next thing. 

Committed to the CRAFT (read lots, analyze and share, put into practice).

Committed to the COMMUNITY (past, present and future. Part of a lineage.) 

UPLIFTING (this doesn’t mean Pollyanna-is. Remember my mentors.) 

A BELIEVER that ART MATTERS. 

I create worlds I want to live in, and inspire others to do the same (not just on the page).

Julie Duffy

(Watch the video above at the 02:10 mark, for my explanation of how I came up with this)

A Writer’s Manifesto means that, with every project, you can if something’s not working, you can look and see where it’s not aligning with your values, where it’s not aligning with your strategy for your writing life.

The Decision Filter

Mine has become a decision filter for everything I do in my writing.

It’s easier for me to ignore the shiny objects that pop up, and the temptation to think I need something new to work on. One look at my manifesto and I realize maybe I need to make THIS project work the way I want to work!

I was really surprised by the clarity it brought me…and lots of other writers have told me the asme thing.

Write Your Manifesto Now

This part is going to take a little more time than what you did on the first couple of days of this challenge. And that’s okay.

Don’t work on it for hours, just 15 minutes or so.

Write down some of these things for yourself and to start creating that document in my writing life,

  • I will…
  • I will be…
  • I will not…
  • I will not be…

it’s not about writing out plans like “I will have a writing contract by the end of the year”. It’s about your approach.

Mine were about being upbeat and optimistic. Yours might be about being sincere and unafraid to write a sad ending.

Really dig for what’s important to you.

When you do, you’ll write the work that only you can write.

The work that people are craving.

You will have the voice that is unique to you.

That is going to make everything that you write better.

Focus on your words.

Sit with it, overnight.

Come back tomorrow, to find out what’s next.

Keep writing,

Julie (signed)

Leave a comment: how did it feel to record your creative values where you can see them?

Day 2 – Let’s Get Together

Day 2! Keep up the good work!

We’re back for day two of this five day challenge, which is going to get you on a path to understanding

  • who you are as a writer, and to
  • keep you on that path.

Anytime you get stuck, anytime you find yourself not making progress, you can come back to the document you are creating this week.

It’s more effective than any other productivity hack like making appointments with yourself or setting deadlines and word count goals.

Those things can all help for awhile. But what matters is the story under the story:

Who are you as a writer, and what is the story you’re telling yourself?

Yesterday, you identified people you admire as creatives and wrote down what you admired.

I encourage you to think about these people as your Fairy Art Parents. These are the people who are guiding the way for you. These are the people you want to be like, but in your own way

Find The Common Threads

Today, I want you to look through that list and find the commonalities between them.

For example, for me, I quickly realized that optimism, humor and open-heartedness were something that all of my people that I admired had in common.

It wasn’t about winning awards or being famous. It was their approach to life and creativity. That was what they had in common that I admired.

So those things belong on my list of what matters to me about writing.

I realized that my fairy art parents also had in common, a commitment to the craft and to turning out work.

I also saw a strong sense among all of my fairy art parents, that art matters. Art is life changing. Art is important. They really felt that creative work can change the world, and I realized that’s something I really believe too.

Your Turn

Go through your fairy art parents and the list of things that you wrote down that you admired about them. Look for those commonalities, circle them, write them out in a separate list. Do whatever makes sense to you to highlight those things…

And then just ponder that for the rest of the day and you’ve completed today’s part of the challenge.

Tomorrow, we’re going to come back. And put all this stuff together. In a way that is going to help you figure out your. Writing Manifesto, your values, and the things that will keep you on the track.

But don’t worry about that yet.

Leave a comment to let us know what you found in common among your Fairy Art Parents.

And I’ll see you back here tomorrow.

Keep writing,

Julie (signed)

Day 1 – Your Fairy Art Parents

It’s Day 1! Let’s get started!

After we finish these five days, you will have a really strong sense of why you’re writing.

  • What you SHOULD be writing.
  • What your SHOULDN’T be writing.
  • WHO your role models and mentors are
  • How to stay on track and truly BELIEVE that you are a writer and you should be doing this work.

Over the next 5 days we’re going to create your ‘Writer’s Manifesto’, a document that will help you understand why writing matters to you and what you want to bring into the world, through you creativity.

It acts as a decision-filter for the way you work on every scene, every story, every piece.

Two Examples

When I was procrastinating on revisions to a story, I wasn’t sure what was wrong. Then I looked at my Writer’s Manifesto and realized that the cynical little story I had drafted didn’t match my goals for me, as a writer and human.

That realization freed me to let that draft go, and work on something better…which came much more easily.

Likewise, in trying to write a scene in my novel, it kept trending to a tone that didn’t match what I had written as my aspirations for my work. Remembering that allowed me to find a better tone for the scene, which then flowed better, because I believed in it more.

STEP 1 OF YOUR MANIFESTO


We start by figuring out who we admire, as creative — who are our ‘Fairy Art Parents’…

TASK


Write a list of creative people you admire and what attracts you to them.

Don’t spend too long on this.

For example, I wrote:

Amanda Palmer. For her commitment to making the art that only she can make and for finding ways to get paid for it. outwith traditional structures. And for her commitment to openness.

Mary Robinette Kowal science fiction, fantasy author, whose pursuit of the craft of writing and storytelling is detailed and, logical. For her willingness to share that with others and to keep on turning out her own work and building an audience at the same time.

Nick Stevenson for what I call his calculated openheartedness, the way that he communicates with his readers.

Kim Stanley Robinson for his unique style and optimism.

Neil Gaiman for the same things, and for the literary family tree that he grew out of.

Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams for their quirky style, their humor, their big ideas and for the fact that what I get from them. I can only get from them.

