Write a story in which the main character acts on something that really irritates YOU
“Don’t you just wish…”
Have you ever said those words when something has really, REALLY irritated you?
Imagine what would happen if you followed through on all those little revenge-daydreams you have after someone scratches your car/talks incessantly on their phone in the library/dogears the corners of Volume 4 of your collectable edition of The Sandman 10 Volume Slipcase Set…
Write A Revenge-Fantasy Story
Pick something that really irritates you and write about a character who actually DOES the things you can only dream of doing (as a respectable member of a mostly-functional society).
Read the opening chapters of Rest You Merry by Charlotte McLeod. It starts when mild-mannered professor Peter Shandy finally snaps after being pressured to decorate his home for the annual college Christmas ‘Illuminations’. It’s deliciously hilarious.
Pick something that really gets under your own skin, the more mundane the better. (It will allow you to be more creative in your revenge!)
Show us the moment when your character snaps. Give us the physical and mental fugue-state breaking point. Remember not to tell us “he was so angry he couldn’t speak”, but to instead describe the pounding in his veins, the way his tongue cleaves to the roof of his mouth. Slow down time with the details, then let ’er rip!
This idea for a story is ripped from the song “Them’s The Vagaries” by Half Man Half Biscuit (thanks, guys!). The narrator says, near the start of the song, “Now we’ve kissed I’ve prepared this list, I thought you ought to know…” and goes on to tell his new love about all his quirks starting with “I’ll not sit backwards on the train” and proceeding down to the most bizarre of pet peeves.
Write a story that begins “Now that we’ve kissed, here are some things you ought to know”
Write this as a monologue or a dialogue, whichever works for you.
This has the potential to be funny or tragic.
Feel free to write this as a list (like the McSweeney’s lists) or as a series of tweets, or as an oral history (which will make it more like a traditional short story in form).
Even if you go with the non-traditional forms (lists etc) there is still a lot of scope for the beginning, middle, end structure.
Only the journey you take your readers on will be emotional, rather than literal (from flippant to poignant; from innocent to creepy…).
Think of the most colorful people you have ever met or the worst date you were ever on. Imagine one of those people writing this.
Today I want you to take your character, and their desire and cripple them not once, but twice. Of course you get to reward them with a little win in the middle.
Give your character a goal, frustrate them, let them make some progress but let it come at a cost.
Think about Star Wars, the great story-outliner’s tool: Luke wants to get off this boring little planet but his aim is frustrated by obligations and lack of opportunity. When his family is murdered he finally acts. His next aim is to find and rescue the sexy princess (spoiler alert: Ew!). Problem: she’s on the most heavily defended, most technologically advanced ship in the fleet of the all-powerful empire. Somehow he succeeds. Yay! BUT, oh no, they sacrifice Obi-Wan, his mentor, at the same time. Now Luke has a new mission: overthrow the empire. Fail, Strive, Succeed but at a cost, pursue next part of his ‘want’. [Check out this Narrative Map of the Hero’s Journey]
Put your character in an impossible situation. Let him dig his way out only to fall into a new pit. Only this time he knows a bit more about himself and what it’ll take to climb out. (Friends? A rope? Strong hands?) Let the character use what they learned in the first part of the middle, to achieve what they need to do next.
It doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom or drama. If you’re writing humor you can still do this. Frustration is funny. Even throwing in a moment of tragedy is acceptable in comic writing. In fact, if you’re making your reader laugh until 2/3 of the way through the story, they won’t even notice the knife in your hand until you’re sliding it between their ribs. Bam! Will that pack an emotional punch?! (Sitcoms do this from time to time. Aren’t you surprised to find yourself suddenly sobbing during your favorite 30 minute comedy?)
Today you’re going to rely on memory to conjure up a vivid setting for your story.
Tell a story set at a country fair
Use all your senses to place us at the fair, right at the start of the story
Paint a picture and include a character walking through that setting, his/her mind set on doing something (winning a prize perhaps? Meeting a particular someone in a particular place?).
Hint that there might be more to their desire than can be simply explained (he wants to be a big shot at the coconut shy; she wants to meet a boy). No, there is a deeper reason they want to do the thing they’re pursuing as we, the reader join them.
After you have squarely painted the fair scene for us, transition away from providing many details of the fair, and instead concentrate more on character.
Don’t forget to bring in something from your setting, near the end, to bring the reader full circle.
Yes, it sounds formulaic, but remember:
It’s only an exercise and
I’ll award a big fluffy panda to anyone who ends up writing something exactly like that of another StoryADay writer, by accident just because you’re using a formula!
I’m reading an autobiography written in the 1830s — when steam travel was the new big thing. The author (a mother of small children) just gave a vivid and opinionated account of a trip she took from Philadelphia to Baltimore. With very few words she conjoured the layout of the carriages and the hot, smoky atmosphere inside — heated as it was by a coal-fired, iron stove in the middle of the carriage (no health and safety, clean air regulations in the 1830s!). She told an amusing story of an encounter with a fellow passenger, while she was at it. I feel like I was ON the train with her.
