Writing Prompt: Alphabet Soup

As a writer, I’m also a reader. I read everything and anything that catches my attention. Novels, newspaper, how-to books, magazines, cereal boxes, blogs, forum posts, song lyrics…anything. One of the most important things in writing is expanding your vocabulary, so I study the words and expressions of others searching for inspiration.

Funny, the book that I keep going back to is the dictionary.

Whenever I’m stuck, I flick through the thin pages of the enormous book and look for words I’ve never heard before.

Try this, find a dictionary, flick through each letter and make a list of 26 words you’re never heard of and write a narrative around them.

Have fun playing with the words.

Writing Prompt: Alphabet Soup

Quote for the day

Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.

– Barbara Kingsolver

Pie – A Short Story

Pie

 

Fred opened his eyes and shaking off the leaves from his coat stretched his legs. The burrow was warm. Winter has given into spring and he could already hear his mother in the other chamber.

 

 ferret-stretch1

 

As he wandered through the burrow, he remembered happily that he agreed to meet his best friend Benny for a game of hide and seek.

 

His mother called after Fred as he ran toward the burrow opening that would open out into the sunshine. “Don’t be late again! I’m making a special treat tonight.” She said.

 

 

black_footed_ferret-single1

 

Fred ran across the field toward the farmhouse where he and Benny met every morning to play.

 

 

bunnies-field1 

 

Benny woke up late that morning. Startled at the late hour, he ran to the opening of his burrow eager to get to the field to play with Fred.

 

 

bunny-burrow1 

 

He hopped with all his might through the field towards the farmhouse and when he got there stopped for a breath. As he calmed down and began to look around for Fred he realised he left the burrow without breakfast. His little stomach began to growl, so he hopped to the farmhouse hoping to find something to eat.

 

When he got there, he saw something so special that he had to hop straight back to the field to find Fred. What he saw was perfect for sharing but he would need Fred’s help.

 

 

bunny-licking-chops1 

 

When Benny got to the field, Fred was waiting for him. “Where have you been?” Fred said.

 

Benny caught his breath. “Fred, you’ve got to see this! I’ve been to the farmhouse and there’s something you’ve got to see.”

 

The two of them ran as fast at they could to the farmhouse.

 

 

farmhouse1 

 

When they got there, Benny took Fred around to the farmhouse kitchen window where he showed his friend their prize.

 

Resting on the window sill was a perfect, hot apple pie that had been set there to cool in the morning breeze.

 

 

applepiewindow-256x1631 

“This looks perfect! I’m starving!” said Fred. “But how are going to get to it?”

 

Benny looked at his friend’s long thin body. “Fred, stand up straight.”

 

Fred stood on his hind legs and stood up straight and tall.

 

 

full-standing-ferret 

 

“Perfect!” said Benny. “If you climb on my back and stand up straight, you can reach the pie!”

 

“That’s brilliant, clever you!” said Fred.

 

Benny struggled to hold still and strong as Fred clambered up onto Benny’s back. As they wobbled, trying to keep their balance, someone else noticed what they were up to.

 

Georgia, the farmhouse cat had been chasing some birds in the barn when she heard noise coming from the back door leading to the farmhouse kitchen. As she turned the corner, she saw Benny and Fred and instantly understood that they were trying to reach the pie in the window.

 

“We’ll see about that.” She thought and slowly moved through the tall grass towards them.

 

 

cat-stalking 

 

Fred stood tall and stretched with all his might. His little arms were just long enough to reach the pie. As the tips of his claws gripped the edge of the pie dish he turned his head and saw Georgia sneaking towards them.

 

She was just about to pounce when Benny looked over and saw her too. “Fred!” he shouted.

 

Just as she jumped towards them, Fred moved quickly and pushed the pie dish off the window ledge, sending it crashing onto Georgia’s head.

 

“Run!” Benny shouted.

 

Fred leaped off of his friend’s back and the two of them ran across the field back towards their burrows.

 

 

ferret_looking_back_low_res_a1 

 

Looking back, Fred could see Georgia gaining on them.

 

“Quick, Benny! Follow me home. My burrow is closer!”

 

They ran with all their might and just as Georgia drew her claws out to reach them, they jumped into Fred’s burrow to safety.

 

“Just wait.” Georgia called after them. “I’ll get you for this someday.”

 

 

cat-stalking-burrow1 

 

When Benny and Fred caught their breath, Fred mother called them. “Where have you two been?” Fred hung his head, too embarrassed to answer. Benny dropped his head too.

 

“Well, I told you not to be late again. So, if you can’t get home in time, you can’t have the treat I made today. Off to your room!”