WRITE YOUR LIST

  • So write down your list of people who inspire you, writers, artists, creative types.
  • And then write down what it is that each of those people. What you admire about them and the way that they do business.

Today’s is a tiny task, but it lays the foundation for the really important process that we’re going through this week.

We’ll be back tomorrow to take the next step with this list that you’re making today.

Who did you pick as your Fairy Art Parents. Leave a comment and let us know!

Keep writing,

Julie (signed)

P. S. Have a friend who should be going through this challenge with you? Send them a link to sign up at storyaday.org/jan-challenge

Through A Portal…

A writing prompt from the archives, to prove that originality is not something you should worry about!

…to the archives

When I talk to new writers they are often concerned that their ideas aren’t ‘original enough’.

Of course, the more we write and the more we hang out with other writers, the more obvious it becomes that originality comes from you, not from the idea.

Ideas are everywhere.

Nobody will ever treat an idea in exactly the same way you will, so you can stop worrying about ‘being original’ right now. You ARE original. You can’t help it.

And to prove that, I’m sending you to a popular guest writing prompt from 2020, from author, podcaster and puppeteer, Mary Robinette Kowal.

So far, this prompt has sparked two very different stories that have been published and a whole novel that is still in progress…and those are just the ones I’ve heard about.

What can you do with this prompt, this week?

Keep writing 

Julie

P. S. If you’d like more in-depth writing prompts, weekly, complete with a writing lesson and a jolt of inspiration from me, consider the StoryAWeek newsletter

The Enduring Benefits of a Coach

A young man sat at a piano, his fingers easily traveling over the keys…until a grumpy old guy with a vaguely Eastern-European accent, batted the younger man’s hand away.

“You have to breathe after this phrase, to bring life into the music.”

I was astounded.

The old guy was correcting the piano playing of Jon Battiste, who had recently been nominated for 11 Grammys and who is one of the country’s most beloved musicians.

And yet, Battiste listened to his old teacher, breathed, and nodded appreciatively as he heard the change in his playing.

Everyone benefits from expert coaching, no matter whether they are starting out, or scaling the heights.

If you want to make progress in your writing, faster, and with fewer wrong turns, it’s worth asking yourself if it’s time to get someone in your corner.

My superpower is that I can really hear what writers need, and what they may not be able to hear themselves say.

Your gift is your writing. What are you letting get in the way of that?

Let’s find out.

If you already like my style, and know you’re ready to commit to your writing, watch this video and then let me know you’d like to talk.

Keep writing,

Julie

P. S. Where do you want to be this time next year? And what are you going to do, to ensure you get there? Let’s talk…

Happy People-Watching Season!

During the busy holiday season (when did October-Jan become ‘the holiday season?!) we’re all overwhelmed with inboxes full of holiday greetings, people trying to sell us things, and the inevitable (endless) invitations to social events. (or a feeling of nostalgia for the days when we used to get more invitations…).

This is just a quick love-note from me to encourage you, in case you’re feeling like you’ll never have time to write on your work-in-progress again.

This is actually a great time for writers:

  • All those people getting together and interacting in ways they wouldn’t on a normal day? Fuel for your next crowd scene!
  • All those smells and tastes and sights that only come around once a year? Grab a notebook and capture the exact words that you can use later to recreate a similar scene in your fictional world (a quick trip to the bathroom can be your friend, here!)
  • All the feelings inside you, as you wait anxiously or excitedly for your celebration to begin? Pinpoint where they are happening in your body and how they manifest. Write them down and give them to a character (a great way to go beyond ‘she gasped’ and ‘his eyes widened’!)

Grab your notebook. Stay hydrated. Take breaks (get outside if you can) and try to remember: it’s all material!

Keep writing,

Julie

P. S. StoryADay’s 15th year is coming up in 2024 and I’d love to see it back on the Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers list for the anniversary, so if you’ve ever taken part or gained any inspiration from the StoryADay blog, podcast, emails or challenges you can let Writer’s Digest know here.

It’s Time To Tell Holiday Tales

Have you thought about writing a holiday story?

In my world October 31 ushers in what feels like one big long holiday season: from Halloween, to Guy Fawkes in the UK, to Thanksgiving in the US, and then the headlong rush through Hannukah, Christmas, Diwali, Kwanzaa, New Year and Lunar New year…and blink! We’re almost at Valentine’s Day!

There’s no doubt these next few months are busy and freighted with expectations (have you thought about your end of year review? Your New Year’s Resolutions? If you’ll send holidays cards? Whose house you’ll go to for which family gathering? What topics are safe to talk about?!)

In simpler times*people used to gather round and tell stories at holiday gatherings.

(*times were never simpler. They were always full of complicated humans with complicated needs)

Holiday Story Traditions

In Dickens’ time ghost stories were in fashion.

Hans Christian Anderson went in for tragic tales of noble poverty.

Nowadays we have the Hallmark Christmas Movie and the Holiday Disaster Film as our new ‘fireside’ traditions.

But have you given any thought to writing a holiday story of your own?

I started doing this a few years ago, sending each year’s story out to friends as an alternative to the dreaded family newsletter. I only sent them to people who I thought would enjoy them, and only when I had a chance to write something I felt good about.

Writing a holiday-themed story is a great way to

  • Get in the mood ahead of time (it’s a good idea to start early)
  • Have something to talk about that’s not politics, religion, or money, when you get to the family gathering
  • Slowly build a collection of stories with a similar theme you could put together in an anthology
  • Have an excuse to get some writing time before the holiday rush starts (or during it).
  • Exorcise the demons of all that socialising, especially if you start writing next year’s story when you get home from a particularly ‘colorful’ event, this year.
  • Always have something on hand for the holiday-themed hungry calls for submission that will start appearing next July.

There are so many tropes and traditions to play with when it comes to Holiday stories, and I’ll be back soon with some ways for you to think about them.

