Writing Prompt: Opening Lines

It seems like lately I’m having a hard time getting started. When I’m tired, had a long day and am just plain not in the mood, getting going is tough. So, for all those out there that suffer from the same affliction, here are 10 opening lines to help you get started.

1. When she reached the grave, there were flowers already there. A white card was tucked into the bundle of yellow roses.

2. Each year, she went to her computer and wrote the same message to him. She had been doing this for five years with no reply.

3. When he checked the damage, it was clear that there would be some difficult explaining to do.

4. “What are we going to tell Mom and Dad about this?” Molly said. Tom glanced up at his sister and said, “We’ll lie…lie our asses off.”

5. They had been sure that they’d reach the next petrol station, but as the car sputtered, jerked and eventually died, they realised that they were in the middle of the desert.

6. Nobody knew where she was going. She only had a vague inclination herself, but she reached the airport and scanned the board for the next available flight.

7. As the final punter left the pub and they began clearing the tables of empty and half empty glasses, the bar staff found something quite unexpected under the table of the booth in the corner.

8. She was the last person in the office. The cleaners had come and gone and all that remained was the buzz of her computer and a vague awareness that the motion sensor lighting in the hall was suddenly on.

9. “Do you mind if I sit here?” Anna said to the old gentleman seated by the cafe door.

10. James sat on the edge of the bed with the book in his hand and began to read aloud.

Writing Prompt: Point of View

This is one of those difficult things to decide when you’re working on a story. Do I tell it from the first person point of view or the third? Can I tell it from the point of view of multiple characters, or do I stick to one voice?

One way of helping to solve the matter is to try writing a scene from multiple points of view and them deciding which is going to work best. Here’s an example of a scene from two points of view.

1. First Person

Although the invitation said 730pm, I was late. Between the horrid traffic and the delays on the tube, It was nearly 530pm by the time I got to the flat. I ran up the steps, kicking off my shoes as soon as I got to the bedroom and threw open the wardrobe. I kept all of my party dresses in a beige garment bag mother gave me when I got my first job and they popped out as soon as I opened the zipper. Whatever  chose had to be perfect. After 20 years, I couldn’t risk not looking fabulous in front of my old classmates. There was also a good chance he’d be there. Just thinking of him made me nervous. I tried on the red dress first and realised that I looked not only lie I was trying too hard, but like someone you’re proposition on the corner by Earl’s Court Station at midnight. I immediately shed the dress and tried the straight black one, then the blue one with the drop neck, then the white trouser suit, then finally, settled on the black mini dress. It had a high collar and fit slim and stylishly on me. It was perfect, just elegant enough to make him realised what he was missing.

When I got to the country cub, I had one final check on the ladies room, sprayed one light coat of perfume on my neck, then wandered in. As though waiting for me, though I knew he couldn’t have been, Jonathan was there, just inside the door with a glass of champagne in his hand. I clocked the wedding ring on his finger, looked at his face and when he smiled at me in recognition, I walked to him and said hello.

“Hi May”. He said. There was nothing in the way that he said it that could give me a hint as to whether or not he was happy to see me.

2. Third Person

May rushed home from the office.  Between the heavy traffic from the station and the delays on the tube, there was little time to get ready.  Although the invitation said 730pm, it was clear from her arrival home, still needing to select an outfit at 530pm, that she would be arriving late. When she reached her flat, she belted up the stairs, removing her shoes as soon as she reached the top and began to pull apart her wardrobe. At the back of the wardrobe was the beige garment bag May’s mother had given her when she got her first job. Inside she housed her collection of party dresses. She would have to choose her dress with care. There was a chance he would be there and after 20 years, she wanted to look nothing less than fabulous and remind him of all that he had missed. The first dress was red and signalled a sort of desperation, along with a look of someone better suited on the corner of Earl’s Court Station after midnight. No, she though, it would have to be more subdued. The next selection was simple and black, but made her look plain. The outfits that followed, blue, trouser suit, and other random garments she selected were all wrong. She finally settled on a black mini dress that was stylish with a high neck.