 

Fred scurried off to his room with Benny trailing behind him. As they moved past Fred’s mum, they saw what was on the table behind her – an apple pie!

 

 

apple-pie1 

 

– The End

Writing Prompt: Creating the perfect fit

My tastes in books tends to be a bit eclectic. I have Japanese thrillers, historical fiction, contemporary British, history, philosophy, fantasy, horror and science fiction (to name a few).  There is no predicting what will capture my attention on a given day when I wander into Waterstone’s on Princes Street. When I go in, I tell myself that I won’t buy anything. I’ll just browse. I’ve written before about how libraries and bookshops calm me. You can measure my mood by the weight of my shopping bag.

As I looked at my overflowing bookcase at home, deciding what to read, I couldn’t decide. So, I selected five book at random and began to flick through them. I came across a passage in one of them and stopped.

“There’s only one way to overcome the fear: you’ve got to stab someone else with an ice pick.” (from: Piercing, Ryu Muurakami)

Interesting, I thought. Curious of what the others contained, I flicked through them and stopped at random pages. I closed my eyes for a moment, and letting my fingers guide me through the pages, I stopped somewhere in the middle of each. I opened my eyes letting them rest on any sentence they chose first, then marked the line. When I had done this with every book, I copied each line and this is what I got:

“I understand, though,” Mr. Lettreblair continued, “that she attached no importance to the money. Therefore, as the family say, why not let well enough alone?” (from: The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton)

“Before they has reached the top the painter threw the door wide open and with a deep bow invited K to enter.” (from The Trial, Franz Kafka)

“Oh Grady, I’m so glad you’re there. So many bad things are happening at once.” (from: Wonder Boys, Michael Chabon)

“He looks at his watch. It is twenty to one, which is not bad, and he won’t even mentions she’s late.  This is what he’d call within bounds.” (from: The Kiss, Joan Lingard)

These are all buried deep within the pages of very different books by authors that span from 1920 to 2002. The authors were Japanese, Scottish, American and Czech.

So, faced with the range of where the lines and books come from, it’s not impossible to picture a scenario where these lines might well fit together.

Try this: Pick five books, pick five lines at random and see if you can create a scene or a storyline where they might all fit.

Writing Prompt: Creating the perfect fit

Writing Prompt: Sweet, Sour or Savoury?

Quite often, in writing, description focuses on appearances, sounds, sensations or smells. What about taste? I’ve never really thought about it, but I think that deep down I’m a savoury kind of girl. I love spices, strong chilies, rich butter and I’m a total steak monster and shepherds pie is just the thing to make me happy when I’m tired and need comfort food.

Sure, I love my sweets too. Sticky toffee pudding with dates and ice cream, sugary lemon sorbet with a sweet wafer in the middle or in a sugar cone, strawberries dipped in milk chocolate, and oreos with milk send me off to sleep with a smile.

I love lemons, limes, oranges, tart pomegranates, and grapefruits.

With all the flavours the world has to offer, what’s your favourite? Describe the things you love to taste and work them into a narrative.

Writing Prompt: Sweet, Sour or Savoury?

Writing Prompt: The City

As I pushed past the crowd of tourists and street vendors, the smell of fish and sourdough bread made me queezy. The sun was beginning to set and the fading light turned the sky orange. I moved past the cannery and up the hill toward Ghirardelli Square. Distracted, as I chased the sun, a cable car narrowly missed my head as I ran across the tracks.

When I reached Bay Street, I turned right and ran along Galileo High School and thought of Joe DiMaggio and O.J. Simpson. By the time I reached the cool grass of the Marina, I was out of breath. I bent by head down, resting my hands on my knees and waited for my breathing to slow to a steady pace. I made it, I thought and taking off my sweatshirt settled onto the grass.

There was a breeze coming from the bay. Traffic moved behind my spot in the park and when I looked up, there it was. The bridge created a perfect frame for the setting sun. I was getting cold, but I didn’t want to move. I waited until the last ray of light disappeared from the horizon and the sky was lit by the lights of the bridge and the city behind me. It was so rare for me to pull myself away from the TV to go for a run in the evening and even more rare for the timing to be so perfect.

San Francsico is my favourite city. It has beauty, character and a diversity from end to end that I’ve never been able to find anywhere else. There are other places I love, Venice, Edinburgh, London. I love them because whenever I go to them, I find something new nestled among the favourite familiar places that make each city my own.

Describe your favourite city in terms of landmarks, scenery, street names. Use as much description as possible to set up a scene without specifically naming the place.

Writing Prompt: The City

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