But for now, I must dash and grab some brandy. I’m already late to soak the dried fruit for this year’s Christmas cake…

Have you written holiday stories? What holiday would you choose if you did? What would be your ‘must-have’ ingredients to make truly a holiday story? Leave a comment!

Creating a Creative Commute

A new way to get to your writing faster and do better, more creative work

Life is busy and it’s hard to fit writing in.

And even when you do make time to write, it can be hard to adjust your brain’s settings from ‘life out there’ to ‘life in here’ quickly enough to make the most of your writing time.

I call this process ‘the commute’.

Finding the right way to commute from your daily life to your creative life, can make a huge difference to your productivity and happiness.

Abrupt Transitions – Good for Drama, Bad for Real Life

When my kids were babies and I was adjusting to being alone at home with them all the (very) long day, I really looked forward to their dad coming home.

Unfortunately for him, he had a very short commute. It didn’t give him time to transition out of being an orderly scientist in the lab and into being just another one of the clowns in the three-ring circus that was our toy-strewn living room.

The transition was jarring and, for a while, it didn’t go well…

…Until he learned to use his short commute consciously, to shift his mood and expectations. No more mental auto-pilot on the drive home.

Now, he deliberately prepped for his second job, and didn’t come in the door until he was ready to be pounced on (often literally, when it came to the kids) by three needy people who were ready for a break from each other.

Likewise, if you try to rush from ‘doing all the things in my daily life’ to ‘I must be creative immediately’, it’s a jarring transition and your brain will likely go on strike..

It needs a bit of a commute.

But What If Your Commute Takes Too Long?

My commute from my last office job took well over an hour, meaning that I had plenty of time to unwind from the stresses of the day, before spending quality time with my husband...for the short amount of time we could spend together before it was time to go to bed, get up early and do it all again.

The long commute cut too deeply into how I wanted to be spending my time. Eventually, I left that job.

Many of us use practices and rituals to help us commute mentally from our daily lives to our creative lives. Maybe you use Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages” or j you journal, or use some other ritual –perhaps involving scented candles, meditation or soothing music.

And while I love the principal behind all these ideas, it becomes a problem if you’re using all your time and mental energy to warm up, and leaving nothing for the projects you really want to work on.

And what if, like many busy caregivers, employees, and you know, living people, you only have 20 minutes here and there in which to get some writing done?

You can’t spend the whole time commuting or you’ll never get to the good part.

My Recent Experiment

I love some stream-of-consciousness Morning Page writing to floss out my brain, but what would happen, I asked myself, if I didn’t have to write three pages?

It’s something that was so helpful as a concept when I first tried it out, that I hesitated to embrace the heresy that I might be able to warm up in less time. But I decided to try it and see what happened.

I started on a morning when I had a 25-minute block of time to work on my fiction.I didn’t want to spend the whole 25 minutes warming up, so I set a timer for 8 minutes (I love a deadline, don’t you?) and got to work.

  • I wrote quickly and continuously until my timer went off and discovered that, after all these years of leisurely morning page rambles, I could do a quick sprint—a High Intensity Interval Training session, you might say — and get the same benefits.
  • I went on to outlinesnowflake‘ the next section of the story I’ve been stuck on for ages, which was a my ‘real work’ for the day. (Important note: sometimes ‘writing’ doesn’t look like ‘creating a draft’).
  • Because I wrote in a very conscious way, it didn’t matter that the interval was short. It was all about the intensity, and that was what got me in the right frame of mind for fiction.

Some things that worked particularly well for me:

  • Set a timer for no more than 1/3 of the time available.
  • Write as fast as possible (by hand works really well for me because it slows me down, but your mileage may vary. I wrote as fast as I could so I wasn’t staring into space, but slowly enough that I got to choose my words.
  • Write about one thing that I noticed or loved, or enjoyed over the past 24 hours (In this case I was reading the book “The Living Mountain“* by Nan Shepherd before bed last night, and wrote about some of what I’d loved about it.)
  • Try to write with as much sensory detail or emotion as I can
  • Keep a separate sheet of paper available with “To Do” written at the top of it. As I write, things pop into my head, demanding my attention (“You should make that appointment/fill in your ballot/go to the post office/answer that email! And you should panic about it too!!” screams my brain at regular intervals as I try to write about Nan’s ability to capture the exact colors of autumn on the mountain….) I write them on my ‘to do’ list to worry about later and get back to my commute.
    (After all, if I was driving to work, it these things would have to wait, right?)
  • Stop as soon as the timer goes off.
  • Take a breath and notice the change in emotions, breathing, feelings about possibility…

EXPERT ADD-ON: Don’t Forget the Evening Commute

Something that has really helped me shorten my ‘morning commute’ has been taking some time at the end of the day — or the end of the writing session—to do a similar process:

  • Do a little journaling to capture what needs to come out of your brain from today.
  • Capture the same ‘to do’ list brain-calming measures. This is not the same as putting things into whatever task management system you may have. It’s just a list to capture random thoughts while you are writing. What you do with it after your writing time is up to you!
  • This means that, when you sit down the next day, a lot of the ‘But What About That Appointment You Need To Make” things your brain uses to try to distract you is already on a ‘to do’ list for today and can simply be waved away. This makes your commute even more efficient!

If you’re struggling to get your head in the game when you sit down to write, you may want to look about how you’re spending your ‘commute’ from one reality to the next.

Get the Creative Commute Lesson & Workbook now

Creative commute download button

Are You Trying To Be Good or Get Better

Struggling with procrastination? Maybe you’re trying to ‘be good’ when you should be focused on something else…

PSST! Want to take part in the StoryADay September challenge, and go through all the 2023 prompts again? Sign up here and I’ll send you email reminders each day in September 2023.

