[Write On Wednesday] New Beginnings

Calendar*

A new year is almost upon us. News sites and shows and all your favourite blogs are urging you to think about resolutions and goals and all the way in which Next Year will be Better than every other year that’s gone before.

Of course, that’s not exactly how it works, is it?

The Prompt

Write About A New Beginning

Tips

  • Pick a character who needs a new beginning, or who wants a new beginning, and write about the moment they make that decision or embark on the new thing.
  • Or, pick a character who had no interest in beginning again and force them into a situation where they must.
  • This story could be tragic (new beginnings are often triggered by tragedy, because new beginnings are often too disruptive to be embarked on by choice), or it could be comedic, hopeful, dark, or joy-filled. It depends on you, your mood, your writing preferences and the character you picked.
  • Make sure to show us your character’s journey thorughout the story. Let them develop If they begin the story wary and unwilling, show us a moment of hope, where things might go well (even if you decide to go dark in the end).
  • Remember to make the reader (and  yourself) FEEL something for the character and the struggles they’re going through. That feeling might be as difficult and safe as humor, or it might be a sentimental weep-fest. Or it might just be that glimmer of hope.
  • Think about a new beginning you experienced. What emotions did you feel? How did they manifest in your body and your mind, and in your actions? What can you take from that and put into your story?

Leave a comment and let us know what you wrote about, and how it went.

 

Photo Credit. Dafne Cholet (CC BY 2.0)

[Write On Wednesday] Word List Redux

It’s a crazy time of year. You’re busy. You don’t have time to write. You certainly don’t have time to write anything good.

Great. Write something silly today. Write a story that can’t possibly be good because it came from a ridiculous prompt.

The Prompt

Use these words in your story:

Sea kelp, annointed, onion, flabby, twist, anachronistic, bing, fly, bauble, sun

Tips

  • Write a story and highlight the words as you use them.
  • Allow yourself to write something silly, ridiculous, bad.
  • Set a timer if you have to.
  • Marvel at how, even in this ridiculous exercise, you managed to write at least one line you were really pleased with
  • Post your story in the comments if you dare (it’s fun to see what everyone else comes up with). But remind yourself, you do not have to show it to anyone.

Go!

[Write On Wednesday] Roll Up, Roll Up, Roll Up!

Lucky Dip!

Today’s prompt is a kind of carnival game, a tombola, a random lucky dip.

When I was a kid, I loved going to church bazaars and village fetes and Christmas Fairs.

Aside from scanning the cheap paperbacks and making a beeline for the bakery stall to see if Carol-Anne’s dad had made his famous tablet, I loved nothing more than the Lucky Dip.

Hand over a coin and plunge your hand into a huge barrel of cold, scratchy sawdust, trying not to get any stuck under your nails. Try not to think about the unfortunate association of the smell of sawdust with all the times somebody threw up at school and the janitor came by with his trusty bucket of the stuff. Rummage around until your fingers find the smooth crinkle of something wrapped in cheap, thin paper. Pull it out and lo! you have a gift. No idea what it would be. It might be something ‘meh’, or it might be something cool like a spinning top or a plastic penny whistle, or one of those little puzzles with the balls you have to roll around until they are all in the right divots; something I could play with all afternoon then shove it in a drawer and re-discover periodically over the next few years.

Whatever I got, it was something I hadn’t expected. And it was mine, all mine!

Below, you’ll find a lucky-dip of sorts, a prompt from the archives of over 500 prompts at StoryADay. It has been generated especially for you!

The Prompt

This is your randomly generated prompt: Continue reading “[Write On Wednesday] Roll Up, Roll Up, Roll Up!”

[Write On Wednesday] Write A Holiday Story

It can be overwhelming to sit down to write a story.

When you could write about anything it can become difficult to decide what to write about. These writing prompts are meant to put limits on your choices, in order to make your creative gears grind.

Designer Crackers - hand crafted, gold with brown check

The Prompt

Write A Short Story That Features or Refers To A Holiday

Tips

Continue reading “[Write On Wednesday] Write A Holiday Story”

[Writing Prompt] Write A Children’s Story

There’s no feedback like the honest feedback of trying to hold the attention of a squirmy kid. This week I want you to try (or imagine) reading a story you’ve written to a kid under the age of 8. They are too young to worry about your feelings and they WILL let you know if the story is dragging! It’s great practice for holding the attention of former-kids too!

The Prompt

Write A Children’s Story

Tips

Continue reading “[Writing Prompt] Write A Children’s Story”

[Write On Wednesday] 5-6-7-8

This month I’ve been encouraging you to write short stories in unusual forms and genres.

Since I’m spending today trekking back and forth to NYC to see the new Frozen musical with my kid’s school (I know, such a hardship, right?), I decided to urge you to write an outline for a musical today.

This is a bit of an odd one and if you’re not such a theater nerd as me, pick your favorite genre of movie, and imagine you’re writing an outline of all the sequences in your movie (there are probably about 8, with a big dramatic turning point at each quarter mark).

The Prompt

Write An Outline, or the Song/Scene List for a Dramatic Presentation

Tips

This isn’t going to read like a traditional narrative story

Imagine you’re looking at the program for a musical: it has a list of the scenes/songs you’re going to hear. Recreate that for your fantasy musical.

