StoryADay September Update

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!

Prompt 3 – Little Old Lady
An opportunity to examine (or reinvent) the stereotype of the little old lady…

Prompt 4 – The Locked Room
Four people in a locked room with a frightening thunderous noise outside? What the heck is going on?

Prompt 5 – Inciting Incident
This prompt takes a look at one of the elements of story structure writing teachers are always banging on about: the inciting incident.

Keep writing,
JulieJulie Duffy

P.S. Everyone who comments this month will be entered in a drawing to win a free copy of the StoryADay Time To Write Workshop.

 

[Write On Wednesday] Storytelling in Real Time

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

[poll id=”2″]

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.

Of course, he did it by Continue reading “[Write On Wednesday] Storytelling in Real Time”

[Prompt] May 18 – Description

Today we are going to focus on description.

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).

Go!

[Prompt] May 26 – Dramatic Monologue

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?

Go!

[Prompt] May 24 – Epistolary

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?

Go!

[Prompt] May 23 – Third Person, Omniscient

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.

Go!

 

[Daily Prompt] May 2 – Altered Realities

Daily Prompt Logo

Altered Reality

This is a staple of Sci-Fi and speculative fiction: you’re watching people in Forties garb but discover you’re on a space station populated by aliens who only know humans through one random Bogart movie they’ve intercepted….

But it happens in real life too: a woman thinks she’s in a happy marriage only to come home to empty closets and a note on the kitchen table; you think you’re reading a standard love story only to discover a twist at the end…

Write a story with an element of altered reality.

Go!

Daily Prompt – May 6: Field Day

Field Day

Write a story set at a school sports day/field day or other special event where parents turn up and the worlds of home and school collide.

Today I’m off to supervise hordes of screaming children at Field Day at the kids’ school. (It’s what my school would have called “Sports Day”, with sack races and obstacle course and suchlike, except I don’t remember my parents ever having to help out).

In honour of my noble sacrifice, today’s prompt is:
Primary school children, sports day

Field Day

Write a story set at a school sports day/field day or other special event where parents turn up and the worlds of home and school collide.

Work from your own memory of school or your experiences as a parent/aunt/grandparent/child-free-friend, whatever you have.

Surely there are a few opportunities for conflict and resolution among the sack races and the potato-and-spoon contests!

Daily Prompt – May 3: Gadget Lust

Write a Story Featuring A High-Tech Gadget

I love my gadgets.

But even if you’re not a gadget freak, an early-adopter, a lover of all things tech, you can’t really escape the stuff.

So today’s prompt is

Write a Story Featuring A High-Tech Gadget

It could be a cell phone that accidentally redials, and gets the owner in big trouble.

It could be an iPad, a Kindle, a GPS unit.

Maybe the hero of the story hates technology. Maybe she loves it.

OK? Go!

Daily Prompt – May 2: Obituaries

…Obituaries are wonderful sources of lifestories, character sketches, intriguing stories.

I know, kind of morbid for a spring day, but obituaries are wonderful sources of lifestories, character sketches, intriguing stories.

I like to think of stealing from the obituaries less as grave-robbing and more as creating a tribute to a life lived. So, today:

  • Go to Obituaries.com (yes, it exists!). Pick an obscure newspaper, Ignore the celebrities. ‘
  • Try to find the most ordinary person, or the person with the most detail. Think about what it might have been to live their life, know them, encounter them once.
  • Write a story based on one incident in your person’s life, including at least one detail your learned in their obit.

[Could you write about Bonnie and a great-grandchild on their first trout-fishing afternoon together? Would it be a perfect moment? A farce? A dramatic turning point? What did the river look like, sound like? What did she notice?]

Go!