Writing Prompt: Hangover Square

This post is dedicated to my top 10 favourite books:

1. Hangover Square – Patrick Hamilton

2. Candide – Voltaire

3. Our Ancestors – Italio Calvino

4. 20 Thousand Streets Under the Sky – Patrick Hamilton

5. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

6. OUT – Natsuro Kirino

7. Like Water for Chocolate – Laura Esquivel

8. Dracula – Bram Stoker

9. The World According to Garp – John Irving

10. Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin

 

Although these are all very different books with very different character, I noticed that there is something tragic about all of them. There is comedy, romance, social commentary, murder, philosophy, family, and fantasy in most of these, but it’s the tragic element of the main characters that they have in common. For instance, in “Hangover Square”, the protagonist is an un-dianosed Schizophrenic with a murderous streak. In “Like Water for Chocolate”, our heroine is destined never to marry, but must look after her tyrannical mother until she dies (boyfriend marries older sister, complications ensue), and in “Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky”, all three main characters are victims of tragic love. I wonder what that says about me?

Try this, pick your top ten and try to work out what it is that these books have in common and what you think your selection says about you. Write this one like a list followed by a diary entry. Try to recall how you learned about these books. (gift, recommendation, random pick from Amazon, etc)

Enjoy. 

Writing Prompt: A Family History

Over the years I’ve heard a lot of stories about my family, grandfathers and grandmothers, aunties and uncles, which once told, were dismissed and forgotten. Recently, I’ve been trying to excavate this collection of shattered fragments from my tiring memory. When I’m calm and quiet, I try to remember what my mother told me about my grandmother and these days, when on the rare occasion when I’m visiting in the US, I try to get my father to tell me new stories of my grandparents and their time on their ranch in Mexico where he grew up.

These stories are beginning to take form in my head and I’m now trying to commit them to paper. What I’m focusing on now is not the story of how my grandmother met my grandfather or on my mother’s childhood, which what the stuff of nightmares, but on the courtship and circumstances of my grandmother and my Mom’s stepfather, who I’m informed was a kind and generous man. Their romance was not without barriers, but to hear my mother tell the tale, it seemed like one of those stories of love and friendship against adversity.

While I write this narrative, think about some of the stories you’ve heard from your family and try to write them down. Try writing them   two ways:

1. Write a short story about a member of your family in the 3rd person, describing them as though you’re telling a story that’s detached from yourself.

2. Write a narrative in the first person as though whoever told you about your family is describing it to you for the first time.

Have fun.

Writing Prompt: The Balloon

I saw a balloon float past the windscreen as I rode in a car with a friend and her two children. We all looked up and at the same moment pointed to the sky. The was bright pink with a silver ribbon attached to it, glistening as it flipped and twirled in the wind. Higher and higher it flew until it disappeared into the trees and out of sight.

There is something special in a balloon. How is it that a simple piece of floating colour, held up by a bit of helium can provide so much pleasure? Even now, as a “grown up” I love balloons and still grin and giggle at the thought of receiving some for a birthday or in the park as I stroll.

I once worked in a balloon shop and countless hours were spent sculpting and shaping them into arches, canopies and odd little shapes. At one time, I was able to hide a small gift in a miniature balloon, which was placed into another larger one, which had to be popped in order to retrieve the gift. Unbeknownst to my employer, an unmeasurable amount of helium made it’s way from value to balloon, only to be rapidly inhaled by my childish lungs in an effort to imitate Mickey Mouse. Ah, those were the days.

Balloons are still to this day, a source of art and wonder and film makers, animators and street artists are still inspired by these simple latex toys.

Here are some examples:

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112445/?ref_=nv_sr_1

 

So – your assignment for today. Write a story with a Balloon as the main centre piece. You get to choose the colour. 🙂

 

Writing Prompt: Animals

There’s something that has been troubling me today. There’s a petition that has been doing the rounds today to prevent an individual from ever getting a Visa to enter South Africa after she posted herself posing behind a gorgeous lion she had killed with her hunting rifle for sport. For more info, click here: http://www.change.org/petitions/the-government-of-the-republic-of-south-africa-deny-future-entry-to-melissa-bachman?share_id=ABZdLcBssu&utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition

Since this has gone viral, more petitions and post have done the rounds highlighting the opinions not only of those who oppose the practice of sports hunting, but those of a load of other sickos  that will kill any animal if the price is right.

