[Write On Wednesday] Speak, Don’t Tell

Continuing this month’s theme of Show, Don’t Tell, today I want you to focus on how you can do that in dialogue. 

Missed the first prompt on this month’s theme? Find it here.

Couple holding hands, image
Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

The Prompt

Write a story set in a particular time or place and use dialogue to show us where we are, rather than telling us.

Suggested scenario: two characters who know each other well, but one is keeping a secret.

Tips

Don’t simply have characters say “In olden days people didn’t even drive electric cars” to show that we’re in the future. Look at this example from “The Era” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah.

We’re in HowItWas class

“Well,” Mr Harper said, twisting is ugly body towards us. “You should shut your mouth because you’re a youth-teen who doesn’t know sh*t about Sh*t and I’m a full-middler who’s been teaching this stuff for more years than I’m proud of.”

The Era, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

You KNOW we’re not in a modern day school, right? The attitudes, the name of the class, the way description of ages…so much “show” and very little “tell”, even though we literally have characters telling each other stuff!

Or in this story when the main character has seen a photograph of her deceased mother in a museum and calls her dad to ask about it.

“She was a looker, wasn’t she? What is it, some kind of—do they call it street photography?”

“No,” I said. I described in euphemism what was occurring int he photo.

“There’s been some mistake,” my father answered, finally, resolutely. “That’s your eyes playing tricks on you.”

Natural Light, Kathleen Alcott

Watch how the father goes from open and generous to shut-down and in denial, without the author have to tell us any of that.

Or in this one, what do you infer about the setting, just from the dialogue?

“Y’all put that gator right back where you found him or I’ll pepper your asses with 177s.”

Hellion, Julia Elliot

Pay attention to how you can use dialogue to tell us things other that what the character mean to tell us.

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!



Ready For More?


[Write On Wed] The Stories The Books Tell

This post came from my local independent bookstore yesterday, closed for the moment, but imagining wonderful things. (You can support Reads & Co while they’re closed by ordering from them here)

Reads & Company bookstore image "the books keep themselves company, telling each other stories until you return"
Reposted with permission from bookstore owner and writer Robb Cadigan. He says “Hope people have fun with it”, but reserves first dibs on the idea as kids’ book or published story…

The Prompt

What stories do the books tell each other?

Continue reading “[Write On Wed] The Stories The Books Tell”

[Write On Wednesday] Pull Readers into Your Story

This month’s theme at StoryADay is “Show, Don’t Tell”, that pesky little piece of writing advice that sounds so easy and will actually take us the whole month to unpack. It’s more than simply ‘showing’. It’s about using all our senses to immerse the reader in a moment, and it come more easily to some writers than others.

Let’s start practicing with today’s prompt. This week we’ll focus on making the setting immersive. Next week will be about showing through dialogue. The week after that we’ll work on when to ‘show’ and when to ‘tell’.

photo of dining room by matt briney on unsplash.com

The Prompt

Your character walks into a room  and sees something/someone they really, really don’t want to see. How do they solve this dilemma?

Tips

Continue reading “[Write On Wednesday] Pull Readers into Your Story”

[Write on Wednesday] Trouble In Paradise

Relationships are tricky – romantic or otherwise – because at the heart of each relationship are two individuals who have expectations, often unspoken, about what they owe to each other.

Photo by Jessica Da Rosa on Unsplash

The Prompt

Write a story in which two close friends, lovers or family members struggle through a difficult moment.

Tips

Continue reading “[Write on Wednesday] Trouble In Paradise”

[Writing Prompt] What The Greeks Knew About Love

This year during the Superbowl I noticed an ad that used the different types of love, as defined by the Greeks, to advertise their product. And it reminded me that, for those of us without a classical education, it can be useful to review frameworks like this, that underpin our cultural attitudes whether we know it or not. 

eros statue image
Photo by Thomas Vogel on Unsplash

The Prompt

Write a story combining featuring two different types of love relationships from the list. Notice how they interact, how they cause the characters to act, and where those actions are different and similar.

Types of Love

Continue reading “[Writing Prompt] What The Greeks Knew About Love”

[Writing Prompt] 3 Aspects of Enduring Love

This month’s theme is Love: It’s Not Just For The Ladies. I’m going to be looking into all kinds of love and how our characters feel, express and reject it. Starting with this week’s writing prompt.

couple holding hands illustration
Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

The Prompt

Write three, linked mini-stories about two people who love each other.
Each moment illustrating one of the three aspects of enduring love: Intimacy, Passion & Commitment.

Each section highlights a different moment.
The overall story charts their relationship.