I LIKE TO LISTEN to the radio while I eat lunch, which means I stumble across all kinds of random facts and stories.  Today’s random story was about slumping British tennis player Cameron Norrie. He did really well earlier this year, but has been losing everything since June. 

The reporter’s theory was that, after his early success, Norrie put too much pressure on himself to be perfect–in matches and on the practice court.

That’s the part that made me pay attention. 

Sports psychologist Kevin Willis told me he encourages athletes to ask themselves: today, am I trying to “be good” or “get better”? 

I didn’t understand the distinction until he explained:

  • “Be good” is for match days, when you’re performing, showing what you can do, being judged against other people. (For us, the equivalent is when we’re polishing up a piece for publication. We want it to be good, because it’s going to be judged against all the other writing out there, and it’s going to have to compete for readers’ attention with all the other things life throws at them. We need those pieces to be good.)
  • “Get better” is for practice days…this is where you need to let go of trying to be perfect, and instead allow yourself to experiment: try new things, fail, learn from the failure and try something else. This is where the only person you’re competing against is yourself: can you be better (or worse) than you were yesterday? And what can you learn from that?

For most athletes–and most writers–there are a lot more days when we are striving to ‘get better’ than days when we absolutely must ‘be good’. 

In fact, trying to ‘be good’ when you ought to be in practice mode stifles your ability to try new things, to play in the dirt, to have fun and learn new things. 

That’s what Cameron Norrie fell victim to, and is probably why his game is off.

The StoryADay Challenge is ALL about trying to get better, by doing lots of writing-that-doesn’t-need-to-be-good.

It’s all about getting comfortable with writing even when it’s not perfect (it can’t be. Not if you’re trying to write a story a day!)

It’s about training ourselves to allow that first draft to be, well, first draft-y and extremely imperfect.

I’m running the StoryADay challenge again this September, with all the prompts from May arriving in your inbox if you sing up here:

I hope you’ll join us.

Keep writing,

Julie

P. S. If you’ve tried the challenge before and failed, good for you! You learned something. If you’re interested in trying the challenge again, but this time “doing it properly” download this guide to failproofing your StoryADay Challenge

Download the SOS Workbook

SWAGr for June 2023

It’s that time again: time to make your commitments to your writing for the coming month. Join us!

Welcome to the Serious Writers’ Accountability Group!

CONGRATULATIONS! Whether you wrote stories during StoryADay May or focused on living the life that will feed later stories, congrats!

(I did a bit of both!)

Special June Edition of SWAGr

Because we’re coming out of a month of intense writing, I HIGHLY recommend you download and fill out the StoryADay Post-Challenge Workbook.

  • Capture your ‘lessons learned’
  • Document what worked for you (and what didn’t. No judgement, just data!)
  • Plan for the future so you don’t lose momentum OR burn out

Listen to two podcast episodes that walk you through the debrief process

Part 1 – listen now

Part 2 – listen now

Then:

Leave a comment below telling us how you got on last month, and what you plan to do next month, then check back in on the first of each month, to see how everyone’s doing.

(It doesn’t have to be fiction. Feel free to use this group to push you in whatever creative direction you need.)

Did you live up to your commitment from last month? Don’t remember what you promised to do? Check out the comments from last month.

And don’t forget to celebrate with/encourage your fellow SWAGr-ers on their progress!

Download your SWAGr Tracking Sheet now, to keep track of your commitments this month

****

Examples of Goals Set By SWAGr-ers in previous months

  • Finish first draft of story and write 3 articles for my school paper. – Courtney
  • Write on seven days this month – Clare
  • Extend my reading and to read with a ‘writers eye’- Wendy
  • write 10,000 words – Mary Lou

 So, what will you accomplish this month? Leave your comment below

(Next check-in, 1st of the month. Tell your friends!)

Day 31 – Wish Fulfillment by Julie Duffy

You did it! Now let’s see if your character has THEIR wish granted…

The Prompt

Grant your character’s deepest wish, today

You’ve done it!

You started this month with the desire to write more, write better, and build your writing practice.

With commitment (and probably some imperfect execution) you’ve arrived here, at Day 31 of StoryADay. That’s a huge accomplishment.

As you write your story today, think about how it feels to get what you wanted.

Of course, reality never quite matches up with how we imagined the perfect outcome (for example, I imagined that this year I wouldn’t crave Sundays ‘off’ from my own challenge. This did not turn out to be true…)

For your character, feel free to use the old fairy-tale caution to be careful what you wish for.

For yourself, however, I’d remind you that achievements begin with two things: a vision of how things could be; and a decision to work towards that better future. You used both to write, this month.

CELEBRATE!

Whether you wrote three stories or 31, you Imagined yourself as a writer, you Wrote, you Refined your practice, you Improved your craft, you Triumphed and, if you’re still reading this, I’m pretty sure you Engaged with the community.

You’re living the I, WRITER life.

If you’d like to keep Repeating this successful pattern, take the next steps with the self-paced I, WRITER Course, available now – a program of writing life and craft workshops that reinforces everything you’ve worked to build here.

  • Build your writing practice
  • Develop your craft
  • Start when you’re ready, go at your own pace

To celebrate the end of StoryADay May, if you join I, WRITER before my birthday on June 13, 2023, I’ll send you an invitation to join one of our Superstars Critique Weeks (valid until March 2024), at no cost (a $147 value).

Tomorrow, I’ll be back in your email inboxes one final time, related to StoryADay May 2023, to send you a self-assessment form, so you can capture what went well and what you will do differently as a result of everything you’ve learned on this journey.

This is one of the most valuable documents you’ll create for yourself and I recommend repeating the practice after every project, in future.

For now, sit back and bask in the your successes as a StoryADay 2023 Winner!