Now, I’m not a vegetarian, but I don’t believe in wasting the life of a any animal just for kicks. So, before I turn this into a political/social post, I’d like writers out there to write about animals and how they feel about them. There are a few ways to do this:

1. Write a narrative from the point of view of an animal, any animal. You might have the next “I am a Cat” or children’s story, you never know.

2. Pick an animal you admire and describe in as much detail as possible their appearance, your perception of them, how they move, what they smell like, what they eat, everything.

3. Make a list and name as many animals as you can. Close your eyes and point to one, then construct a narrative where they are the main character written in 3rd person narrative.

Have fun.
Enjoy. This one’s for all the creatures with which we share the planet…

Writing Prompt: The Dark Ages or…before the Internet

I’ve tried to avoid my mobile, laptop, ipad and Mac all weekend. I found it surprisingly therapeutic. I actually spend the bulk of the weekend in the kitchen learning to make all manner of things such as scones, pumpkin soup and a dish involving filo pastry and pesto.

It got me thinking. I work in technology, specifically, mobile advertising. It’s interesting to think that my field didn’t even exist a few years ago. (first handset circa 1973, first text circa 1994).

We’ve become so used to technology, the internet, mobiles, etc for daily life and communication, I wonder what will happen to the written word? Do people still write letters? Will it make us lazy? My nephew told me recently that they’re no longer taught cursive hand writing in school. I found this disturbing not because you couldn’t write a good letter on your computer, but that it might mean that the same care and attention to writing might disappear. With word processors, spell check, save function, etc, do we still need to give the same care and attention to spelling, thoughtful letter writing on actual paper?

I’d like this prompt to go a couple of ways:

 

1. Hand write a letter to someone. Take your time, use cursive, put it in the post and gauge the reaction.

2. Write a short narrative where all phones, laptops, the internet, etc have suddenly been rendered useless. How do people react? What do they do to reach their loved ones? Why not make it a scene where all comms are dead and focus on a single character caught in the middle of a catastrophe. Make it a major city. throw in a war or some zombies or a natural disaster.

Have fun.

 

Memoir: Mom and Grace

 

It started at around 2am. I had already been asleep for several hours when she came into my room to wake me. Tugging gently at my warm wool blanket, she bounced lightly on the bed while I struggled to understand what she was saying. No matter how often it happened, I was always startled. My eyes, heavy with sleep, could see flickering light coming from the living room and an anxious expression on her face.“Mom, what is it?” I said.

“The Swan. It’s about to start,” she said, and then helped me into my terrycloth robe, the pink one with the little hole in the right sleeve.

“Which one is that?” I asked.

“The one about the princess and the tutor. You know, Grace Kelly and Louis Jordan. Oh…and Alec Guinness is the prince.”

“Who?”

“Obiwan Kenobie.”

“Can’t we tape it?” I asked.

She shook her head. “That would be cheating.” We never taped the late night classics. The idea that we could miss something crucial kept us glued to the T.V., soaking in every word of dialogue, every screen kiss.

I yawned and slid my feet into my slippers as I got out of bed, thinking of the cold ceramic tile that lay between my room and the couch.

Within minutes, I was tucked in with a comforter around my legs, surrounded by pillows on the couch in front of the T.V.

Mom went to the kitchen and threw a bag of popcorn into the microwave and brewed a pot of tea. She joined me as the film began. Grace Kelly’s lovely face filled the screen and the opulence of the palace made me forget our cold living room. Soon after, there were only the actors on the screen and the enormous red Tupperware bowl of popcorn on my lap.

