[Write on Wednesday] How We Remember Ourselves

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.

Man's reflection on body of water. Photo from Randy Jacob on Unsplash

The Prompt

Write a story in which a character tells the same story at three different times in their life.

Tips

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[Write on Wednesday] Tell a Story Backwards

This week I’m encouraging you to flip the order of your story to help you think differently about the storytelling process.

Man walking on green grass. Photo by Isaac Mehegan on Unsplash

The Prompt

Start your story with the character walking away from a situation (figuratively-speaking) and then go back and explain how he/she got there.

Tips

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[Write on Wednesday] Solve Plot Problems By Starting With Desire

One of the fastest ways to find your way to the plot of a short story is to come up with a character who wants something and see how they pursue that desire.

A track athlete was participating in a tournament. Photo by Serghei Trofimov from Unsplash

The Prompt

Think of a character who wants something really, really badly. Put an obstacle in your way and let them react to it

Tips

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[Write on Wednesday] Write Your Own Prompts

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!)

Photo by Gift Habeshaw from Unsplash.

The Prompt

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.

Tips

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[Write on Wednesday] Not The First

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.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

The Prompt

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?

Tips

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[Write on Wednesday] A Writer’s Tale

This month’s prompts are all designed to help you warm up for StoryADay May. This week, an opportunity to think about what it means to be a writer.

Photo by Thought Catalog from Unsplash

The Prompt

Write A Story About A Writer

Tips

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[Writing Prompt] Party of Many or Party of One

I’m bringing you two very different writing prompts from the archives this week.

party balloons
Photo by Sagar Patil on Unsplash

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.

The Prompts

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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

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[Write On Wednesday] Make It Flash

This month at StoryADay we’re all about Flash Fiction!

Flash Fiction image

Flash fiction is loosely defined as being between 250 and 1200  words long, but it is so much more than that.

The best description of Flash Fiction I’ve ever seen goes like this: Continue reading “[Write On Wednesday] Make It Flash”

[Write On Wednesday] Four-Part Story

I’m currently fascinated by a short story experiment being run by Penguin Random House.

They’re running a series called “The Season of Stories“. You subscribe, and they send you a story every week.

But that’s not the interesting part.

The interesting part is that they serialize the story.

Every day, Monday-Thursday, you receive part of a story.

It’s how short stories were read in publications back at the start of the golden age of short story writing, and it’s something we’ve moved away from. Instead of making them bite-sized treats, we sell short stories by weight, packaged into collections. Then we try to sell them to readers who have been trained on novels.

(No wonder short story collections don’t sell well!)

With a novel, you, the reader, carve out some time to plunge yourself into a story world, allow yourself to be pulled along by cliffhangers, spend time getting to know the characters.

Short stories aren’t like that.

Readers, in general, don’t know what to do with a short story collection, but anyone can open their email and read a quarter of a story. Especially one that has been well-crafted.

Today I want you to practice crafting a story that will keep bringing a reader back for more.

Stories naturally break into four parts: inciting incident, rising action, midpoint shift, then climax/conclusion/resolution.  Each part must end with a kicker that leaves the reader wanting more (yes, even the end).

The Prompt

Write a story that can be read in four parts. Focus on creating mini-cliffhangers at each quarter point.

Tips

  • The Seasons of Stories shorts have ranged from 600-1900 words per installment. You can choose a length that works for you.
  • This is a great way to promote your other writing. PRH’s emails come with a ‘if you enjoyed this, read more in this book’ ad at the end. But it never feels ‘salesy’ because they’ve given me a free sample and are simply letting me know where I can find more, if I liked it. Sometimes this link is to a novel by the same author. Sometimes it is to a collection of short stories containing stories by the author. (Now that they’ve trained me to read shorts, they can sell me their collection!)
  • Don’t forget to raise a big story question at the start (remember: you can do this in revisions), that won’t be addressed until the climax/end. Do this in addition to the mini-cliffhangers at the end of each section.
  • If you need some examples, check out The Season of Stories. It’s free.
  • I heard about this from Daniel Pink’s newsletter. If you like this, consider subscribing to that. It’s a short read and he shares interesting stuff like this, every other week.

Now, go and write your story.

Come back and tell me how it went!