Tips

Continue reading “[Writing Prompt] 3 Aspects of Enduring Love”

Write On Wednesday – Poetic Inspiration

This week is the anniversary of the birth of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns.  While I’m cooking up some haggis and pouring a whisky in his immortal memory, I have a writing prompt for you that celebrates not just Robert Burns, but all poets.

poetry book and quill

The Prompt

Write a story inspired by a poem

Tips

Continue reading “Write On Wednesday – Poetic Inspiration”

Write on Wednesday – Divided Languages

This week on the podcast, I interviewed Seumas MacDonald about the importance of culture in the development of language, and about ConLangs (or constructed languages) in fiction.

man and woman not communicating

The Prompt

Write a story where two or more characters come from different cultures and have difficulties understanding each other

Tips

Continue reading “Write on Wednesday – Divided Languages”

[Write On Wednesday] Picture Prompt

Sometimes it takes a traditional writing prompt to get us writing…and that’s perfectly OK. When you could write about absolutely anything, that’s too much choice, and can be paralyzing.

So this month at StoryADay I’m focused on providing prompts and info to get you to your writing as quickly as possible. Today, it’s a picture prompt.

close-up of person tying walking boot. Outdoors, scarf, grass.

The Prompt

Write a story inspired by this picture

Tips

Continue reading “[Write On Wednesday] Picture Prompt”

[Write On Wednesday] The Not-Writing Prompt

Sometimes ‘writing’ doesn’t meant putting words on the page. Today’s prompt is designed to help you get comfortable with this reality of life as a writer.

(For more on this idea, read “Does Thinking Count As Writing?“)

"Win" illustration

The Prompt

Pick and implement a ‘tiny win’ for today, that doesn’t involve writing new words.

Tips

It’s very important to feel the reality that not everything in a writer’s life is about adding words.

These suggestions are designed to help you carve our time not just for writing, but for ‘writing’ (all the other stuff that goes with it).

Choose from one thing from this list (or make up something similar) and carve out 15-20 minutes to focus on it. Turn off all your notifications and just allow yourself to focus.

Then report back, to let us know what you did, and to celebrate!

  • Find a tiny notebook in your stash (you know you have a notebook stash!) and commit to carrying it with you every day for a week, so you can capture ideas. Start by writing down something you can see, hear, taste, touch and smell right where you are, right now.
  • Read a story by someone else and write down everything you love and hate about it.
  • Go for a walk or get some other kind of exercise that gets your blood pumping. Bonus points for getting out of your usual space. (Your brain is connected to the rest of your body. Take care of them!)
  • Write a review of a book you loved and always meant to get around to reviewing. Bonus points: write a letter to the author, if they’re still with us (you can send it to the publisher listed in their books). Connecting to the rest of the writing world builds your commitment to your craft, and reminds you that authors are just people. Hey, you’re a person! Maybe you DO have a right to write, too!
  • Ask another writer how they’re doing. This can be someone who seems to be doing “so much better” than you. (Connect on Twitter or some other social media site.) Trust me they’ll appreciate it. And again, building your connections with the greater writing world will help you feel more committed, and stop you from slinking off and saying “I could never be a real writer so I might as well not try”. Of course you can be a writer. And having connections with people in the writing world helps remind you of that.
  • Revise a short story or scene that you’ve previously written. Focus on crafting one sentence you really love, somewhere in that piece.
  • Rework a story or scene to cut it down by 10% of its word count. Be ruthless (work on a copy if you have to!). What does that do for the story and your prose?
  • Set a timer and spend 20 minutes (no more! It’s a rabbit hole!) researching publications you might want to send stories to.
  • Doodle or illustrate a story you previously write. You might draw a portrait of a main character, sketch the house they live in, or splash colors on the page to represent their personality.
  • Make a Pinterest board of interesting characters and places you can use in stories (thanks to MoniqueAC for this suggestion!). Again, set a timer, because this is meant to be a tiny win, not a new lifetime project!
  • Go on–or book–what Julia Cameron calls an Artist’s Date. What inspires you? For me it’s often music. For you, it might be art. Can you book an outing now, to an art museum, a live music concert, a play? Can you put a time on your calendar to walk in your favorite park, or call your funniest friend?

What other tiny wins can you think of? What did you try and how did it go? Leave a comment and share your ideas!

[Write On Wednesday] A New Angle

In this month of stealing worlds, characters and ideas (from yourself and others), this prompt encourages you to take another look, from a new angle.

watching

The Prompt

Tell a story in someone else’s universe, from the perspective of a secondary, overlooked, or unnamed character

Tips

Continue reading “[Write On Wednesday] A New Angle”

[Write on Wednesday] Mirror Mirror

This month’s theme for prompts at StoryADay is: playing in other people’s sandbox, or in other words: writing fiction based in somebody else’s universe.

