Writing Prompt: Me without you

Loss can be difficult to write about. Some of have also been fortunate enough to not have suffered it yet. When I think of the times I’ve been saddest, when I thought me heart would break, I could not breathe and stepping into the next day was near impossible, I remember that everything passes. I also wonder sometimes how I will cope with the loss of those people I’m lucky enough to still have in my life.

This is a short prompt. Write about loss. Write about someone of something you have lost in your life. Be honest about how you feel, what you remember about them and the positive memories you’ve gathered.

 

Writing Prompt: Snow Bound

From where I am sitting, I can see an empty chair, a window and beyond it, snow. It’s falling in steady streams onto the trees and on the ground. It has been snowing for five days and I suddenly think about what would happen if I was stuck in this room with only my current supplies, my gas fire and that chair.

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In this room, my supplies consist of half a waffle, some uncooked bacon, orange juice, water, a leftover pizza (pepperoni, 12 slices), four eggs and some Cherry Garcia ice cream. On the desk where I write I have a laptop, several pens, a notebook and the following books:

  • The Alchemist
  • The Art of Racing in the Wind
  • The Complete Handbook of Coaching
  • The Times Newspaper, a week out of date
  • Blue Light Yokohama
  • The Buried Giant

I have read some of these, but not all. I wonder what these items, all of them, say about me.

At best, I could make these supplies last about 14 days. Water is not a problem when you have fire and snow. I wonder what I would do with my time if there was no internet, no phone, no way to leave and no people for that time. Would I read the books? Would I write? Would I sleep, in some sort of hibernation until by fortnight was up?

One of the things I tell myself when I haven’t written for a while is that I have no time. That’s nonsense, of course, but I like to kid myself that is the case. Work is in the way, I’m busy with Uni, I have family commitments, etc, etc…The truth is, that if you want to spend time doing something, most of us are capable of doing it.

Lack of time is rarely the real reason. I think in my case, it is fear. Fear that I won’t like what I write, that it won’t be worthy of anyone reading it. I’m equally afraid that what I write will be too revealing, The same goes for reading. There’s a perfectly good Netflix box set waiting for me. I can absorb information and be entertained if I switch on the TV. The thing is, that TV is only another thief of time. Reading, writing, practicing anything meaningful takes effort, otherwise, we’d all do it, and most of us, in truth, are lazy. I can put my hand up on that one. I see the mirror at the other end of the room and I can look at myself and say, hey you, you’re kidding yourself. Drop the donut and start typing, reading, anything that requires you to be more than a passive recipient of information, images and sound. 

At the moment, I feel like that chair by the window, next to the fireplace is watching me, judging me, inviting me to sit and read. Novels, in my opinion, are never a waste of time. So, here I sit, musing about what it would be like to have a few weeks, snow bound, all to myself with nothing to do but read, write and sleep. Well, guess what, that’s why I’m doing. My friend, the chair, is calling and I feel obliged to reply.

For this writing prompt, write one of the following:

  1. A narrative about someone snowbound for two weeks with the items I listed above.
  2. Write about what you would do if you had two weeks of no people around, no TV, five books (you pick which ones), a notebook, no internet and no way to leave your room.
  3. Write a short horror story about a person snowbound in a tiny cabin with someone (or something) trying to get in.

Enjoy!

Writing/Reading Prompt: Slowly

I have always had a tendency to speed read. The main reason for this is that saying that I had completed a book always seemed more important to me than actually enjoying it. The same can be said of a lot of things I’ve done. I like pieces of opera, but not the whole thing and not all at once. I’m impatient and as Edith Wharton once wrote, “Americans like to get away from amusement almost as quickly as they like to get to it.” I have been trying to change this thinking of late.

Part of change is to acknowledge what you’re changing from, to what you’re changing to and why. I released lately that I don’t always take in what I read, I’m not always present in meetings and I don’t always listen and pay attention to music, singing or theatre performances. I catch myself being somewhere else. My thoughts drift and I although I might occupy a physical space, I’m not really “in the room”.