Here are some of the beats your two-act musical should hit:

  1. Big opening number that introduces the characters, setting, theme & tone.
  2. Character song – introduces your main characters desire and obstacle
  3. Introduction to the love interest/problem/antagonist
  4. Set back (probably a big chorus number)
  5. Comedy song (featuring a minor character, to relieve the tension – ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’, or ‘Gaston’)
  6. A serious ballad that restates the problem
  7. A decision song. The main character is going for it, assembling their team
  8. Set up for the big action of the second half. Cliffhanger! (Definitely have all characters on stage)
    [Interval]
  9. Another song restating the desire and obstacles of the main character
  10. Big number setting up for the climax, featuring multiple characters
  11. Final struggle song
  12. Quick charming song resolving the action
  13. Finale, a powerful song bringing back all the characters, even the dead ones. Probably has a similar title to one we’ve heard before.

 

So that’s it. Decide on a premise for your pretend musical. Figure out who your main character is, their desire, their obstacle and their antagonist.  Then go to town creating song titles that fit the outline above. Have fun with this! Come up with a title for your musical and feel free to add notes to your ‘program’ with character names, suggestions for interval drinks and snacks, and perhaps even sponsorships by local businesses!

 

Go!

[Write On Wednesday] What A Laugh

It’s one thing to be funny in conversation with friends, but writing comedy can seem harder, somehow. Today we’ll try out some techniques to make our funny stories funnier.

This prompt is adapted from ideas in The Hidden Tools of Comedy: The Serious Business of Being Funny by Steve Kaplan, which was recommended to me by StoryADay veteran, Almo Schumann.

The Prompt

Give your character permission to go after their desire, no matter what the cost Continue reading “[Write On Wednesday] What A Laugh”

StoryADay September 2018 Week 1

Here we are at the start of StoryADay September 2018!

The Rules:

  • Set your own rules (why not leave them in the comments?): Decide whether you’re going to complete a story every single day, or every week day, or every Thursday…it’s up to you. Make your own rules, and stick to them!
  • Check in every day to find the (optional) writing prompt. Write a story to that prompt or to your own ideas.
  • Finish at least a messy first draft
  • Come back and leave a comment on that day’s post, to let everyone know how you got on, and to encourage others.

Here are the prompts for this week. Bookmark this page now and come back each day!

The Prompts

In September, I send out a weekly batch of prompts. Here are all the prompts for Week 1

That’s it for this week. I’ll be back on the 8th with the next batch of prompts for Week 2.

In the meantime, I’ll see you in the comments!

Keep writing,

Julie (signed)

 

 

PS Want email reminders throughout September? Sign up, below:

[Write on Wednesday] The Ways We Talk

This week, I’m recycling a writing prompt from a couple of years ago, all about slang, because it fits so wonderfully with this month’s theme of ‘backstory’.

(Also, because I’ve been on vacation and …)

Invented languages, or slang, are wonderful ways of establishing culture in your novel and of making sure your dialogue feels like dialogue and not ‘speechifying’.

I talked about this on the podcast recently. Check it out.

Read the full prompt here, then come back and leave a comment to let me know what you think. Did you read the linked article? Did it spark any ideas for you?

[Write On Wed] Culture Club

This month I’m giving you prompts that work in different ways to support your long-form fiction/novel writing. This week we’re looking at the micro-cultureS in your novel’s world.

Boy George,Culture Club

The Prompt

Write a story that explains how the culture of your novel’s setting evolved

Tips

  • Even if you are writing contemporary fiction, don’t assume that the culture of your novel’s world is known to all your readers. There are what I think of as “micro-cultures” in every community, every family, every workplace. Just like in gardening, there are microclimates—I can grow tomatoes agains my house’s south-facing wall, but they would utterly fail if I tried to plant them on the cooler, shaded north-facing wall. My property isn’t very big, but it still has micro-climates!
  • Think about your fictional world’s culture in the novel. What does your main character feel they have to do, ought to do, would be shunned for doing?
  • How did those attitudes develop?
  • Write that story.
  • For example, in the movie “Steel Magnolias”, family and community are everything, and life revolves around the beauty shop. Why? Because a until very recently, women like them had very few choices in life. They found husbands, had children, entertained, and gathered at this ladies-only retreat where they could, for once, let loose and trade confidences. Write a story of the older women in that movie, when they were young. That will help the town and those secondary characters feel very real to your audience.
  • Conversely, in “When Harry Met Sally”, family plays no role at all. Harry is full of flaws, misbeliefs and self-harming psychological behavior, but we never see where it came from. It’s possible that Rob Reiner didn’t need to know Harry’s backstory because he was Harry, or at least knew a lot of guys like him, and knew enough about their behaviors to make him seem real. But if you want to be able to branch out and write characters who aren’t like you, it’s useful to explore the culture they came from. What was Harry’s family like growing up? What was the micro-culture in his neighborhood. What makes him so divorced from the family structure, relying only on a small group of friends?
  • Likewise if you’re writing in a more alien culture, it can be useful to write backstories about the early days of the prevailing religion or of the minority cultures that your secondary characters come from (surely no world is utterly homogenous?!).
  • Writing these backstories is useful for more than just research. You can use them to intrigue readers (give away a free story to get people on your mailing list and introduce them to your writing and your world). You can submit them to publications, and use those publishing credits to prove to agents and publishers that there is a built in audience for your novel. You can collect them and sell them to fans of the first book while you’re writing the sequel…

Photo credit: Eva Rinaldi

Have I I convinced you to dig into your novel’s backstories yet? Leave a comment to let me know what you’re thinking and what you’re writing.