Julie Duffy

In 2010 Julie was a frustrated writer, who decided that writing a StoryADay in May would be a great way to kickstart her writing practice. 13 years later, it seems she was right. The rest of the writing world quickly caught on and now May is known as Short Story Month! Julie is the author of writing handbooks, articles, podcasts, workshops and courses, as well as a short story writer, and ‘Book Boss’.

Join the discussion: what will you do with today’s prompt OR how did it go? Need support? Post here!

31

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Day 30 – Tell It Backwards by Julie Duffy

Starting at the end is a fun way to tell a story…

The Prompt

Start your story with the character walking away from a situation (figuratively-speaking) and then explain how they got there.

Things to Consider

  • Think of TV shows that start with a dramatic scene then jump back to eight hours earlier and show how the characters ended up there – in this case you can tell the rest of the story in chronological order from beginning to the moment we entered the story (Looks at the camera: this is where you came in…)
  • Another option is to step back through the day moment by moment, unpacking every event and the event before it, in reverse order. This can be very powerful if you take the readers on an emotional rollercoaster
  • Or you can do some blend of the two.
  • The great thing about this is that you know where you’re going, all the way through the story because you know the outcome. You know what you have to set up to make the ‘ending’ work. Even if you never use this story form again, it’s a great exercise that you can use to rough out the end of a novel or longer story, any time you get stuck!

Possible opening line templates:

As [character name] [active verb][setting], they [verbed] a [noun]. [Image]. [Transition]
e.g. As Joanne fled the crowded pub, she lobbed what remained of her lemonade over her shoulder. With one last look over her shoulder she saw it arc through the air–globules caught in the security lights like fireworks–and spray across the faces of her three meathead pursuers, momentarily slowing them down. She put on a burst of speed. How had it come to this?

[Vivid details about something disastrous]. And to think, just [time period] earlier, everything had been going so well…

or

A [profession] in a [setting] doesn’t usually end up with [unexpected result], [conjunction]

Winners’ Swag

We’re so close! It’s not too soon to order your Winner’s Swag:

Order Now
Order Now

Julie Duffy

In 2010 Julie was a frustrated writer, who decided that writing a StoryADay in May would be a great way to kickstart her writing practice. 13 years later, it seems she was right. The rest of the writing world quickly caught on and now May is known as Short Story Month! Julie is the author of writing handbooks, articles, podcasts, workshops and courses, as well as a short story writer, and ‘Book Boss’.

Join the discussion: what will you do with today’s prompt OR how did it go? Need support? Post here!

30

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Day 29 – Crowd Scene by Julie Duffy

Can you fit a crowd into a short story?

The Prompt

Write A Story Featuring an Assembly or Crowd Scene

Normally I caution against having too many people in a short story, but today I want you to practice filling the scene with a crowd…but still focusing on your main characters.

There’s lots of potential for noise, color, and action in this one!

  • Think about the way fish school or birds flock. Can you use that in the story somehow?
  • Is your character happy to be lost in the crowd (running from pursuers) or would they rather be found?
  • How does the outer action of being in the crowd compliment or contrast with what’s going on inside your character?
  • Where will the reader enter the story, and how will we know it is finished? (for example, if the story starts as your character enters the crowd, perhaps it ends when they find their way out? This is a technique I learned from Mary Robinette Kowal’s MICE Quotient class. She’s running another one next month. * #recommended.)

Julie Duffy

In 2010 Julie was a frustrated writer, who decided that writing a StoryADay in May would be a great way to kickstart her writing practice. 13 years later, it seems she was right. The rest of the writing world quickly caught on and now May is known as Short Story Month! Julie is the author of writing handbooks, articles, podcasts, workshops and courses, as well as a short story writer, and ‘Book Boss’.

Join the discussion: what will you do with today’s prompt OR how did it go? Need support? Post here!

29

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(*this is an affiliate link, meaning I may be rewarded if you use my link to sign up. But I would recommend this class either way.)

Day 28- The Body Talking by Neha Mediratta

We communicate with more than words…let’s explore that today

The Prompt

Write a short story describing your character’s inner reactions/emotions/thoughts to outside events entirely through body description.

Use this ending for your short story. “After he signed the papers, he stood up slower than usual. He almost limped away from the desk and into the corridor.

No, that’s not it.

His head hung to the left a bit, his whole torso’s weight shifted to the right leg for longer than the left one, as if was lugging around a log of wood attached to his left calf. His left knee didn’t bend. His arms, usually swinging, hung limp.”

Steve Maxwell, a fitness instructor, says: “People’s bodies are exactly what their thoughts are.”

Including the body’s reactions to outside situations is a great way to develop depth in characters. It creates a more immediate connection with readers (since they can absorb a lot of implicit information through such descriptions) and makes your writing more effective with just a few details!

How can we show defeat (like in the ending shared above) or anger or love or excitement/fear through body reactions of characters?

Enjoy!


Neha Mediratta

Neha is a generalist currently obsessed with stretching, mind-body-world connection and the spirit’s dwelling place. She writes fiction, non-fiction, takes on editing assignments she enjoys and works with people she admires. She lives by a lake in an overcrowded coastal city with her family and some wildlife. Check out her writing here

Join the discussion: what will you do with today’s prompt OR how did it go? Need support? Post here!

28

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Day 27- Last Will by Michele. E. Reisinger

Today’s prompt from Brenda Rech gives you a chance to stretch your imagination

The Prompt

A lawyer I know once told me there are only two kinds of people in this world: Those who think the pre-deceased should decide how to disperse their life’s work and those who think themselves entitled to it.

Write a story told as a LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT.

You can be silly or serious, realistic or really weird.

Which of the two kinds of people is your protagonist?

Which is their beneficiary? Is there a third kind of person?

