Writing Prompt: Magical Creatures

Although it is not the genre I usually gravitate towards, I’ve always been a fan of fantasy. Whether it’s the horror of Dracula or the adventures of Frodo Baggins, I have a place in my heart for things and characters created from our imaginations that break all the rules of what we accept as reality.

I like the ideas of witches and werewolves, of unicorns and fawns. I wonder what it is about these things that fascinate us as rational human beings.

Have a bit of fun with this one.

Here is the scene: There is a clearing in the woods on the night of an October full moon. There is a campfire raging into the night sky and drawn by the light, four creatures approach from different directions and meet at the fire.  There is caution and tension when they all clap eyes on each other. They are: a vampire, a unicorn, a troll and a witch.

What where they each doing there and what happens for one night when they all meet?

Have fun.

Writing Prompt: Magical Creatures

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

Quote for the day

One of the things that draws writers to writing is that they can get things right that they got wrong in real life by writing about them. 

– Tobias Wolff

Writing Prompt: Alphabet Soup

As a writer, I’m also a reader. I read everything and anything that catches my attention. Novels, newspaper, how-to books, magazines, cereal boxes, blogs, forum posts, song lyrics…anything. One of the most important things in writing is expanding your vocabulary, so I study the words and expressions of others searching for inspiration.

Funny, the book that I keep going back to is the dictionary.

Whenever I’m stuck, I flick through the thin pages of the enormous book and look for words I’ve never heard before.

Try this, find a dictionary, flick through each letter and make a list of 26 words you’re never heard of and write a narrative around them.

Have fun playing with the words.

Writing Prompt: Alphabet Soup

Writing Prompt: Creating the perfect fit

My tastes in books tends to be a bit eclectic. I have Japanese thrillers, historical fiction, contemporary British, history, philosophy, fantasy, horror and science fiction (to name a few).  There is no predicting what will capture my attention on a given day when I wander into Waterstone’s on Princes Street. When I go in, I tell myself that I won’t buy anything. I’ll just browse. I’ve written before about how libraries and bookshops calm me. You can measure my mood by the weight of my shopping bag.

As I looked at my overflowing bookcase at home, deciding what to read, I couldn’t decide. So, I selected five book at random and began to flick through them. I came across a passage in one of them and stopped.

“There’s only one way to overcome the fear: you’ve got to stab someone else with an ice pick.” (from: Piercing, Ryu Muurakami)

Interesting, I thought. Curious of what the others contained, I flicked through them and stopped at random pages. I closed my eyes for a moment, and letting my fingers guide me through the pages, I stopped somewhere in the middle of each. I opened my eyes letting them rest on any sentence they chose first, then marked the line. When I had done this with every book, I copied each line and this is what I got:

“I understand, though,” Mr. Lettreblair continued, “that she attached no importance to the money. Therefore, as the family say, why not let well enough alone?” (from: The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton)

“Before they has reached the top the painter threw the door wide open and with a deep bow invited K to enter.” (from The Trial, Franz Kafka)

“Oh Grady, I’m so glad you’re there. So many bad things are happening at once.” (from: Wonder Boys, Michael Chabon)

“He looks at his watch. It is twenty to one, which is not bad, and he won’t even mentions she’s late.  This is what he’d call within bounds.” (from: The Kiss, Joan Lingard)

These are all buried deep within the pages of very different books by authors that span from 1920 to 2002. The authors were Japanese, Scottish, American and Czech.

So, faced with the range of where the lines and books come from, it’s not impossible to picture a scenario where these lines might well fit together.

Try this: Pick five books, pick five lines at random and see if you can create a scene or a storyline where they might all fit.

Writing Prompt: Creating the perfect fit

Writing Prompt: Sweet, Sour or Savoury?

Quite often, in writing, description focuses on appearances, sounds, sensations or smells. What about taste? I’ve never really thought about it, but I think that deep down I’m a savoury kind of girl. I love spices, strong chilies, rich butter and I’m a total steak monster and shepherds pie is just the thing to make me happy when I’m tired and need comfort food.

Sure, I love my sweets too. Sticky toffee pudding with dates and ice cream, sugary lemon sorbet with a sweet wafer in the middle or in a sugar cone, strawberries dipped in milk chocolate, and oreos with milk send me off to sleep with a smile.

I love lemons, limes, oranges, tart pomegranates, and grapefruits.

With all the flavours the world has to offer, what’s your favourite? Describe the things you love to taste and work them into a narrative.

Writing Prompt: Sweet, Sour or Savoury?

Writing Prompt: To Sleep, perchance to dream

How many times have you heard someone say, “I’ll sleep on it”?

I’ve never been a good sleeper. I toss and turn and sometimes resort to a glass of red wine to help knock me out.  When night falls and the rest of the world is quiet, I think. It’s as though someone has opened the drawer to the filing cabinet that is my head and pulled out all the files, tossing them in the air for me to sort.

When I’m feeling particularly sleep deprived, I become shaky and irritable, as though I was going through some chemical withdrawal, like a speed addict crashing. However, there are some times when my body says, “shut up, lie down and rest”. When that happens, after hour upon hour of wakefulness, when I can finally drift off, I dream.

When I wake (usually after 10 or more hours when I’ve reached that point) I feel calm and have the clarity I need to start again. It’s as though I have a clean slate from which to work. When I dream, I dream in colour, I dream solutions, I dream of people I know and places where I want to be.

Sleep is a great tonic. So…make a sleep date for yourself. Get comfortable, tuck yourself in, have some hot chocolate, close the drapes and sleep to your heart’s content. When you wake up, write down the first things that come to mind. They might be dreams, first thoughts, a measure of your mood, anything! It’s when your mind is most open to ideas, so enjoy.

Writing Prompt: To sleep, perchance to dream

I’ll leave you with one last thought:

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:

-O’Shaughnessy

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