Tell The Story Of A Journey
Use any transportation technology you can dream up, but include details to allow us to see, feel and perhaps even choke on the atmosphere.
Don’t forget to make something happen, and then resolve it (or leave it unresolved).
We’re almost there! This is the last week of StoryADay May 2013. Stay tuned on Thursday for news of another, short-term challenge to keep you writing.
Also, I’d love to know who’s been writing this month. Please leave a comment on this post if you’ve written at all this month, and let us know how much/often you’ve managed to write. Spread the word to friends who might have fallen off the wagon. Tell them to check-in and celebrate what they have achieved so far (and maybe come back for the last week?).
As always, thank you for playing. Without out you, this challenge simply wouldn’t be any fun! You inspire me and each year’s participants influence the shape and content of the next challenge. So thanks!
Write a story that includes these words:
This is a silly prompt. Feel free to write a silly story.
The chances are, if you’re still here, you’ve started to take your writing quite seriously, in a good way. However, there’s always a danger of ‘serious’ becoming ‘solemn’. Use today as a break from whatever you’ve been writing and write https://storyaday.org/prompt-fros/ that is purposely silly, off-the-cuff, not to be taken seriously.
Consider posting your story in the comments here so that we can see how everyone chose to use these words
Today we have a guest prompt from aspiring-to-be-published writer and StoryADay participant, Cat Lumb. Thanks, Cat!
Your character wants to find the source of a strange noise they can hear. Tell the story of how they find out what that sound is… Cat Lumb started her blog in 2011 as means to be accountable for her writing dreams. She is currently editing one of her two first draft novels and writing short stories. Check out her blog: www.nowrittenwords.wordpress.com or link with her on Twitter @Cat_Lumb You can read all of Cat’s Story a Day in May stories through her blog at: http://nowrittenwords.wordpress.com/a-story-a-day-2013/
Today’s prompt is from writer, illustrator and all-round good egg Debbie Ridpath Ohi, who shares one of her Daily Doodles with us today to help inspire a story. Thanks, Debbie!
It Wasn’t Me!
Tips from Julie
Use the words or picture in any way that seems right to you
If you’re not an animal person, you don’t have to use the dog.
If your’e not an animal person, you should consider using the dog anyway. (Hey, this is about stretching yourself, right?)
Debbie Ridpath Ohi (http://DebbieOhi.com) writes and illustrates books for young people in Toronto, Canada. She is the illustrator of I’M BORED by Michael Ian Black, published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, chosen by The New York Times as a Notable Children’s Book. Debbie has current and upcoming book projects with Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and Random House. More info about Debbie and her projects: http://debbieohi.com. Her blog for writers/illustrators:http://inkygirl.com. Twitter: @inkyelbows.
Continuing our Guest Prompt week, today’s prompt comes from novelist and teacher Gregory Frost. Thanks, Greg!
Unusual Ways of Seeing
Imagine a person with a very idiosyncratic way of seeing the world (for example, a low-end drug dealer who’s perpetually paranoid because he’s sure everyone wants to steal his stuð; or an accountant for whom everything is numerical and anally precise)—anyone who, because of mental challenges, profession, or self-medicated state, negotiates the world in a distinctly peculiar, complicated, or unhinged way.
For this prompt, have your character witness a traumatic event that does not directly involve him or her (a traffic accident, a robbery, an explosion, etc.).
Narrate the event from this character’s first-person POV, incorporating the idiosyncrasies of this invented personality.
If you need examples from literature, look at George Saunders’ “Tenth of December” which includes both the portrait of a deteriorating mentality and the interiority of a child’s imaginings, or Jonathan Nolan’s “Memento Mori,” or Donald Barthelme’s “Game.”
The narrative should be focused upon the observed event, whatever it is.
The background/ biographical elements of this individual should be limited, which is to say implied rather than presented outright in the core of things. You know who they are. Get that across to us without resorting to our narrator saying something like “I’m a junkie.”
The details presented about the event–especially how they’re presented–should suggest everything about our narrator.
Gregory Frost’s YA-crossover SHADOWBRIDGEduology (Shadowbridge & Lord Tophet) from Del Rey (Random House) was a finalist for the 2009 James Tiptree Award and named one of the year’s four best fantasy novels by the American Library Association. His Nebula-nominated science fiction novel, THE PURE COLD LIGHT is now available in ebook formats from Book View Cafe (as is his first novel, LYREC)
Choose the antagonist/villain of a previous story.
Or choose the antagonist of a work-in-progress or the novel you’ve been planning to write but can’t get a handle on.
Remember that an antagonist isn’t necessarily the villain — just the character that gets in the way of your hero’s dream
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