So, here’s the plan…I intend to actually pay attention to where I am and what I’m doing. I’ll learn to savour the written word that someone took the trouble to put down on paper. I’ll listen to the singer that spent their lives training to perfect their voice in the pursuit of art and the entertainment of others. I’ll listen when my colleagues speak, since their thoughts and ideas are no less important than mine, and the effort to speak to others is no doubt as potentially risky for them as it is for me. It takes effort to stick one’s neck out and when I don’t give something my full attention, I diminish their efforts, I devalue their time and struggle.

For this exercise, try this: Pick a book. Read a chapter quickly. Now go back and read it carefully, really taking the time to absorb what is on the page and what the author it trying to communicate. How do you perceive what you have read differently compared to the first, quick time? Did you get more out of it? Take the time to consider the author and what they were thinking or going through when they wrote it. Take note of the difference. Finally, make a list of times when you were not giving something your full attention. What were you thinking about instead and how might giving that thing or person your full attention have changed the outcome?

I’m going to go read “The Discover or Witches” for 30 minutes, quickly at first, then slowly, slowly. I might catch something new and different in the re-reading.

Have fun. Go slow.

Writing Prompt: Happy New Year

It’s 2017 and this is my first prompt for the year. 2016 brought a lot of challenges, both personally and professionally, but I look at 2017 optimistically, certain that I can make this a better year.

Key points of 2016 included:

  • Adoption of two new lovely felines, Oreo and Biscuit
  • New job
  • Trip to India
  • Took Mark to Sicily and went up to Mount Etna
  • Skiing in Gressoney, Italy
  • Started back at University after 15 years out of education
  • New friends
  • Lots of gigs, theatre and opera including:
    • Don Giovani
    • Cosi Fan Tutti
    • Doctor Faustus
    • Impossible
    • Wicked
    • The Merchant of Venice
    • Richard III
    • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
    • As You Like It
    • Macbeth
    • Duran Duran
    • Red Hot Chilli Peppers
    • Stevie Wonder
  • Great Christmas and New Year with my family in the US
  • Political Debate

Low points:

  • US Election
  • Brexit Vote
  • Job Hunting
  • Death of my beloved cat, Titch
  • Put on a stone

Although there are a few things on this list that are beyond my control, I can do something about my weight, so that’s part of the 2017 plan for improvement. Marathon scheduled for May this year.

For this prompt, make a list of the high and low points of 2016. Make plans for 2017 and don’t forget to include your writing ambitions for this year. I, for one, plan to write every day. Even if it’s just a few lines. Furthermore, I’m going to start keeping a hand written journal again. I promise to be more faithful in my blogging here and will blog at least twice a week.

Happy 2017 and Happy Writing!

Writing Prompt: Days gone by

It has been close to 6 months since I last wrote in this blog. It is perhaps the longest time I have ever gone without writing, but as you know, life, can sometimes get in the way.

In truth, it was never my intention to abandon writing, but with each passing year it become more difficult to focus. The day to day takes over and one gets sucking into “grown up” problems that distract us from art and reading for pleasure.

So, although my schedule is no less hectic, I say no “no more”! From today, I will not spend my days and nights melting away over TV box sets (as entertaining as they are) or car crash TV. I’ll keep myself informed of world events, but will not torture myself over reading ten versions of the same politic story until I read an opinion I like or that brings be comfort.

To be honest, there are many thing that have occupied my time that are legitimate and warrant my attention. I’ll list a few here:

  • New job
  • Adoption of two new cats
  • New job
  • Return to university after a 15 year gap
  • travel to distant lands (India), but more on that later
  • Significant birthday celebrations
  • illness
  • New Job…

For this, my new prompt after a 6 month absence, write a list of the significant things that have happened in your life for the past six months. Pick one and write a few hundred words about it.

I’m off to do the same.

See you sooner this time!