When she arrived at the county club, she dashed into the ladies room and, having a final look in the mirror, she sprayed some perfume on her neck then went to the hall where the party was underway.

Inside, Jonathan stood by the door, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, nervously sipping champagne and waiting. He had not seen May since their last awful meeting 20 years before and hoped that the passage of time would have allowed her to forgive him. He also was afraid to hope that she was still be as lovely as he remembered. Had time been kind to her? More importantly, had it been kind to him? He glanced at a mirror that hung near the door. What would she think of the grey that had invaded the hair at the sides of his head? The hair on top of his head remained black and mercifully, he had not begun to lose it. Part of him hoped she was fifty pounds heavier and married with a dozen children. As though the fates were listening to him private thoughts, the door opened and she wandered in. He held his breath as she walked directly towards him, searching his face. She was lovelier then he remembered and he knew that he would never get out of the evening gracefully.

“Hello Jonathan.” she said.

“Hi May.”

So, in this instance, you have the advantage of getting to follow a character through the story and it can be easier to write. However, it is more limiting than being able to write from multiple points of view, giving the reader an insight that the characters can see.

Have a go at writing some scenes using multiple points of view and see where they take you. Enjoy.

Writing Prompt: Writing on wind

I emerged from Waverley Station at the precise moment that a gust of wind bellowed through the stairwell and pushed me backwards. It was just a little stumble, but it was just enough to send the thin skirt of my dress flying. I had a heavy, long coat on that reached just above my knees. Long enough to protect my modestly, thank goodness, but it made me walk with caution, teetering on 3-inch heels al the way to work.

As I wandered along York Lane, the wind was still there, kicking up dirt and leaves, creating a little dance of colour on the crowded sidewalk.

On the train journey home, as the wind pushed the clouds off west, the trees swayed back and forth, back and forth, as though being rocked to sleep. It made me drowsy and eager for my bed.

Now, as I write, I can see trees, flowers and yellow trimmed bushes swaying in the wind. The cat has come in shivering, shaking off some light rain from her coat. It’s funny how something as simple as a windy day can change the way to look at things, the way you walk, what you wear…

Look out the window and write what the wind is doing.

Writing Prompt: The Secret to Swimming

The chlorine stung my eyes. As soon as we walked into the indoor pool area, I was nervous. Mom lead me by the hand to the water’s edge where other children had already gathered and were easing their way into the water. The swimming instructor was tall, lean with dark hair. He couldn’t have ben more than 20 years old, but to me he seemed much older. He approached my mother and assured her I’d be fine. She went to the far end of the pool room and sat on a metal folding chair.

I remember his name, even after all this time. It was Mike. Mike, the swimming instructor. As we all waded in, I felt the shock and shiver of the water hitting my back. Although the pool was heated, it was still a surprise. He handed us floatation boards and got us to hold on and start kicking. By the time the exercise was finished, all 20 minutes of it, I was exhausted. I looked up and there was Mom, smiling at me. I had been distracted by my efforts, but it occurred to me that she had not taken her protective eyes off me for even a second.

Mike swam to me and taking hold of my waist, encouraged me to try to float. My arms flailed around and I kept sinking, but still he persevered, until I found floating on my back unaided comfortable.

When the lesson was over, my mother called out to me and shook her car keys at me. “Get my keys!” She shouted, then threw them into the middle of the pool. I wanted to find them for her, but I was afraid, never liking the feeling of water on my face. Even then, my eyesight wasn’t great, so to be blinded by chlorine was unappealing.

I slowly edged my way to where the keys had produced a splash, confident that I’d be able to feel around for them. From where she sat, my mother couldn’t see all of me, just my head, so I ducked closed to the surface of the water and with my toes, felt for the keys until the metal scraped the bottom of my foot. I lifted my head to be sure she couldn’t really see me, then with my toes, I gathered up the keys and passed them to my hand. Triumphant, I popped my head up and dangled the keys before her. “Well done!” She called out and came to me to fetch back her keys.

