Writing Prompt: Your Story

Everyone has a story. Several, in fact. We, some of us, think that our stories are not unique or interesting enough to write about, but you’d be surprised at how much each of us has to say. Start listing key events in your life, large and small. From there, start filling in the detail. Try to remember the colours, what people said, scenery, weather, sensations, etc. Here are some of mine:

  1. The first time I had a substitute teacher.
  2. The day my parents got me my first car
  3. The moment I got a call telling me a friend was dead
  4. My last fight with my first boyfriend
  5. The last time I saw my grandfather alive
  6. Walking to the Mt Everest Base camp
  7. Skydiving attempts
  8. Witnessing the hit and run of a dog crossing the road
  9. Deciding my career path over a bottle of gin and a drunk-dialling call with my wise brother
  10. Understanding the concept of racism in the 4th grade.
  11. Meeting my first crush at the age of 14, he was 21….
  12. My first experience at being burgled
  13. Being sexually assaulted by a stranger on the street
  14. Flying a plane for the first time (over Icelandic glaciers)
  15. Glissading over Mt. St Helens
  16. Being robbed at gunpoint
  17. Finding out my half-German husband, living in England has family in my home town in California. Serendipity….
  18. Publishing my first creative essay
  19. My first fight
  20. My first dance.

Any one of these would keep me busy for a couple thousand words. I’m sure you’ve got a story to tell too. Make you list, and get cracking.

Have fun!

 

 

 

Writing Prompt:David Bowie and other miracles

The whole world is united in mourning for the death of a great and talented individual. David Bowie made it ok to be unusual. His art inspired people for decades and we’re all feeling the loss. I’ve been listening to his music and remembering where I was in different stages in my life when I heard his various songs of saw him in films. I thought of Labyrinth, The Hunger and The Prestige. All fun and all mainly because of him.

This prompt is not designed to specifically honour only David Bowie, but it is there for you to think about the various artists, actors and musicians that have inspired you throughout your life. For this prompt, think about someone who had provided inspiration and think about why. Did they make you change the way you think or write? Write everything you can remember about this person and write about what they have meant to you. Try to make it as personal as possible. Draw from specific memories about how they have made a difference.

I’m going to go write some more and listen to “Life on Mars”, which was not only a great song, but a cracking TV series as well.

RIP David.

The Playing Field – A Short Story

The field stretched out four acres behind the schoolhouse. Two long rows of evergreens spanned from one end of the field to the other, creating a sense of protective separation from the school grounds and the outside world. It had been snowing incessantly for three days so that the grounds were white. The tree branches, heavy with snow, hung close to the ground and occasionally dropped heavy clumps of it forming high mounds that almost reached the branches that created them. 

As the children returned to school, they walked quietly. Some of them in groups of three or four, others in pairs and one alone with his head down and hands buried deep in his pockets. A group of three girls stood around whispering to each other in front on the boutique across the square. As they shared their chewing gum and gossip about the other girls in the class, they watched the other children walk past through the main gate and into the playground.  

Justin walked alone up the tree-lined street beyond Janet’s Café and up the path to the school. He heard the girls huddled by the boutique giggle as he passed them. He dropped his head lower so that his eyes were almost hidden behind the rim of his woolly hat and shoved his hands deeper into his pockets. He willed his feet to moved faster while trying to make as little noise as possible. When he reached the door to the classroom, he paused, listening for a moment to the voices beyond, then pushed open the door and slipped inside.   

Most of the class had been assembled. At the front right corner of the room, Mrs. Lawson sat facing the class with her hands folded on her desk. The tidy desk spread out before her held neat piles of paper in four stacks, waiting to be distributed. Her dark, emotionless face glanced frequently towards the clock, waiting for the three minutes remaining for class to start to pass. As Justin took his seat and the last students stumbled into the room behind him, she began to speak. 

“Good Morning, Class.” She said.  

The class responded in unison, “Good Morning, Mrs. Lawson.” Their even voices filled the room.  

She glanced around at them without smiling. Most of them hand their hands on their desks and some on their laps, but all of their eyes were forward. She liked what she saw; polite, obedient children with polished shoes and combed hair. Most of their mothers made sure that their uniforms were carefully pressed and their white shirts well starched. One or two had less breeding and looked a little ragged, but that couldn’t be helped, she supposed.  