Evil Kirk and Spock

The Prompt

Take a universe you love and write story where the values are reversed: the good guys are bad and the bad guys are evil

Tips

Continue reading “[Write on Wednesday] Mirror Mirror”

[Write On Wednesday] Penny for the Guy?

This month’s theme at StoryADay is the idea of alternative stories: writing new stories in other people’s universes. This can mean fan fiction or it can mean taking folk tales, history, or myth and writing in that. Perhaps you and a writing buddy swap universes for a day and you write about their characters for a change.

Stay tuned each Wednesday this month for more ways to play in other people’s sandboxes.

Penny for the Guy

The Prompt

Yesterday, people in the UK celebrated Guy Fawkes’ Day, a family friendly festival celebrating the gruesome end of a would-be revolutionary. Write a story inspired by that of Guy Fawkes

Tips

Continue reading “[Write On Wednesday] Penny for the Guy?”

[WoW] What We Remember, What Has Been Lost

Today’s Write On Wednesday prompt was inspired by reading Wendell Berry’s story The Great Interruption: The Story of a Famous Story of Old Port William and How It Ceased To Be Told (1935-1978)  in this year’s Best American Short Stories. (Read my review here.)

journals

The Prompt

Write a story from your childhood memories, keeping in mind your audience and what changes there have been since the time of your story

Tips

Continue reading “[WoW] What We Remember, What Has Been Lost”

[Write On Wednesday] Multiple Choice

In honor of all the kids I know who will be spending this morning filling in bubbles on test papers, let’s use the weirdness of the short story form to try something a little different today.

Standardized Test Close-Up

The Prompt

Write a story in the form of a multiple-choice test

Tips

  • It seems to me this would be perfect for a break-up letter. One person could provide questions about the relationship or the break-up, with multiple answers for the recipient (and the reader) to choose from.
  • I’m thinking about writing a murder mystery in this format.
  • A horror story could also be fun
  • You could parody the form. You remember? One answer is always ridiculously wrong, one is right, one could be right and the other one is wrong, but not-as-obviously.
  • Or you could ignore that, and just write amusing/terrifying answers.

I’m not going to write any more tips because I just came up with this prompt and I’m really, really curious to see what you you do with it!

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!

2019 Day 30 – Roll Call

This it! The end of StoryADay 2019! You are an absolutely rockstar for being here today!

Do me a favor? Leave a comments below, and answer these two questions:

  1. How many stories did you write
  2. Did you meet your goal (or get close enough to feel proud of yourself)?

But don’t forget to write today’s story.

The Prompt

About A Writer

Normally I don’t encourage stories about writers because it seems kind of cheap (and uninteresting for the readers), but today I think you’ve earned it.

  • Use this prompt to write a story about a writer like yourself who has just undergone a big challenge.
  • Or satirize the idea of writing about a writer.
  • Or use it any other way that occurs to you. (And hey, it worked for Stephen King, so who am I to question it?)

Use all the tricks you’ve been practicing this month to show us what a day in the life of a writer can be.

Planning Ahead

You’ve achieved so much this month. I’m so proud of you.

To keep the momentum going, mark your calendars for these StoryADay events throughout the year.

  • Serious Writer’s Accountability Group (SWAGr) – 1st of every month (sign up for reminders here)
  • Critique Week, October 20-17 – A chance to get your story reviewed by your peers and by me (more details coming soon)
  • NaNoWriMo Support Group – for members of the Superstars group only.
  • Critique Week, February 22-29 – A chance to get your story reviewed by your peers and by me (more details coming soon)
  • And much more, including weekly writing prompts on Wednesdays, posts in The Reading Room, podcasts, interviews, and workshops.
  • Use the StoryADay Events calendar to stay up to date

Go!

Don’t forget to leave a comment saying how many stories you wrote this month, and how you feel about it! Then come back tomorrow to record your June goals in the SWAGr post.

2019 Day 29 – The One

How did you get on yesterday? Did you write a story?

Remember, set your own rules, and stick to them. If you miss a day, don’t try to catch up. Just keep moving forward!

The Prompt

Write The Story You’ve Been Waiting To Write

I’ve been making you jump through hoops all month, but there has to be one story that has been nagging at you, patiently waiting its turn.

Today is that day.

Take everything you’ve learned this month, about

Use your favorite discoveries from this month, to set your story free today.

Go!

What did you write about today? Did you use any of the lessons from this month? Leave a comment.

2019 Day 28 – Closing Line

How did you get on yesterday? Did you write a story?

Remember, set your own rules, and stick to them. If you miss a day, don’t try to catch up. Just keep moving forward!