What message may your protagonist be trying to send, and do the beneficiaries agree?

Consider your time period and genre, as well as the bequests. Are they sentimental, practical, or fantastical?

The gold pocket watch in 1886 could be a family heirloom, but in 6881 a portal between universes. What if the watch were BOTH those things, regardless of space and time?

Play around with the topic.

Maybe instead of writing the document, you write the story of the passed-down object or one of the beneficiaries.

Maybe you write about the ugly vase or the empty booze bottle, around whose necks cryptic notes are strung.

Maybe you focus on the relative who expected everything and received nothing. Or the lawyer, maybe, duped by the pre-deceased into unscrupulous behavior.

Whatever you decide, your story needn’t be macabre or gloomy. It can be, of course, but it can also be playful.

It can be joyous.


Michele E. Reisinger

Michele is a writer and StoryADay Superstar living in Bucks County, PA, with her family and never enough books. Her short fiction has appeared in Across the Margin, Stories That Need to be Told, Sunspot Literary Journal, Dreamers Creative Writing, and others. Find her online at mereisinger.com.

Join the discussion: what will you do with today’s prompt OR how did it go? Need support? Post here!

27

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Day 26- You never know where you might end up. by Brenda

Today’s prompt from Brenda Rech gives you a chance to stretch your imagination

The Prompt

A misunderstood aristocrat wants to unmask an intriguing conspiracy behind a museum exhibit. It takes him to a place he never wanted to go.

Take your character to a different time, a different place. Do they go forwards, backwards or maybe even a bit sideways.


Brenda

Brenda loves writing short fiction and is working on her first novel. 2023 is the third year of her monthly newsletter – Thru the Window.

All her life she wanted to be a veterinarian and took all the right science classes in high school. But, her favorite class was English 300. The teacher was a poet, who loved Shakespeare, and gave funky, fun assignments for creative writing. She struggled through first-year university, her grades in organic chemistry were less than stellar, but her marks in Canadian Lit were awesome. It was suggested that she pursue an English degree and be a teacher. She quit university.

Fast forward. She got married, had two children and ran a successful consulting business with her husband.

Fast forward again. During a monster house move she wrote a blog with photos to send to people who wanted to know how the relocation was going.

Fast forward some more. She joined Story A Day May and has never looked back

Find more info on her website (which is still under construction – so wear a hard hat) https://wordpress.com/home/brendarech.com ,
A better idea is her newsletter. Thru the Window

Join the discussion: what will you do with today’s prompt OR how did it go? Need support? Post here!

26

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Day 25 – You And Them by Julie Duffy

Write a story using this helpful prompt from Julie Duffy

The Prompt

Write a story in the first person point of view, but include three characters

Put the characters in a position where they must make a decision and must work together to achieve something.

The point-of-view character and one other want the same thing, but the third character wants something different.

Remember that, since we are only every privvy to the person in the “I” point of view, you can’t tell us what the other characters are thinking. We’ll have to figure that out, along with the point-of-view character, from their words and actions (including body language) as they progress through the story.

Will your POV character get what they want? Will the second character back them up or switch sides? How will you show the progression of the relationships, through only words and actions?

Can we trust what your point of view character thinks, or are they fooling themselves? Are they insightful about their companions or do they misinterpret their actions?


Julie Duffy

I am Julie Duffy and this is a first-person bio. I founded StoryADay May in 2010 because I was stick of never finishing anything I started. Ironically, StoryADay May turned into an annual event and now I hope it will never end! I also encourage people to make monthly goals during the rest of the year, in our Serious Writers’ Accountability Group posts.

Join the discussion: what will you do with today’s prompt OR how did it go? Need support? Post here!

25

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Day 24 – At The Precipice – A Visual Prompt from C. MKCane

Write a story using this helpful prompt from Julie Duffy

The Prompt

Two people standing, silhouetted on a ridge with sun and blue sky breaking through clouds

Try to incorporate this visual prompt into a pivotal moment in a story.

Perhaps these two people are adversaries or a couple.

Consider the location: this could be a real trail in the mountains or on a whole other planet.


C. McKane

Cee is a nursing student, writer, photographer, and family herbalist who loves micro fiction and Italian poetry. She is currently exploring Notes on Substack:

Join the discussion: what will you do with today’s prompt OR how did it go? Need support? Post here!

24

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Day 23- A Catalogue of Complaints by Julie Duffy

Settings are important in today’s prompt

Write a list of complaints. Focus on the voice of your character, and what the particular complaints tell the reader about that character.

Things To Consider

You can write this as an exaggerated version of yourself and your own complaints about the world—but be wary of doing this if you are not blessed with a strong sense of the ridiculous, or if you’re feeling particularly dark about the world right now. The point of this exercise is NOT to validate your complaints, but to communicate to a reader certain human commonalities.

Start with a character and think about what stage of life they are in, what their hopes are, what their experience of life might have been. Try to write the list the way they would, with an eye to providing context clues for a reader.

You might model your character on someone in public life who frustrates you, inspires you, or confuses you. What would a fabulously wealthy heiress have to complain about (it won’t be nothing). How do those complaints reflect on her? What would an admired philanthropist still grouse about, privately? How would that change a reader’s perspective from the start to the end of the story?

Use the title to tell us whose list of complaints we’re reading (for example, it might read like an advice article in a glossy magazine: World Champion Ice Dancer Melody Swope shares Fourteen Things to Prepare Your PreTeen Ice Queen For When They Go Pro; or How Famed Naturalist Sir Danny Arbuckle Packs For A Trip To The Wilderness, A List of Grievances by Olivia Snyder, Aged 12 1/4).

Write the list as if your character wrote it for their eyes only, because you want to get to the honest parts of the character, the parts they wouldn’t necessarily air on purpose.