This went on for a while until something changed in her expression. At the precise moment, she had spotted me gathering up the keys with my toes and with a little laugh that was like a hiccup, she shook her head at me. “That’s cheating!”. I dropped my head liked the scolded child I was and promised to do it properly. It was horrid. The chlorine stung my eyes and although I managed to get the keys, I coughed and sputtered and tried to clear the water from my nose. This was before I learned how to blow out from my nose to keep it from going up.

Over the following weeks of lessons, with my mother at the side and Mike aiding my technique, I finally learned to swim. It’s funny, some people to learn to swim when their babies, others, much later in life, but for everyone, it’s such an important skill to have, something you can carry with you, dormant until you need it. It allows you to exercise, see another world in the water, or even save a life. Yet most of us take it for granted. Most of us never think about how we learned to swim, but it usually involves the help of others. In my case, it Mom and Mike, at the age of nine in the local YMCA pool.

Do you remember how you learned to swim? If you can’t what’s stopping you?

Writing Prompt: Perfume

I walked past someone on the street and caught a light scent of perfume I couldn’t identify. There was a hint of peach, some light floral scent, like a magnolia and maybe vanilla mixed in. I’ve stuck to certain perfumes throughout the years, each one marking out certain stages in my life. Chanel 5 was my mother’s scent. One of my first was Obsession, by Calvin Klein, right about the time I was in High School and it was still considered a chic perfume. In later years, right about the time I was starting university, my friend Lisa bought me a bottle of Gianfranco Ferre. It was strong, almost musky and lingered on my hairbrush. Just as I was leaving for England it was Fendi. When I was getting my first job in the City, I adopted my mother’s signature scent of Chanel 5 until a series of gifts left with a stockpile I haven’t been able to get rid of. You see, it was on a trip to Dublin with my best friend five years ago that I learned the art of layering, taking two or three scents and blending them together until they’re all yours. I found two that worked together and they’ve followed me wherever I’ve gone. I start with a light coat of Pomegranate. One quick spray on the wrist and one along my neck. I run the excess along my other wrist then reach for the other bottle. This time, I reverse the order, applying one quick spray of red rose on my neck, the a dab on one wrist, then the other. The combination is interesting, something soothing at first, until you catch a hint of the fruit pomegranate. I feel naked without it.

There are some perfumes that linger in the memory. Think back. Was it your mother’s lavender oil, or a hint of lilacs in your grandmother’s hair? DId you once give your girlfriend a perfume bottle as a gift because of the shape of the bottle, or did you let a spritzer girl spray you with a perfume bottle before you bought it? If you wear perfume, what is it you like about it? This is such a personal thing. No scent smells the same on every person who wears it. So, what scents attract you?

Writing Prompt: Sleep Deprivation

My apologies for not writing for a while. I’ve been working hard and sleeping little. Last night I attended an all-night horror film festival in Edinburgh, which is something of a tradition with myself and a few close friends. What struck me was that over the years, I’ve managed to stay away through caffeine, adrenaline and pure stubbornness, but this time, I found I couldn’t go the distance. My friend gave me a little nudge just before the last film of the night (5am start) and asked if I wanted to go home. I gave a pathetic little nod and ordered a cab. By 6am, I was tucked up in bed and purring away like my cat, happy to be under the duvet. When I woke, my first though was of coffee, the next was to wonder what the furry thing on my head was (the cat) and finally, whether or not I would be considered a wimp if I wanted to duck out on the rest of the festival? There are 8 more hours of this to look forward to and I have a 6am flight in the morning. With this in mind, all I want to do today is have a comfortable evening in with my friend, a book, some glossy magazines (guilty pleasure) and a take away…so, the question is, am I getting old?

Think back, we’ve all had all-nighters before. I’ve been out all night for parties, work projects, studying for exams, or trying to meet a deadline. So, describe one such instance and write about what you did awake while the rest of the world around you was asleep. Describe the sunrise if you witnessed it, or that first moment when you realised that the night was gone and a new day was started. Where you alone or with friends? Have you ever been out all night and walked home in the morning?

Have fun. I’m off for a nap.

Up ↑