Mom sipped tea while she sat in the deep cushioned chair with a serape from Tijuana wrapped around her shoulders. Her pleasure and excitement by the action on the screen and my obvious enjoyment showed in her dark eyes. I think she liked it when I asked her about the actors, the story and the other films she enjoyed. This was our tradition, our means of communication. Every week when the TV Guide turned up at the house with the address label curled at the edges, she would sit and flip through its pages seeking out old friends; Garbo, Bacall, Dean, Stewart, Bogart and Monroe. When their names appeared, she circled the entry with a thin black marker and made a note in the calendar, indifferent to whether or not it was a school night. As I passed, I would gauge how much sleep I could expect to get that week.

Even now, many years later and thousands of miles away, I search the cable guide for mutual friends, each one a link to those lost late nights. I found Monroe and Curtis the other day and I promised to send her their regards next time we meet.

– Eliza Dashwood (originally posted in 2010)

Writing Prompt: Guy Fawkes or Historical Fiction

I’m a big fan of historical fiction. I’ve probably read 90% of everything Philippa Gregory ever wrote. It’s fun, you learn a bit, you take it all with a pinch of salt, then you go to proper history books to get more facts if you’re keen to know more. Ever tried writing any?

It starts with an event or historical person. You find out, to the best of your ability, what happened and let you imagination fill in the blanks. What was said, how they did things, who they knew and events that lead up to those moments in history we knows so well can be transformed into a story of your making.

So, here is the challenge. Find a single event in history and pick a key figure. Write out the day of whichever event you choose and fill in the blanks.

As it is Guy Fawkes night, I’m going to start there. Once I’ve done a bit of research, I intend to write out the day of 5 November 1605 as lived by Guy Fawkes. What he was thinking, who he spoke to and the events leading up to his capture.

Wish me luck.

PS. I also intend to go into the garden and blow some stuff up as is tradition…

 

 

Writing Prompt: Free Falling

Your first instinct upon reaching the ledge of the plane door is “this isn’t so bad”. However, once you’re given a gentle shove and you’re in full free fall, your body reacts a little differently. Apart from the fact that you can’t breathe very well, physically, you’re ok, a bit cold owing to the rush of air coming at you, (along with the ground) but in all, you’re still ok. Your tummy lurches up and you can feel your internal organs jumbling about inside you as if they’re trying make their way out. This too, is not entirely unpleasant. What does make you question your own sanity is the knowledge that you’ve just jumped out of a perfectly good air plane.

You look around and if you’re sensible, you have an experienced instructor strapped to you. You wonder if things go wrong, will they save you or are you both flat? There is also that horrible moment when you think you might be a bad person for wondering if at the critical moment, whether or not they can break your fall if you land on them should the shoot fail.

All this passes through your head in a matter of seconds. You then start to think of things to distract yourself. Did I feed the cat?  Have I left you insurance documents where my friends and family will find them? You’re in the cloud now and can’t see much, until you look over and you see the camera man falling close beside you. It has been about 15 seconds by now. Vanity and pride take over and you’re waving, making cheezy thumbs up signs with your hands and thinking of what radically cool thing you can do on camera without injuring yourself to impress your Facebook friends and your Mom on the final video. This is over by around 30 seconds, the instructor has opened the shoot and with a sudden jerk, you’re yanked backwards and suddenly, you’re gliding.

The cameraman, still falling, disappears below you in seconds, becoming a little blip you hope you’ll see back on the ground safe and sound. You paid £189 for the footage.

It’s quiet. The instructor asks if you’d like to do turns in the air. “Sure.” you say, not wishing to seem like a wimp and omitting the fact that you’ve done this slightly hungover. The landscape rises and falls and you twist and turn in the breeze, all of creation before you. Ten turns later, you’re dizzy. “Ok, we’re done now.” Two minutes to go.

The instructor obeys and you settle into a smooth gliding fall towards the earth. You can see the airfield and he points out the other parachuters landing, slow and easy onto the field below, the sky filled with blue, red, orange, green, purple canopies. This is great, you think. Can we do that again? It hits you. You mean it. Can I jump out of a perfectly good plane again!?

You might be crazy after all, but it beats X-factor on the TV.

Writing Prompt: Describe an experience where you’ve started with one feeling and ended with another. Have fun.

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