Remember to provide a sense of discovery for the reader–they will be searching for meaning, so take them on a journey.

It doesn’t have to be a list of complaints, but do try to pick something that allows you to dig into a particular character and take the reader on a journey.

Be brave. Leave lots of gaps. See what happens.


Julie Duffy

Julie is the creator of StoryADay May. She tries not to complain too much. If you’d like to receive writing lessons and prompts from Julie throughout the year, consider signing up for the StoryAWeek newsletter.

Join the discussion: what will you do with today’s prompt OR how did it go? Need support? Post here!

23

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Day 22- If You Were Not You by Julie Duffy

Today’s prompt has us looking at character

The Prompt

Dig out your Short Story Framework again, and this time let’s plan a story that features a character who might be you, but very much isn’t. Let them react in ways you never would, never could, to whatever obstacles you throw at them.

  • When trying to get inside the head of this person, it can be useful to think of someone you actually know who is very different from you. Think of someone who does things that you would never do, that you despise, or that you secretly admire. Start with their external actions (what do they do when someone cuts them off in traffic that is so different from what you do, for example.) Backtracked from there to try to figure out what is going on in their head and their heart in that moment.
  • Put this character in a situation where there is conflict or stress and where their reactions are going to be really different from how you would react. Write the reactions, and as you’re doing so, unpack the story behind this person.
  • Don’t worry about trying to have a clever plot in this story. It can be something as simple as: this person gets cut off in traffic and how they react. The point of this exercise is to investigate the psyche of somebody very different from you. There’s a danger in always writing characters that are too sympathetic or similar to yourself.
  • Writing about somebody you dislike or someone unlike you can be very difficult. To make them more sympathetic, give them something there really, really good at. They might be charismatic. They might be really good engineering. But everyone has some areas where they are competent even if they are incompetent in every other sphere that matters to you!
  • This is not an exercise in writing a villain. This is an exercise in writing someone very different from yourself. It could be someone you admire.

Julie Duffy

Julie is the creator of StoryADay May. She created the challenge in 2010 when she realized she was spending so much time daydreaming about ways she could have lived different lives that she might as well write some of them down as stories!

Join the discussion: what will you do with today’s prompt OR how did it go? Need support? Post here!

22

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Day 21- If You Plant It, They Will Come by Michele E. Reisinger

Settings are important in today’s prompt

The Prompt

Write a story in which a garden plays a central role, whether as setting, character, source of conflict–or any combination of those three elements.

WHAT kind of garden is it? Flower, vegetable… Unicorn? Is it flourishing or fallow? Sprawling or skimpy? And what kind of nourishment does its harvest require? Is that nourishment easy or difficult to acquire?

WHO owns/plants/cultivates the garden? Are they the same person?

WHY do they garden? Pleasure? Revenge? Magic? Obligation? Or why do they refuse/delay/squirm at the prospect? Are they too old, young, squeamish, busy, distracted, sick?

WHERE is the garden located? In the protagonist’s backyard? In a community plot at the over-55 development? On the space station? Atop a soaring skyscraper? Beside the cottage? Behind the castle? Lost in the multiverse? At great-aunt Lulu’s?

WHEN does the garden exist? In memory, 1236 BCE, a week from now, during the Plague, during the war, during the famine? And when does it bloom? Predictably or never or only when the Blue Moon shines?

HOW does the garden connect to the protagonist’s deepest, darkest fear, want, need, desire? How will they feel/act if the garden fails? Succeeds? Remains unharvested? And how does the garden impact the protagonist’s relationship with other characters? Other creatures?

Need more ideas?

Claim an extant garden–a real one, or one from literature or film–and set your story there. BUT, change at least one significant detail about its composition.
OR, borrow characters or historical figures and place them in your newly invented garden. Bonus points for genre mash-ups.


OR, retell a garden story from a different POV… like the worm’s.


Michele E. Reisinger

Michele is a writer and StoryADay Superstar living in Bucks County, PA, with her family and never enough books. Her short fiction has appeared in Across the Margin, Stories That Need to be Told, Sunspot Literary Journal, Dreamers Creative Writing, and others. Find her online at mereisinger.com.

Join the discussion: what will you do with today’s prompt OR how did it go? Need support? Post here!

21

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Day 20 – Make it Flash by Julie Duffy

A moment of clarity, from Julie Duffy

The Prompt

Write a Flash Fiction story in 500 words, inspired by a vivid, or transformative, or reflective moment (like the one in the photo).

Tips

  • Have as vivid a moment as you can in mind as you start your story.
  • If you use this picture, brainstorm what happened in the moments before the the shutter clicked. Where are they going? Where have they been? What’s causing that facial expression? Is it sincere? Who’s taking the picture?
  • What happens the moment after the photo? Who cares about that? (Whose story is this?)
  • Whose voice will you tell it in? The photographer, writing it up later for the notes for his exhibition? The subject (first person, present tense? Told from the future). Some omniscient narrator? Will they be trustworthy or untrustworthy?
  • If you’re stuck on how to write a flash fiction story, listen to the episode of the StoryADay podcast with Windy Lynn Harris, where she shares 7 ways to approach flash.
  • If you’re not sure what makes a short story flash, check out these StoryADay Flash Fiction Essentials

If you share you story somewhere (and here’s why you might not want to) post a link here so we can come and read it.

Leave a comment to let us know what you wrote about today, and how it went!


Julie Duffy

Julie Duffy has always been verbose (something she often got in trouble for at school) which might explain why she is such a fan of the puzzle that is short fiction.

Join the discussion: what will you do with today’s prompt OR how did it go? Need support? Post here!

