I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how we build characters (both in real life and in fiction). So much of what we ‘know’ is based in the stories we tell about ourselves. That’s what this week’s prompt is all about.
Write a story in which a character tells the same story at three different times in their life.
With StoryADay May just around the corner, I’m taking an opportunity to do something different today: prompting you to create some back-up writing prompts of your own, for days when the official StoryADay prompt leaves you cold (it happens. I’m not offended!)
Write several lines that might work as writing prompts for stories during StoryADay in case there are days when the official prompt doesn’t speak to you.
On this day in 1972 John Young and Charles Duke were the 9th and 10th humans to land on the moon. They weren’t the first crew to touch down, nor were they the last (that was the mission after theirs). What they did was still mind-blowingly complex, but didn’t garner nearly as much attention.
Write about a character (or duo) who is doing something new and difficult, but they’re not the first to achieve it. What does that do to their attitude to the task, to their relationship with each other, to their relationship with the people around them?
I saved this prompt for last because it tends to be the one that we modern writers, raised on TV and movies, reach for first and are most reluctant to demote.
My hope is that, after four weeks of writing in the other senses, you’re a little disappointed to be invited to concentrate on what your characters can see this week. My hope is that you’ll be open to using sight in more creative ways than you might have been last month.
Your character is searching for something…and time is running out.
Touch is a sense that some writers naturally use often and others, hardly ever. I mean obviously if you’re writing a romance, there’s going to be some touching, but there are other ways to use this sense that will pull readers into your story. Let’s give it a try.
Your main character has been deprived of a wide range of touch for some reason (a medical crisis? A custodial sentence? Some otherworldly reason…) and re-enters a life where they can touch and be touched. They have anticipated this day for so long. Does it go the way they expect?
Last week’s prompt encouraged you to describe everything in terms of smell. It was tough, wasn’t it? But I’ll bet you discovered some things about your go-to style of description and how you could branch out a little.
This week is, I think, a little easier, focusing as it does on sound. It’s a sense that we often see represented on the page, but I’m going to encourage you to move beyond cliches like ‘rolling thunder’ and ‘the squeal of tires on asphalt’.
Your protagonist is hiding from someone. The stakes are high. They must not be discovered.
One of the most common (and most overlooked) pieces of writing advice is to use the five senses.
This month I’m going to use the five weekly writing prompts to encourage you to get more sensory detail into your writing by focusing on one sense per week.
Write a story in which a non-assertive character is stuck in a situation with other people who know less than they do and keep proposing the wrong solution to a problem. Make as many of your descriptions and metaphors smell-based as possible.
I know, people feel really strongly about whether or not to outline, but today—whether you’re a planer or not– I’m going to encourage you to think of your writing session as a road trip.
Road trips are fun, but usually we have a destination in mind. When, in the middle, with whoever is in the backseat complaining, and the last of the sandwiches eaten, it helps to know the answer to the question “are we nearly there yet?”
Traditional, western narrative stories have a structure, and here is a model for that.
Using the framework to brainstorm your story will help you both get to the end and, just when you’re getting sick of the story, figure out if you are indeed ‘nearly there yet’.
In keeping with this month’s theme of Achieving Wins and Celebrating, limit yourself to 1000 words for this story and just get it done.
Write a story that starts at the end. The story must include a flower.
I’ve given you the restriction of including a flower, because when we have too much freedom it is paralyzing. I bet as soon as I said ‘flower’ your mind starting turning over how it could get a flower into a story.
Starting at the end is a fun way to tell a story. It’s a fun for the reader, as they try to unpick the puzzle of how your character ended up *here*. It’s good for the writer because we aren’t tempted to write a story-with-no-point. We know it’s going somewhere and we have to figure out how to get there!
All our stories should be about something, should hvae a point, should make the reader say ‘ah, yes, I must keep reading to find out why…”. Often, in the process of writing our ideas, we forget this, or get lost in the details. Telling a story in reverse (or at least starting at the end and jumping back in time) is a great exercise to cure us of this.
Brainstorm some ways your story could start that would intrigue a reader. Is your character standing on the roof of a building looking over the edge? Are they running? Are the police leading them away? Are they laughing gleefully as someone plunges a knife through their heart? (Yes, more Star Trek references! Bonus points if you can identify the episode.)
Following on in last week’s vein of celebrating wins (and making wins easy to achieve), this week’s prompt is to write an odd little story.
It’s hard to imagine how to make this challenge work well, so just get it finished! (You might surprise yourself)
Write a story in a cypher: where the first word of each sentence is the REAL message
It helps to write out the message you’re hiding in the story first.
Then, simply write a story and find a way to start each new sentence with the next word of your hidden message.
You can choose to hide the message in the second or third word of each sentence if you find that easier, or the last word (though I think that would be hard to pull off, unless you like dangling participles)
When you have finished do something to celebrate. It can be as simple as grinning for five seconds, or doing a little dance (I like a victory dance, myself). The important thing is to take a moment to revel in the good feelings you get from meeting your goals.
The Prompt: Write the story of an inanimate object.
This prompt was inspired by a conversation with a StoryADay Superstar who had been waiting for a package to arrive for weeks. We speculated about what it had been up to on its travels, and now it’s your turn.
This year I’m thinking more about the actual writing: how to write the middle of a story.
The inspiration for this prompt is unashamedly borrowed from James Scott Bell’s immensely readable ebook Write Your Novel From The Middle. It’s well worth the few dollars to pick up a copy of this book.
Even if you don’t have your copy yet, you can use Bell’s revelation that the middle of a story often involves a moment of introspection, to strengthen your short story writing today.
Write a literal or figurative Mirror Moment into the middle of your story.
This month’s writing prompts all acknowledge the fact that November belongs to novelists. Whether you write longer fiction or you don’t you can use this month’s prompts to nudge you forward in your writing practice.
Take an idea you have thought “I could write a novel about that” and test it as a short story
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!