Write a story about a character who is, in the moment the story takes place, completely overwhelmed.
This story can be dramatic, comedic, or both!
Perhaps your character is, oh I don’t know, preparing for a big family holiday on top of all their normal commitments. How do they feel? What are their triggers?
Give the character a moment of crisis that forms the kicking-off point for the plot of the story. Then think about how he/she would react on a good day, and how differently they react under stress. Show us that reaction.
Brainstorm three or four things that could be the tipping point for your stressed character and choose your favorite.
Start right at the tipping point and then make things much, much worse: if your character is planning for Thanksgiving dinner, let her always-better-then-her sister call to say she’s inviting a food critic as her date. Then break your main character’s oven. Then let Grandma get a surprise pass from the nursing home, and have her turn up in full foul-mouthed-rebellion-mode; give your character hives; there should probably be a point at which the police turn up…that kind of thing 🙂
Use two or more voices, or let us see only one side of the conversation.
The ‘letters’ can be email exchanges, text messages, Facebook updates, or imaginary hand-written correspondence from sweethearts separated by war, an ocean, feuding parents…whatever makes sense to you.
Try to introduce some mystery, some misunderstanding, or some desire on the part of one of the participants. Frustrate us, tease us, keep us guessing about how it’s going to turn out.
Writing a story a day for a month is a crazy endeavour, but one that hundreds of writers have signed up for every May since 2010. During month of courageous creativity, writers learn how to write every day (not ‘someday’), how to craft a story, how to write in different forms, how to fail and dust themselves off, and write again.
Are you ready to join them?
The StoryADay Month of Writing Prompts book shares the daily writing prompts for StoryADay May 2014: 31 writing prompts, meditations, lessons and pep talks to accompany on your journey to becoming a more prolific, creative and fulfilled writer. Use these prompts during the StoryADay challenge, or any time you need a creativity boost.
Here’s your digest of this week’s StoryADay September writing prompts.
This set of prompts is all about point of view. The choice to write in First Person or Third Person Omniscient gives you, the storyteller, a different set of tools to use in each story. Use these prompts to practice some of those skills.
I’ve decided not to host an official StoryADay September here, but don’t despair!
Starting on Tuesday (Sept 3) I’m going to bring you prompts five days a week and will be inviting you to check in here at the site on any days that you’re inspired to write (or determined to). We’ll be here with congratulations, encouragement and, of course, more prompts.
Here’s a quick summary of the first week’s prompts:
Prompt 1 – Word Challenge
This writing prompt — a list of words to incorporate into your story — is an extremely silly one, designed to help you take your writing not-too-seriously and get back into the swing of writing for the joy of itPrompt 2 – The Fair
This prompt provides a scene and a suggested formula for writing a story set at a country fair. Bet you no two stories turn out alike though!
This week’s prompt revolves around taking a very short span of time (impossibly short) and stretching it out over the length of a complete short story.
Quick question before I get onto the prompt. We’re having a discussion on the Advance List about the possibility of doing a bonus StoryADay in September. I’d love it if you could share your level of interest in this poll
Thanks! Now, on with the prompt!
This week I read a great new novel called Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain. One of the many remarkable things about this novel is that almost all the events in the novel happen on one afternoon.
I heard the author talking about this. It was a deliberate decision on his part, a challenge to himself to see if he could (with very few exceptions) avoid flashbacks or set-pieces that happened out of the timeline of the book’s one day. He also didn’t want a mystery or huge amount of suspense to pull readers onward. I was so intrigued that I had to get hold of a copy and see how he pulled it off.
Yesterday’s dialogue-heavy prompt probably resulted in very little descriptive language (unless your characters were poets). Today we’re going to remedy that.
Write a story where you concentrate on descriptive language.
Pick a tone and try to stay with it throughout the story (rich, natural metaphors lathered on, Tolkein-style; sardonic observations from your main character; floral imagery, the soundscape or ‘smellscape’ of the world your characters are walking through…). Or perhaps you’ll identify which of your characters’ perspectives we are in by giving your descriptive writing a different tone for each character.
Make us feel, smell, hear, see, touch and taste your world today. But don’t forget to make it a story (beginning, middle, end, action, moving the characters forward).
If you need a little inspiration, read this letter written by an aspiring screenwriter (he got the job).
Aren’t there times when you wish you could just say your piece without anyone interrupting you? Well, today’s the day — for your protagonist, at least.
Write A Dramatic Monologue
Have your protagonist tell their story out loud, in a self-aware way. Make it clear that they know they have an audience – whether or not you spell out why. (Perhaps they’re telling their story to the first police officer on the scene, perhaps they’re talking to a grown-up grandchild, or recording their story for StoryCorp’s National Archives project). You can have them refer to the reason, or simply ramble on.
Make it clear that this is their story and that no-one is going to interrupt, then let them go.
Will your protagonist be scrupulously honest, or portray herself in a good light, her enemies in a bad light? Will that be subtle or blindingly obvious?
Will your hero use humor? What emotions will he betray?
Does the language your character use tell us something about their personality, their upbringing, their age?
Not quite a POV today, but still playing with character and point of view, today’s prompt is a secret love of mine:
Write an Epistolary Story
I’ve always loved stories played out through letters – though now you can tell these stories in emails, phone texts, even Facebook updates and Tweets if you want to update the form. (Here’s an example from the very first StoryADay May, written by Amanda Makepeace).
You can write this as a series of exchanges between two or more people, or as letters, diary entries, or text messages from a single person (as in Amanda’s story).
What if you discovered a cache of letters in the attic of a house you just bought. What would be in the one-sided conversation?What would be missing?
What if you were a 13 year old who has finally got on to Facebook?
What if you were an increasingly-enraged citizen writing letters to the editor of your small-town newspaper?
What if you were caught in a flame war in an online forum and all we, the reader, get to see is what goes on the screen?
Continuing this week’s theme of POV prompts, here is today’s prompt:
Write a story from the Third Person, Omniscient perspective
This is the perspective you know from all the classics (Dickens springs to mind): the author can say anything, pop inside any (or all) character’s heads, travel backwards and forwards in time, insert herself and her own commentary onto the page…
Have some fun with this. Take an episode and tell it from one character’s perspective, then leap into another character’s head and give their read on the situation. Try out your authorial prerogatives and make a comment about what’s going on (think of that moment when a TV character turns to the camera and talks directly to us, the audience).
This can get quite complicated (which is why it works so well for novels) but give it a bash and see what you come up with.