20

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Day 19- Mapping a Crime by Leslie Stack

An intriguing use of technology for today’s prompt from Leslie Stack

The Prompt

We all depend on our GPS devices whether it’s through Google, Apple, or other providers, but do we know how those online maps are created?

For at least Apple and Google, a small car literally drives around each neighborhood with a camera on top taking pictures and videos in real time for use later in their maps.

What if one of these drivers inadvertently takes a picture of a crime being committed unbeknownst to the driver?

This could be in a home, a park, a shopping center, a theatre, or a deserted road. For this prompt you can use the POV of the person committing the crime and finding the evidence on Google or Apple maps or you can use a different POV such as the victim or the officer investigating the crime.

What is the crime and what did the camera see? Enjoy!


Leslie Stack

Leslie Stack is a musician and retired teacher who is finally surrendering to her love of writing. You can usually find her doing research behind dark glasses on a park bench. She lives in a house in Pennsylvania with her husband where the books are plotting to takeover.

Join the discussion: what will you do with today’s prompt OR how did it go? Need support? Post here!

19

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Day 18- Follow the Scent! by Robin Stein

Follow the scent and uses your senses in today’s prompt from Robin Stein

The Prompt

The aroma of coffee brewing, the minty scent of your grandfather’s aftershave or the salty smell of the beach.

What are the smells of your childhood? List three that pop into your head.

Start your story with one of them.

Maybe your character has a flashback when she smells something.

Or, the scent can be used as evidence in a crime.

Perhaps an unfamiliar perfume will reveal someone’s infidelity.

Make sure to use all five senses as you follow the scent to reveal your story.

See where your nose takes you!


Robin Stein

Robin Stein muses, meditates and creates in Newtonville, MA. Her work has been displayed on the Martin Poetry Path and in the Story Dispenser at Wellesley Free Library. Her book, My Two Cities: A Story of Immigration and Inspiration, has been featured at many schools. She enjoys crafting crosswords, walking in nature and playing piano. You can read more at robinsteincreative.com.

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18

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Day 17- You got a mouse in your pocket? by Fleet Sparrow

Fleet Sparrow invites us to explore the first person plural, today

The Prompt

Lately, I’ve been fascinated by how many times people will say “we” when they really mean “I”. There’s the courtly “royal we”, the Borg-like hive mind “we”, the “you and what army? we”, etc. So, for a challenge, write your story in the first-person plural.

Think about who would be using the plural first-person. What are they hiding about themselves? What are they telling? How many is the “we” including: one, two, or hundreds? And, for fun, just notice how naturally or unnaturally this “we” comes to you when writing.


Fleet Sparrow

Fleet is an avid fanficcer and smut lover who enjoys playing with long-held ideas and figuring out how to break them into something new. Zie loves Batman/DC Comics, writing, reading, music, and puns.

Y’all can find zir on Twitter (sometimes) at @FleetSparrow; on Substack (rarely) at fleetsparrow.substack.com; and on ArchiveOfOurOwn (often) under the name, you guessed it, FleetSparrow.

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17

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Day 16 – Very Short Story by Julie Duffy

Write a story using this helpful prompt from Julie Duffy

The Prompt

Tell a story in 50 words

Imagine someone has taken away something your character cares about deeply, to the point where their focus on its absence feels obsessive.

Tell us that story in 50 words

Tips:

Think through everything that would matter to your character, then distill, reduce, concentrate all that you would like to communicate to the reader.

How little can you say and still have character, tension, change, imagery?

You could write about the moment when it’s just a threat to take the “something” away. How hard will they fight to keep it?

The “something” could be a physical object, a person, a right, or an anticipated reward…

Remember: the reader doesn’t have to understand it on first reading.

You should feel free to use your title to tell us a lot.


Julie Duffy

Julie Duffy is the founder and host of StoryADay, its challenges, community and podcast. For more prompts and deeper writing lessons weekly, throughout the year, subscribe to the StoryAWeek newsletter

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16

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Day 15- Sweet Stories are Made of Dreams…To Paraphrase the Eurythmics by Michele E. Reisinger

Sweet dreams, for today’s prompt from Michele E. Reisinger

The Prompt

Some people dream in color, others in black and white. Some never recall their dreams, while others recall them in vivid, haunting detail.

Some believe dreams are psychic housekeepers, tidying our subconscious as we sleep. Others believe they are keys, unlocking a multiverse of otherwise inaccessible worlds.

Write a story in which a dream–or nightmare–plays a central role in the protagonist’s internal and external conflict.


Michele E. Reisinger

Michele is a writer and StoryADay Superstar living in Bucks County, PA, with her family and never enough books. Her short fiction has appeared in Across the Margin, Stories That Need to be Told, Sunspot Literary Journal, Dreamers Creative Writing, and others. Find her online at mereisinger.com.

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15

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Day 14- The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts by Neha Mediratta

We’re diving into structure and character today with this prompt from Neha Mediratta

The Prompt

Write a short story about an accident from the PoV of three different characters:

  1. involved in the accident (e.g. as a passenger or driver of a cart or cycle/bike or car/plane or spaceship),
  2. witnessing the accident ( e.g. as agent who tried to avoid or confront the accident as it happens),
  3. trying to put pieces of what really happened when investigating (e.g. could be a public figure like a police officer or a person just coming to terms personally with this incident).

The playing rules here are to

a) develop our practice muscles to inhabit different perspectives.
b) dig deeply into a small but decisive moment.
c) convey a final impression of the whole (i.e. The End) with the help of three different characters in the compact space of a short story.

And most of all, have fun writing!


Neha Mediratta

Neha is a generalist currently obsessed with stretching, mind-body-world connection and the spirit’s dwelling place. She writes fiction, non-fiction, takes on editing assignments and works with people she admires. She lives by a lake in an overcrowded coastal city with her family and some wildlife. Check out her writing here

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14

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