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.

Writing Prompt:The Hardest Word

Apparently, the word most people find hardest to say to someone is “NO”. I’m not sure I agree with this, but it’s an interesting idea. Personally, there are about a dozen words I find harder. I find telling someone they’re wrong harder than refusing them something.

If you had to pick one word that you find hard to say to someone, what would it be? Not the whole sentence, just the action word within it.

Try this:

  1. Pick your word
  2. Construct a narrative around what that word means or represents

or

  1. Pick your word
  2. Write a scene between two characters where this word comes up and add a bit of conflict.

Good luck.

Writing Prompt: In what order?

It’s interesting to see how people make decisions. I just had a conversation with someone and they asked me the following question…

“Imagine a scenario where you are in the house alone. The following things occur at the same time:

  1. Someone starts pounding at the door.
  2. The phone rings
  3. You realise the tap is running with the plug in
  4. It starts to rain and there’s a week’s worth of washing outside
  5. A baby starts crying upstairs

What is the third thing to sort out?”

Apparently, based on your answer, someone can make a judgement on your decision making process and priorities.

For this writing prompt, I’d like you to write a scene where these things happen to your character. What do they attend to and in what order? What happens as a result of their actions? There are multiple variations and threads possible with this one. Let’s see where it takes you.

Maybe you’ll learn something about yourself based on what you have your character do.

Have fun!

 

 

Writing Promopt: “All change here, all change…”

That is what the train conductor says when the train terminates and it’s time to get off.

There are times when I hear those words and I think they’re a metaphor for something else. For instance, is the universe trying to tell me that it’s time to change, to jump off this train and catch another?

This is not a small question and one that I’m sure will not be answered here, but it did get me thinking.  For a writing prompt, try something like this:

  1. Write a narrative about someone actually being asked to get off a train a few stops before his or her destination. The cause can be one of the following:
    1. Mechanical failure
    2. Someone is ill on the train
    3. A security alert
    4. someone brandishing a weapon
  2. Whichever cause you choose, have the main character make a life-altering decision.

Option 2

If you’re feeling brave, list several things in your life that you would like to change. Next, pick one and write out a list of possible options to make that change happen. Finally, write out everything that could happen to prevent it from happening.  Finally, write a statement of intent for making that change.

Have fun, safe journey…

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: When I grow up…

It’s funny that there are few of us who actually turn out to be what we wanted to be when we were kids. When you were little, did anyone ever ask you what you wanted to be when you grew up? I’ll bet someone did, teachers, siblings, parents, relatives. you look up at their expectant faces, struggling for a replay that they will approve of, like doctor, lawyer, astronaut, stock broker, os some other “worthwhile” ambition. If you say princess, clown, actor or ballerina, you were probably greeted with at best,  “that’s nice.” or at worst, a condescending smile accompanied with a slight shake of the head that seems to say, “they’ll grow out of it.”

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. I even went to university to get a degree in creative writing, only to graduate with the harsh realisation that there are few career advisors that support you in writing beyond the advice that teaching, waiting tables or secretarial work are all anyone will be willing to pay you for with such a discipline under your belt. Of course, it was easy for me to sell out and get a real job, abandoning my writing ambitions in favour of getting a steady pay cheque while I worked out if there was a “respectable” trade out there for me. Now, before you get on me and remind me that writers are valuable, take it easy. I’ll be the first to recognise that good writers are in demand. It’s just that no one tells you that when you’re 22 years old, in student loan debt to your eyeballs and trying to convince your parents that writing is something worthwhile. In fact, if you look around, we’re all desperate for fresh new “content”, whether it’s for blogs, news articles, adverts, entertainment, commentary, reviews, etc…Everywhere we look, people are desperate for people who can string two coherent sentences together, the question is, how does one distinguish between good and poor quality? Have we become less discerning as technology enables us to access more and more information anytime and anywhere, have we become so spoilt that we are willing to sacrifice quality for immediate information?

Anyway, I digress. This was meant to be about the disconnect between what we wanted to do growing up and what we actually do. Can many of us say that we are where we thought we’d be when we were kids? I certainly am not, but I’m happy to say, that I am writing. Even my prompts are a way of reminding me of what it is I have loved all my life, the ability to communicate through the written word. So, all is not lost.

So, try this, think back to what you wanted to be when you were a kid, Are you doing it? If not, what key events or circumstances made you take a different path? If you’re not doing what you love, is there something you can do so to change that? If you’d rather, write a story about a kid that decides what it is they want to be when they grow up. Maybe a trip to the circus makes them what to be an acrobat or an animal trainer.

(by the way, some people still look at me like I’m a dreamer/space alien when I say I’m a writer, I’m a lot of other things when it comes to profession, but trust me, I’m a writer)

Writing Prompt: The Photograph

I was going through some old files and found a photograph of someone I once loved. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment at which love stopped, it might have been a gradual drifting apart, or perhaps I simply woke up one morning and realised that there was no longer anything there. There was just a point in time when I became aware of a quiet between us. I stopped talking, so did they.

To look at the photograph again filled me with a sense of bewilderment. How do people drift apart? So many people drift in and out of our lives and as people drift out, why do we let them, if at some point in time we were so attached?

It also got me thinking of my childhood pals, my High School buddies, old colleagues I was close to, guys I once dated and broke my heart.  I can barely remember how any of them left or how I might have.

Try this, think about old friends or people in your life you were close to and are no longer there. Was there a great drama at the separation or just a quiet disappearance? Try to write about how you met three people in your life that made an impression and how they stepped out if it.

Writing Prompt: The End of the Road

I started writing this as an observation prompt. I was thinking about how we walk certain paths every day of our lives, from home to work, to school, to the shops, but it’s unusual for us to stop and pay close attention to the little details of the routes we take.

Suddenly, I started thinking about paths of life. With all its twists and turns, I can never see what’s around the corner. I’ve always been a bit of a control freak and I’ve tried to order my life in a way that is going to make it better or at the very least, not make it any worse.

I’ve thought about some of the decisions I’ve made and how unhappy they’ve made me, but at the same time, it’s hard to regret. Someone once said that regret is to “hang yourself with your own noose. Mental suicide”. I think I agree with this, but at the same time, it’s good to learn from mistakes and try to move forward. Ok – off on a tangent.

Back to the road.

When I think of what lays before me in the new year, I’m  filled with both hope and apprehension. Much is uncertain and there is little that I can rely on. So, it’s hard to think about new years resolutions or to make plans. Rather than freak out or panic about this rather shaky state of affairs, I looking at this time as an opportunity to really decide what chapter is going to be next and to work out who’s coming with me.

Not your usual writing prompt, but have a go at this. If you had a clean slate, nothing to lose and no one to answer to, how would you write this new year for yourself? Don’t limit it to merely joining a gym, swearing off alcohol, learning a new skill or any of the usual lists that people create for themselves. Be creative and really ask yourself what it is you want.

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