Writing Prompt: The Snapshot

There are stories all around us. Everyone we see has a history, every scene our eyes capture has a story behind it. I once took a camera to the beach in Malibu and took random photos of people walking on the pier, sitting on the sand, leaning on the rails of the boardwalk and eating candy floss with their friends. When I developed my photos and studied them, I saw strange little subtleties that told me that everyone in those pictures had some sort of narrative hidden underneath the surface of the picture I took. I captured something interesting, an expression out of place, body language, the nature of relationships.

Try this: Take a few random snaps of strangers and study them. Create a story based on what you see in the images.

I’ll throw one in here to get you started.

the girl on the steps

Writing Prompt: What makes a story?

One of the things that makes us writers is that we’re first readers. There is something about the written word that makes us want to tell a story of our own. It might start with science fiction or history, biographies or western adventures. I’ve heard people say that they like reading all sorts of things, but generally, we tend to gravitate to one genre or another. Personally, although I like science fiction and fantasy books, I seem to go most often for contemporary fiction.

Try this, list your top ten favourite books and have a look about what they have in common. It is theme, character type, scene, location?

Once you’ve listed the common elements, create a short piece that incorporates them all.

Writing Prompt: What makes a story?

Writing Prompt: Stranger

I spend a lot of time day dreaming. I wonder what would have happened to me and where I’d be if I had stayed in California and not moved to London. Would I have ended up in a different career? Would I see my parents more? I wouldn’t have my best friend. I’d have a different cat. (yes, I’d still have a cat).

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to start over again. I was talking to someone the other day and he reminded me that you only live once. I’ve tried to pack in as much as I can in my time here on earth. I’ve squandered a fair bit.

I don’t believethat average people are free. We are trapped by the choices we make. I know that the truth is that we make our own luck. You make decisions and you live with them. I’ve heard people say that you can’t run away from your problems. Would it’s be something to at least try? I’ve wondered what it would be like to pack a bag, clean out my bank account and light out for the territory. Not go to work, tell no one, leave no note, and close down all of my social media accounts. How liberating would that be? The only thing that stops me is knowing that even when I’m sat here feeling desperate and sorry for myself, my disappearing in a puff of smoke would affect some people and that’s a stretch of selfishness too far even for me.

Titch is asleep at my side. The sun is shining over the garden. Later, I’m going out to see some friends I’ve known and loved for years. Over the years, we’ve grown apart. If I search my heart, I know that there is almost nothing left of the person they met over 14 years ago. I wear a mask when I see them and it only slips when I’m alone or in the company of people who only graze the surface of me.  I wear the mask so that I won’t disappoint them with what I’ve become. I like them to think of me as how I was, bright and naive, believing anything people told me, happy to talk to strangers and unable to grasp irony. I barely remember that girl at all.

I believe each of us a stranger living in us. It’s the person capable of anything, of great and horrible things. I catch glimpse of her in the mirror in the lift at work or as I pass the reflection on a shop window. I turn away and drop my sunglasses over my eyes when that happens and press forward. I feel her breath on my neck when I’m on the treadmill and I run faster. She is the cold hand that reaches for me when my feet drop from the bed to the floor in the morning.

I suppose a fair few people think about these things, but never do anything about it. I’m curious about the ones that do. Which one is the stranger, which one is the real person?

Think about this: few of us are the people we thought we’d be when we were young. What are the pivotal moments in your life when you suddenly became someone different from your earlier dreams?

Write about the other you.

Writing Prompt: Your Opening Line

Often the hardest part of writing is just getting started. So, in this prompt, I’ll lend a hand, creating a scenario you can pick up from and create a scene or complete story.

1. You’re character is in a crowded, noisy bar waiting for some friends. While they’re there, they see someone sitting alone at the bar staring  into their drink. The person at the bar is clearly upset. They stand up and as they head towards the door, something falls out of their pocket, which your main character decides to retrieve.

What fell, what does your character do and what are the consequences?

2. Your character has been left in charge of feeding a neighbour’s pets while they’re on holiday for a few days, but forgets. The day before the neighbours are due back, your character remembers and rushes to the neighbour’s house.

They find something unexpected when they arrive at the house. What is it and what does your character do?

3. Your main character is being bullied at school. To his surprise, he discovers that his tormentor has a crush on his sister. What does your main character do with this information?

Ok – that should get you started. Have fun. Happy writing.

Writing Prompt: Treat Yourself

I’m not a gifted baker. When I was little, I used to have a little mini oven that baked little cupcakes with a heat lamp. The icing was made of cream, sugar and food colouring. They were tasty, but always gave me an upset stomach. As I grew up, my mother taught me how to cook, Mexican and Italian in particular, but not much beyond that. Baking was left for Christmas and was restricted to Betty Crocker box cakes. Pies were bought at the local diner at Thanksgiving. Dad’s favourite was Lemon Meringue, Mom loved Pecan, big brother loved Pumpkin. Me, I loved Cherry, but always ate the crust first until I was left with a pie of cherries on the plate.

My friend Tiffany is a genius with cookies. Chocolate chip, butterscotch, peanut butter, white chocolate. She gave me the recipe for chocolate chip cookies ages ago, but try as I might, they come out like little door stops.

This morning I woke up and decided I wanted to try again. It’s Easter Monday, a day I don’t usually take off, but I wanted to spend my day on something constructive that didn’t necessarily mean work. So, a bowl of butterscotch chips, a bag of oatmeal and a new hair-do that consists of eggs, flour, and vanilla that went wrong with the hand-blender later, I had a plate of 36 butter scotch cookies. Here’s the shock…they’re pretty good. They’re great with milk and I might stretch to trying out chocolate peanut butter bars later.

Most days, I can’t go near sweets without wanting to kill myself. Choclate is brought into the office often and I usually decline. Whenever we have birthdays, people bring in cakes. I keep them out of sight.  The two worst holidays in the world for me are Halloween and Easter. The cream eggs and Mars bars are torture.

Mum, instead of an Easter Egg, gave me a cow made of chocolate milk. To be honest, I want to smash its head in and eat what’s inside.

So, I’ve declared today “eat what the Hell you want” day. That’s right. I’ve decided that the diet is kicking in tomorrow and as long as I keep exercising, I’m never saying “no” to chocolate again.

So, for me, it’s going to be chocolate and home baking. What do you usually deny yourself?

Writing Prompt: Treat Yourself

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