Writing Prompt: Colour

I know I’ve written on the subject before, but as I was looking through my wardrobe, it struck me just how much dark purple and burgundy is in it. I guess it’s my favourite colour. Much of my jewellery is made of up amethyst and garnet. When I wander through the shops, my eye immediately seeks out dark plums and burgundy.

We each have a colour we’re attracted to. What’s yours? Write either about colour in general, your favourite or pick something colourful and describe it, nt just the colour, but all of it then craft a fictional history of its origins. It’s amazing how colour also stirs memory.

Poem for the Day: Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness, –
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs,
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
And mid-May’s eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain –
To thy high requiem become a sod.

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music: – Do I wake or sleep?

Writing Prompt: Cute Overload…or The Photograph

I recently found a photo of my brother and me when we were in our early 20s. It was an average day on one of the rare occasions that we were both in the house at the same time. Mom was playing with her camera and at a moment when my brother and I manage to capture my cats, she took the picture. It remains one of my favourite shots of the two of us.

Have a rummage through some old photographs and write about what was happening at the time it was taken. What you were feeling, what’s going on both on the print and outside of it.

Poem for the day

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

– Pablo Neruda

Writing Prompt: House

As I was traveling by train the other day, it struck me that houses give off a sort of personality.

Sad houses, light houses, happy houses, crooked houses. I saw walled hedged houses and open gardened houses. Single stories, maisonettes, terraces, large, small and cottages by the sea.

Have a look at a random house and describe it. Next, describe the person or people who live in it. Make up any lives you want.

Stuck, here are some pictures to get you started. Remember, scene is key to story development.

Writing Prompts: Cold Hard Facts

It’s hard to admit your shortcomings or fears. One of the most interesting things about character development in writing is when we explore things like flaws, fears, or challenges. If there are no flaws in our characters, we have no story. There is nothing for them to overcome, and we, as readers, lose interest.

So, I’ve been thinking about things to write about, imperfections to write into my characters to give them conflict and create more interesting narratives.

What I’ve been thinking about are hard and uncomfortable truths about myself and others I know (draw from life but don’t name names… 🙂

  • I hate the cold, I mean, I REALLY hate the cold. (have you ever read “To Build a Fire” by Jack London?)
  • My biggest fear is drowning (three near misses and I’m a crap swimmer)
  • Tequila causes all sort of problems
  • I’m accident prone. So much so, that I have no less than 6 self-inflicted scars from everything ranging from kitchen knife wounds to tripping over my own feet to head-butting a metal post.
  • I hate quiet. Total silence makes me really uncomfortable. Even when I’m alone, I need to have the TV on or music playing. I can’t even drive four blocks from the train station to the house without music.
  • I love comic book films, not in a funny “oh how lame” way, I mean, I really look forward to them.
  • Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than not being able to see properly – probably because I’ve been blind as a bat since I was eight.
  • I hate that I never jacked in work and really took a chance at writing. (not too late).
  • I hate dogs. They creep me out and the fact that my parents have five of them means I don’t like going home as much as I used to. I’ve even fantasised about drowning them in the pool and making it look like and accident, but Mom wouldn’t be best pleased…

So, take a few of your own, apply them to a character in a story and dump them into a scenario that challenges them.

Have fun.

Writing Prompt: Silence

I’ve lost my voice again. When I travel too much or work too many hours, that’s the first thing to go. When I woke this morning, my throat was on fire. Intense pain shot through me, starting at my throat and making it’s way to the rest of me. It took three painkillers and another couple of hours of sleep to sooth the pain, but when I opened my mouth to speak, so sound came out.

I’m angry because I hate being ill. It started a few days ago, but it really hit today.  The frustration does not come from the pain or the illness as such, but that it is stopping me from getting things done. The very thing that has caused this, the over-tiredness and stress is the very thing I need to keep doing.

If I try to look at it another way, if I can’t speak, I can focus on what I need to get better and be grateful for technology.

When you think about it, 20 years ago, if you couldn’t speak you were really in trouble. No email, no texting, just a whispered call down the line to colleagues telling them you’re ill and that was it.

If you’ve never lost your voice, I can assure you it’s no picnic. However, it might be an interesting experiment to go through the day trying to communicate without it.

Have a go at going throughout your day without talking. How do you communicate? Can you discipline yourself to not use that part of ourselves that we take for granted?

Writing Prompt: Sibling Rivalry

My brother is the benchmark. I’ve been fortunate enough throughout my life to know what it is to love someone unconditionally and have a tiny green demon in my heart at the same time.

He’s one of those rare people who has always known what he wanted to do. Every step pulled him closer and closer to the film-making career that would become his profession.

