Two characters (or more if you wish) are spending their first night in a new home (or apartment, hotel, dorm…you decide).
And the first character says, “You know, they say this place is haunted…”
This week’s prompt comes from writer and artist Marta Petrine-Bacon, a self-professed fan of all things October-ish. You can find her novel, her art and her beautiful handmade notebooks (with appropriately spooky art) in her Etsy Shop WhereWordsAreStudio
Matty Dalrymple writes, podcasts, speaks, and consults on the writing craft and the publishing voyage as The Indy Author™, and is a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors. You can connect with The Indy Author™ via Facebook and Twitter.
Matty is also the author of the Lizzy Ballard Thrillers Rock Paper Scissors, Snakes and Ladders, and The Iron Ring; the Ann Kinnear Suspense Novels The Sense of Death and The Sense of Reckoning; and the Ann Kinnear Suspense Shorts, including Close These Eyes and Write in Water, and the new writing handbook, Taking the Short Tack: Creating Income and Connecting with Readers Using Short Fiction which she co-authored with Mark Leslie Lefebvre.
Read A Book, Support An Indie
This year’s StoryADay May official bookseller is Reads & Company, a privately-owned indie bookseller in Pennsylvania. Any purchase from the site this month supports Reads & Co.
I’m bringing you two very different writing prompts from the archives this week.
Read through them both and see which one calls to you more strongly. Both offer different ways to cope with our current, rather contracted social circles, either by imagining a party or by focusing on delighting one person.
June is rewrite and re-examine month at StoryADay. So today’s prompt reflects that.
Now that you’ve had a chance to recover from the frenzy of writing in May, here’s a prompt that help you to take a second look at one of those stories and improve it. Perhaps there is one you liked, but you know isn’t quite working yet.
This lesson is particularly useful going into StoryADay May, as some days you’ll need to get your story written quickly. I don’t give you a topic, but I do give you a method for getting your story written. Combine it with the Short Story Framework!
Write A Story In 40 Minutes
Audio Only Version:
Use the short story formula from yesterday to help you brainstorm.
Set a timer!
Spend 5 minutes, for brainstorming
Spend 5 minutes writing an opening.
Spend the next 20 minutes complicating your character’s lives. Look at every individual action your characters takes, and imagine what’s the next domino that would fall because of the action they took or the thing that they said.
At some point during this 20 minutes your writing will begin to flow and you’ll start to understand what this story wants to be.
At the end of that 20 minutes, begin to write your climax and resolution. (You may have to type ‘[transition to ending]’ and move along, if you’re running out of time and haven’t written everything you wanted to write.
You’ve been working on this story for 30 minutes! You have 10 minutes left.
Now think about how you want the story to end. Do you want it to be a happy ending or a sad ending? If the character achieves their goal, it might be a sad ending, but not necessarily. If the character desired something that was wrong for them, and doesn’t achieve it, that could be a happy ending!
Make sure there is a moment in the story where the character makes a big choice that exemplifies the change that they’re making through this story.
Spend 5 minutes wrapping up the story in a sentence or two, then spend the final 5 minutes thinking about your opening and ending lines. Do they feel like they belong to the same story? Can you tweak them now to hint at the theme?
Then take the rest of the day off!
If you would like to access content like this throughout the StoryADay challenge AND get 12 months of writing support, consider joining the StoryADay Superstars
Leave a comment to let us know what you wrote about today, and how it went!
We are one month away from StoryADay May, people! This is not a drill.
Actually, yes, it kind of is.
This is THE PERFECT TIME TO WARM UP your writing (take it from someone who didn’t, the very first year I ran this thing. I thought it would be smart to save all my ideas until May. Um, wrong!)
One of the easiest ways to get into the flow of writing is to minimize the amount of stuff you have to invent. So today I have two prompts for you, from the archives, which help you take that ‘write what you know’ thing and have a little more fun with it than if you were simply journaling.
Read through these two prompts from the archives and decide which one is most interesting to you.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
Your character walks into a room and sees something/someone they really, really don’t want to see. How do they solve this dilemma?