The Prompt

ENDING LINE: As the sun went down that night, I knew it would rise, tomorrow, on a very different world.

Think about this line and what kind of mood you would like it to convey. What kind of mood do you want your story to take today?

Sometimes our stories can veer off track: we feel like writing a funny story and suddenly we’re crying over our keyboards; or we want to write Gothic Horror and somehow end up with Clueless.

Starting with the end in mind, can help with that.

(Feel free to change the syntax and pronoun in this, to fit your story.)

Go!

So how’s it going this week? Are you tired or have you caught your second wind?

2019 Day 27 – Opening Line

How did you get on yesterday? Did you write a story?

Remember, set your own rules, and stick to them. If you miss a day, don’t try to catch up. Just keep moving forward!

The Prompt

OPENING LINE: NEVER TELL ANYONE YOUR REAL NAME

Start your story with that line today.

Go!

So how’s it going this week? Are you tired or have you caught your second wind?

Are you desperate to get back to novel-writing? Or have you discovered a new love for the short form?

What parts of this month’s successes will you take forward into your other writing?

2019 Day 26 – Two Directions

How did you get on yesterday? Did you write a story?

Remember, set your own rules, and stick to them. If you miss a day, don’t try to catch up. Just keep moving forward!

The Prompt

Two Different Directions

Today’s story should feature two characters or factions who want to go in different directions. Lots of room for character desire and conflict, here!

You can take this as literally or figuratively as you like.

Go!

Check back every day for more prompts, and don’t forget to come back and leave a comment to celebrate your writing successes, every day!

2019 Day 25 – Assembly

How did you get on yesterday? Did you write a story?

Remember, set your own rules, and stick to them. If you miss a day, don’t try to catch up. Just keep moving forward!

The Prompt

Write A Story Featuring an Assembly or Crowd Scene

You can tell the story of a song or simply use it in the story.

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!

Go!

Check back every day for more prompts, and don’t forget to come back and leave a comment to celebrate your writing successes, every day!

2019 Day 24 – Song Title

How did you get on yesterday? Did you write a story?

Remember, set your own rules, and stick to them. If you miss a day, don’t try to catch up. Just keep moving forward!

The Prompt

Write A Story Inspired by A Song Title

You can tell the story of a song or simply use it in the story.

Here are a couple of resources

An A-Z of Song Titles – if you feel the need to pick randomly

Fantasy Song Title Generator – for those of you who like to play fast-and-loose with the rules

Go!

Check back every day for more prompts, and don’t forget to come back and leave a comment to celebrate your writing successes, every day!

2019 Day 27 – Opening Line

How did you get on yesterday? Did you write a story?

Remember, set your own rules, and stick to them. If you miss a day, don’t try to catch up. Just keep moving forward!

The Prompt

OPENING LINE: NEVER TELL ANYONE YOUR REAL NAME

Start your story with that line today.

Go!

So how’s it going this week? Are you tired or have you caught your second wind?

Are you desperate to get back to novel-writing? Or have you discovered a new love for the short form?

What parts of this month’s successes will you take forward into your other writing?

2019 Day 23 – A Picture

How did you get on yesterday? Did you write a story?

Remember, set your own rules, and stick to them. If you miss a day, don’t try to catch up. Just keep moving forward!

The Prompt

Write A Story Inspired by This Painting

Richard Norris Brooke (American, 1847 – 1920), A Pastoral Visit, 1881, oil on canvas, Corcoran Collection (Museum Purchase, Gallery Fund) 2014.136.119

Go!

Check back every day for more prompts, and don’t forget to come back and leave a comment to celebrate your writing successes, every day!

2019 Day 22 – Word List

How did you get on yesterday? Did you write a story?

Remember, set your own rules, and stick to them. If you miss a day, don’t try to catch up. Just keep moving forward!

The Prompt

Write A Story Containing These Words

distinct, weak, volunteered, slow, coming,
time, duress, suspected, shimmy, listened.

If you’re feeling brave, post the story in the comments, or on your own blog and link to it (like so many of you have been doing already).

Underline or bold the key words, or just let us read the story without noticing them.

This is a silly exercise designed to lower the bar on your expectations. But you may be surprised at what you manage to do with this prompt!

Go!

Check back every day for more prompts, and don’t forget to come back and leave a comment to celebrate your writing successes, every day!

2019 Day 21 – One-Sided

How did you get on yesterday? Did you write a story?

Remember, set your own rules, and stick to them. If you miss a day, don’t try to catch up. Just keep moving forward!

The Prompt

Write A Story Where We Only Hear One Side of The Conversation

Go!

Check back every day for more prompts, and don’t forget to come back and leave a comment to celebrate your writing successes, every day!