“Today we are going to start with a spelling test.” She said, and then sharply looked around, hoping to catch one or two children showing their disapproval. All eyes stayed forward and fixed on her except two. Justin’s eyes dropped and concentrated on his lap. He could feel her looking at him. She continued to speak. 

“There will be twenty-five words. When I call them out, please write down the correct spelling. Please print your answer so that there is no mistake about handwriting. This test will be graded.” She said, and then walked around the room while the children prepared their papers. They each took a fresh piece of paper from their notepads and numbered them from one to twenty-five. When she was satisfied that they were ready, she wandered up and down the rows of desks and called out the words to be spelled.  

Justin leaned over his paper, carefully writing down his answers. Beside him, he could feel Billy O’Kelly staring at him. The large boy leaned towards him and whispered.  “J. P., how do you spell successful? Is it one “s” or two?”

Justin ignored him. Billy tried again, “Psst…J.P…J.P….” Justin gave him a sideways glance then turned his head back quickly. He had no desire to be caught cheating.

Billy raised his head and glared at Justin in comprehension. Justin heard him whisper one last time. “You’re dead at recess.” He hissed. 

When the test was over, Mrs. Lawson went to the front of the room and addressed the class.  

“Please pass your papers forward. Do not speak until the papers have been collected. Once I have them all, please open your reading books to chapter five and read quietly while I grade your papers. You will be required to write a summary of what you have read after recess.”

She took the papers from each of the children sitting in the front rows then sat at her desk to grade them. 

Justin sat rigid in his seat. His left had cradled the book on his desk so that Billy could not see his face behind the cover. Recess was in an hour. 

When the spelling test had been graded, Mrs. Lawson handed them back to the student. Some quiet moans spread throughout the room as the students saw their grades. Billy received a 44%.  

Justin looked at the mistakes on his paper and noticed an error in the grading. He raised his hand and his eyes to the teacher. Her eyes darted towards him and she sighed heavily.  

“Yes, Mr. Pierce? What is it?” She said. The class turned and looked at him.

“Mrs. Lawson, I…Well…” 

“Yes, what is it boy?” She said impatiently. 

“There seems to be a mistake on my paper. I spelled recommendation right. It’s one “c” and two “m’s”.  

She couldn’t believe it. This shabby, little boy was telling her how to spell. “Pierce, I graded these papers and all papers very carefully. I’m sure you’ll find that you are mistaken. It’s double “c” and double “m”.” She said then turned away and began to write the next assignment on the blackboard. Billy looked at Justin and smirked at him. 

Justin looked at his paper. He was certain he was correct. He had studied. He always studied.  

“Mrs. Lawson, “ He said quietly. “I’m sure I’m right. Could we double check in the dictionary?” His voice was shaking. 

She turned around with the chalk in her hand and glared at him. She looked at his trousers, faded at the knees and the scuffed black shoes on his awkward feet. His black hair was always in need of a haircut. She resented the fact that the school had allowed such scruffy child from “that neighbourhood” to attend their school. 

“Very well. Please yourself.” She said then turned back to the blackboard. 

A moment later, Justin walked up to her and showed her the entry in the dictionary. She looked at it, but the stern expression on her face never changed.  

“I see.” She said. “I’ll make the change in the grade-book. Now go back to your seat.”  

Justin obeyed and went back to his reading assignment until the recess bell rang. The children slipped out of their chairs and went out the back door of the classroom and into the playground.  

Justin walked toward the open field where he could sit on a stone bench and watch the others play their games. He had been daydreaming, not really paying attention when he felt his arms being pinned behind him and someone’s arm around his neck as he was dragged from the bench. It took only a moment to realise that Billy had made good on his threat. Adam Fisher, a gangly, profusely-freckled boy held Justin’s arms while Billy choked the air out of his lungs.  As Justin tried to free himself, Adam laughed till tears rolled down his cheeks.  

Justin looked around the playground while he struggled. The other children were at the far end of the field enjoying a game of tag. Across the field he could see the classroom door and the window beside it. For a moment, a woman’s face appeared and he felt a surge of relief at seeing her, but it faded as she raised her arm across the window, her eyes fixed on him until they disappeared behind the curtain. 