He was 11 years old, and ready to lead the neighbourhood play. It was “Alice and Wonderland”.  He assigned the cast, gave me a bit part, persuaded the neighbourhood to get people in, contribute baked goods, to get the kids kitted out and ready to play.  That was, that is his gift.

Last week I nearly lost him to an arsehole driver who ran a red light and could have killed him. I would not have been there. I’ve been here. In the UK, away from my childhood protector and source of so much influence.

It’s funny how people can have such a powerful influence over your life and never even know it. Since we were kids, if he did something, I had to do it too, and tried to do it better. When we were in High School, there was one year where we overlapped. He was a Senior, I, a Freshman. In that time, he was a photographer for the High School Annual (that’s Yearbook to some folks) and the School paper. So, the minute he graduated, I had to become the Editor, I did it for three years. When he was going off to film school and partying in LA, not wishing to be left out, I would sneak over to Melrose to tag along. We kept some of my excursions from our parents.

Along with being proud of him and his accomplishments, there was always something in me I felt I had to live up to. Throughout the years, with every success or failure, I wondered, what would big brother make of this? The funny thing is, I doubt he ever knew how much his good opinion meant to me.

When I think back, it goes beyond High School, beyond having teachers telling me that they “expected great things” from me. I was, after all, his sister. No, it’s way past the neighbourhood play, beyond curling up on the edge of his bed in the hospital when he had meningitis as an eight-year-old. It started on the kitchen step.

My earliest memory of him was a cool autumn day when he was heading off to school. I sat on the step, tears running down my dirty cheeks. I was being left behind. My playmate was going away to make new friends, to learn things I couldn’t know, to see new things. I sat there, flower-print dress around my knees with his arm around me. His wisdom at that age astounds me now, even though I was too young to appreciate it.

“When you’re my age, you’ll wish you could stay at home and watch TV and play. You’ll see.” He was seven.

I rubbed my eyes, wiped the grimy tears from my face and made him promise me to teach me everything. Bless him, he tried. As the years passed, he brought home everything from Algebra homework to the latest John Hughes film I was too young for. He brought me presents in form of knowledge every day.

It wasn’t until much, much later in my adult life that I realised that I didn’t need to compete. I wasn’t the four year old on the step anymore. I wasn’t being left behind and the choices I made were no less valuable for being my own. Poor guy, he never knew how much he’s had to answer for.

When Mom told me about the accident – my heart began to pound, I could hear light ringing in my ears and I felt sick, the way you feel when you realise you forgot to do something critical. I wanted to drop the phone and catch the first plane home, but I waited, listening for a moment to her voice telling me he was fine. Some bruised ribs and a totalled Audi, but fine. I felt relieved, but it wasn’t going to be enough until I heard from him myself, so I called him and shouted down the phone at his voicemail. How dare he not tell me about it, not tell me he was ok. From his point of view, he probably figured that since everything was fine and I was so far away, there was no need to worry me. Worry me, I thought.

Upon receiving my rant, he sent me an email, gave me the details. He was broadsided on the driver’s side – the car did its job and sacrificed itself, crumbling into a protective cocoon of torn leather and metal.

I sent back a simple reply. “For my next car I’m buying an Audi.” After all, it was good enough for him….

Writing Prompt: Write about a brother, sister or just someone you admire. How has their presence in your life made an impact. Do they know how they’ve made a difference?

NOTE: Originally posted in 2009, but thought it would be nice to repost. 🙂

Writing Prompt: Everyday things

Describing the commonplace is actually difficult. How do you make normal, everyday objects interesting? Can you take something common and give it a life of its own?


Try this: Look around the room. Select a half a dozen objects and describe them in terms of appearance. Next, take those same objects and give them a history? How did you come by them? Nothing ever just materialises. Things are either found, given, borrowed or bought. So, write about how you came by these things. Finally, make up an entirely different story of how you got these possessions. Have fun, be random and creative. Enjoy. I’m about to go write about a ceramic puffin on the mantle…

Writing Prompt: Random Acts

When was the last time you witnessed a random act of kindness or you ran across a truly extraordinary person? They’re around us all the time, everywhere, we just fail to stop and notice. How often to we pause and really see what and who is around us? Here’s your writing mission, should you choose to accept: spend the day in careful observation. Watch people on the bus, walking in the pavement, in the shops, behind the counters, at the office, at the school yard. Writers are first and foremost observers of human nature.

Spend the day really seeing what’s around you. Write it down. Draw from the people you know as well as strangers. Are you inspired? When I think of some of the things both friends and strangers accomplish, I know I am.


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