May 2 – Other People’s Memories

Day 2 – Other People’s Memories

Every family is full of stories. Some are told (and retold). Some are secret. Some are a surprise that is only revealed years after you ‘should’ have known about them.

Your friends have stories they tell and retell.

Your colleague and strangers on the bus have stories.

Everyone is telling stories all the time.

Today we pilfer their experiences.

The Prompt

Write a story inspired by family folklore (or a story someone has told you that ‘happened’)


  • My grandparents have a remarkable and romantic courtship story. One day I might write that story. Or I might take their story and transport it to a futuristic setting where the characters may face similar obstacles. What stories exist in your family that could inspire a tale or two?
  • Be wary of  realistic retellings of stories that don’t belong to you, especially if the people are still alive. But feel free to use anyone’s story as inspiration, a jumping-off point. Change details, explore other possibilities. Treat your sources with gratitude and respect.
  • Start with a family story that is often told and ask ‘what if’? What if Grandad had been in a modern war, not Vietnam? What if Dad’s first interview had gone better? What if Uncle Sal had never got on the boat?


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Guest Prompt: Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin says: Write a short piece inspired by one of William Blake’s Proverbs of Hell from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. There are 72, but here are a few of my favorites…

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 7.32.04 PMGretchen Rubin is the New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness Project, Happier at Home and, most recently, Better Than Before (a book about happiness and habits that has huge implications for writers. You should check it out!)

When I asked her if she’d like to provide a writing prompt this self-confessed quotation collector, of course, went to one of her favorite authors for inspiration. Here’s what she sent.

Continue reading “Guest Prompt: Gretchen Rubin”

May 1 – Limit Yourself To 40 Minutes

Day 1 – Limits: 40 Minutes

Freedom is horrible. If you are free to do anything, write anything, then there is an infinity-minus-one of ways you could do it. That’s a lot of words, ideas and characters you have to reject just to get something on the page.

This is the power of limits (‘write a sonnet; here are the rules’) and challenges (‘write a story a day; of course some of them will be rubbish, do it anyway’).

Today we are exploring time limits. By limiting the amount of time you have to write this story, you will be forced to make quick decisions and not second-guess yourself.

The Prompt

Write a story in 40 minutes


  • Remember this story is a first draft. It does not have to be perfect. It must, however, have a beginning, a middle and an end that you can revise later.
  • Use the first ten minutes to write an opening and think about your characters. Use the next 20 minutes to write the meat of the story. You’ll start to get an idea of where it’s going about half way through. You’ll also start to have ideas for complications, digressions, a full-length novel. Great. Jot them in the margins or put them in square brackets, and drag your story back to the point. Use the last ten minutes to construct an ending and read over the whole thing for mistakes.
  • By all means make notes as you read over your completed draft, but do not revise it today.
  • If you like the story, put a date on your calendar for next month, to revise it.
  • If you don’t like the story, take a few minutes to figure out why? Is your main character flat? What flaw can you give a hero tomorrow, to spice up that story? Did you take too long to get to the point? Maybe tomorrow’s story should start in the middle of an action scene.
  • Don’t waste a lot of time coming up with a story for this exercise. If you must, retell a story you’ve written before, or tell a bedtime story, a fairytale, a fable, a Greek myth, a Norse myth, a reimagining of “Atlas Shrugged” if the characters were bunnies and the railroad were a new super-warren…


Post a comment at the blog to let us know you’ve written today, or join the community and post in the Victory Dance Group.