Finally, as his began to faint, Billy let him drop. As Justin slid onto the snow, his chin hit the edge of the stone bench. Blood poured from the wound as Billy and Adam walked away arm and arm. Justin put his hand to his chin and was sure that he would be left with a scar. 

© Eliza Dashwood 2004

Writing Prompt: Broken

Things break all the time. Some intentionally, like eggs or piggy banks. Others are accidents, like dropping something on your iPhone or shattering a glass while washing up. Sometime things get broken without anyone even realising, like promises, hearts or relationships.

Draft a story around the concept of something broken. What happened, who was involved and what are the consequences? Dig deep and try to delve past the obvious.

Writing Prompt: How to…

You’d be surprised how hard it is to describe how to do something in a clear and logical manner and still keep it interesting. Some of the best books I’ve read have combined “How to” with narrative that teaches you something and also tells a story. For instance, “Like Water For Chocolate” by Laura Esquivl, a much loved novel combines a family history, love story and monthly recipes. I’ve read the book a dozen times and now know how to make cream fritters…

When you add an underlying theme to stories, you can create a different world for your readers and make the story more entertaining. Try writing a story that revolved around teaching something. Like, “To ride a bike…” “The Secret to Swimming”, “10 ways to survive the winter”

You get the idea…

Have fun.

Writing Prompt: Six Degrees

Edinburgh is a village. No matter where I go, I run into either someone I know, or someone who knows someone I know. Although I sometimes like the familiarity of it all, sometime I miss the anonymity of a larger city, like London. When I lived there, I could go months or even years without seeing someone I knew by chance. Now, I can scarcely go a week.

I guess the point is, that I sometimes struggle to keep the people who occupy different circles in my life separate. The few times I have brought people together it has been fun, but the worry that people won’t have anything in common troubles me sometimes. I also worry about how to behave when people mix and mingle. I think most of us act differently with our friend than with our colleague, with family and with acquaintances.

Just for fun – try writing a scene where someone suddenly finds themselves with the following: a colleague, and ex, a friend, a family member and a stranger. What kind of trouble can you get your character into. To make it more interesting, Try writing the scene in pure dialogue  – play format.

Writing Prompt: Six Degrees

Writing Prompt: Right before your eyes…

As I walked through the city of Edinburgh, I realised that I had not taken in the beauty of the city for some time. There were the gardens of Inverleith Park, complete with a little sundial garden, benches peppered around the place. From the top of the hill, you can see a small swan pond with the city opening out before your eyes, the castle, the grand centre-piece of the horizon.

In the old town, I poked my head around ancient buildings, cobbled streets and the nooks and crannies that give the city its wonderful atmosphere. 

Down by the Dynamic Earth and the Parliament buildings, I strolled and watched couples looking out at the crowds of the Fridge Festival. The heaving streets of the Cowgate and the Grassmarket, bursting with life and a hundred accents reminded me that although small is size, Edinburgh is enormous in stature.

Every city has its own magic, we just take the things we see every day for granted.

Look around your town, take in the views, appreciate the scenery and write what you see.

Writing Prompt: Right before your eyes…

Writing Prompt: The Wrong Door

Have you ever walked into the wrong room by mistake or got off on the wrong floor in a hotel or office building? Have you ever got on the wrong train?

A few years ago, I ran to catch a connecting flight from New York to San Francisco. I barely made it. As I settled into my seat on the nearly-empty flight, the air hostess came and handed me a little wet towel for my face and a drink.

I was relieved that for once, my flight would arrive on time and my family would not be kept waiting at SFO.

As we began to pull away from the terminal, the captain greeted us. “Good evening and welcome to this non-stop service to San Francisco”.

A man seated at the front of the plane leapt  from his seat and shouted, “San Francisco! I’m going to Chicago!”

Fortunately for him, they pulled back into the terminal and let him off, but unfortunately for me, I landed in SFO a bit late.

I was wondering, what would he have done if he had not notice on time? What could he have done if he went all the way to San Francisco? What was waiting for him in Chicago? What sort of adventure could he have had?

Try this: Write a short narrative about someone who ends up somewhere they didn’t expect. What happened? How did they get there and what is the impact?

Have fun – happy travelling.

Writing Prompt: The Wrong Door

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