 

Writing Prompt: Point of View

I often struggle to decide which point of view to use when writing. I find it easy to write in the first person, but realise that it is limiting in terms of storytelling. First person narrative limits the ability to see beyond what the narrator tells you. However, it does provide the reader a familiar voice in the story and insights directly from the narrator rather than from a distant storyteller. Third person allows you to see multiple points of view and see a the bigger picture.

Try this: Write a scene in the first person, then try re-writing it in the third person. How do the scenes differ?  What does the reader lose or gain in terms of information from each retelling? Have fun. Happy writing.

 

Writing Prompt:Teen Fiction and Magical Things

I’ve started reading a lot of teen fiction lately. It’s not only easy to read and entertaining, it give me and my lovely niece something to talk about.

I have notice that there are certain trends in these books. They (at least the one’s I’m enjoying) tend to be written in the first person. They also seem to have outsiders as their main protagonists. Finally, there is usually some sort of fantasy or supernatural element about them.

I’m currently reading the “Shiver” series by Maggie Stiefvater. It’s about a young girl and her relationship with a boy who turns out to be part of a pack of werewolves. I’ve managed to get through most of the first book of the trilogy in about a day in a half. Not bad going.

What I would like to do is challenge you to write an outline or the premise for a teen fiction book.

Describe your protagonist (they should be 13-17 years old). Describe what they look like, where they come from and what challenge they’re going through. Try to flesh it out as much as possible. Try to include things like their family life, whether or not they have friends or siblings (who is going to be there in support when things get weird), do they have odd habits or flaws? What obstacle are they going to have to overcome? In the case of my current heroine, she’s in love with a werewolf and I suspect she might be one herself.

Have some fun with it and when you’re done, break your summary down into a few key bullet points:

  1. Who is your character
  2. What is their challenge
  3. What are their flaws
  4. who is in the sporting cast
  5. how will they triumph after a few obstacles to overcome?

Have fun, happy writing!

 

Writing Prompt: Flawed

The thing that makes a story interesting is when the characters throughout have depth to them. The hero cannot be too perfect or they lack credibility. They must possess a flaw that makes them human and makes their journey interesting and challenging, otherwise, there is no story, or at least, not one we’d care about.

Try drafting an outline for a hero to your story. Describe everything about their character flaws. What is it about them at may prevent them for succeeding in their quest or adventure? Why should we care about them? Are they a good person cast into a bad situation? Are they comfortable with their lives and now have to face a difficult decision that they may not be equipped for? Are they judgemental? Cowardly? Think of Hamet. His great flaw was his indecision and lack of action until it was too late.

Write a short summary of the challenge your main character faces. What is it about him that will prevent him or her from coming forward in the story?

Have fun.

Writing Prompt:One Day

I used to always complain that I never had time to myself. I would dream things I would do if I just had one day to sort myself out. When I eventually found I had a load of time on my hands, I felt paralysed by indecision. The piano leered at me, daring me to strike a key. My bookshelves seemed to lean forward, their bulk challenging me and making me feel guilty for all of the untouched spines that stared back. There, in the corner was my cross-trainer and my exercise ball, dusty and unloved. The garden, just beginning to come to life with the recent arrival of Spring begging me to come out and plant more flowers or just to sit in the fickle sun for an hour. And finally this, this machine before me, where I tap, tap, tap on the keys begging me to write something of substance and not to read the latest article slamming American politicians or to haemorrhage minutes and hours on cat videos.

So, I have one day today to do as I please. I’ve booked a weekend away with my best friend, I’ve read a book, done some exercise, made spaghetti and will now pack for a short trip. This evening, I’ll visit a cat rescue centre and with any luck, I’ll pick a new pair of companions. If I have time, I’ll write more and maybe go for a massage. These are all simple things, but they’re all my choice and little things that make me happy. I have a simple, happy list of things to do. If you had one day to do anything you liked, what would it be?

Happy daydreaming!

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