Writing Prompt: Theft

Have you ever stolen something? When you were a kid, did you nick something at school or from a pound shop? I once took $20 from my mom’s purse. I felt bad, but it was just the once. The thing is, I sent some gift cards to a friend and just found out that the greeting card, along with the gift cards were stolen somewhere between the letter box and their door. The envelope arrived empty. It’s vile that someone would do that. I know there are instances when things go missing in the post, but to know that something was deliberately stolen from a carefully sealed envelope, to know that someone ripped it open, helped themselves and added the final insult of dropping the empty wrapping through the post is too much to bear. Better to take the whole lot and bin the unwanted envelope than for me to know that they were so flagrant. I’m angry, both at the loss of the gift and the brazen behaviour.

Stealing is wrong, whether it’s a few quid from your brother’s piggy bank when he’s not looking or lifting someone’s wallet on the Tube, but for some reason, this seemed worse.

Anyway, rant over. Write a narrative either from the point of view of someone contemplating a theft, or a victim. Relay how each person in the situation feels and reacts. What is the thief’s motive and how does the victim react?

Writing Prompt: There’s a Time and a Place

Location and time are important when creating believable stories. You need to be able to convince the reader that this is a real world. Part of this exercise is crafting a scene where there is a lot of attention given to location and time. I’ll be giving you some examples to get you started, but feel free to use your own. Use as much description as possible. If you’re not familiar with the location or time you want to write about, research is the key. Try writing at least 1000 words for this one.

1. A cafe in 1988, in Leith, Scotland

2. A shopping mall in California  – today

3. A living room in someone’s home 1966, England. The house was built in 1620’s

4. In a car. Germany – motorway. 2000.

5. On a farm in Ireland, 1900.

6. On a boat in the Atlantic. (On deck, the bridge or a stateroom) yesterday. (think Google News)

Have fun. If possible, once you’ve finished, drop a comment with a link for us to see…

Writing Prompt: Cuddly Toy

I have collected a load of cuddly toys over the years. There’s a ferret that friends gave me that still rests on my pillow. In my office, there is bunny rabbit that a colleague bought for me when we were out one day. I still don’t really know why she gave it to me. We were shopping after a meeting in London and when I spotted it in one of the shops, she tossed it on the pile of clothes she was purchasing then gave it to me. I never thought she liked me very much, so this gesture surprised me.

When I think back to all of the stuffed bunnies and teddy bears I’ve had in my life, there is one in particular that springs to mind. One of my brother’s first teddy bears was a small, simple little bear with black eyes and dark brown paws named Jerry. He had a hidden wind up music box in him that plays “Jack and Jill”. When my brother out-grew Jerry, I inherited him

Last time I was home there he was, still sitting on my bed where I left him. I went to sleep that evening and when I woke the next morning, I realised I was cuddling him like I did when I was a little girl. His music box still works after all these years.

Think back about one of your first toys. Describe it and try to recall how you got it.

Writing Prompt: We need to talk

This is one of the most frightening opening lines anyone can utter. Most people only say this when they have bad news (usually code for “you’re about to be dumped”), but it would be interesting if we had a scene where all of the line we usually associate with negative connotations were in fact used is a positive way.

1. We Need to Talk

2. It’s Not You, It’s Me

3. There’s something you should know

4. Don’t Panic, but…

5. I have some news

6. You’ve had a call from the hospital

7. It’s about your car…

So, have some fun. Start a dialogue using one of these as your opening line, but try to make it something unexpected.

Writing Prompt: Ten Minute Time Out

Imagine you had ten minutes to say or do ANYTHING without anyone ever knowing. How would you use that time. Write a story where you character can freeze time for ten minutes. What do they do, why do they do it and what are the consequences. Remember, no one will ever know of their actions.

Writing Prompt: The Diary

This one is pretty straight forward. Take one of these scenarios and write about it.

1. What would you do if you discovered someone read your diary?

2. Write a scene from the point of view of someone who has read someone else’s diary and discovered something about them they didn’t know. How do they react? Do they betray themselves?

3. Write the scene from the point of view of someone who has discovered that someone in the house has read their diary. Make it happen during a gathering of friends. How does the victim of this particular invasion of privacy react and how do they work out who did it? Don’t shy away from conflict. conflict is the stuff drama is made of…

Writing Prompt: Clear Out

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to have to start clearing out my house and packing things off to charity shops. Cherished books and possessions will be tucked away in boxes and old photos and letters will swim to the surface of a sea of forgotten documents.

Everyone has clutter in their house in one forma or another. It might be clothes in the closet you haven’t worn in ages or some books sitting neglected in the corner. Find some of your things and start going through them. I guarantee you’ll find something you forgot you had. When you do, write about what it means to you, whether it’s a book you read, a article of clothing that stirs a memory or anything else you stumble upon.

Enjoy the stroll through memory lane.

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: Flat Battery

This one is about speed and urgency.

Try this. Imagine it is your last remaining minutes on earth, your laptop battery is about to die and you have 10 minutes with which to say your final words. What would you want people to find? What do you want to leave behind? We talk and talk and talk all day to dozens of people but rarely to we really say anything. Here’s your chance. What would your last minutes of battery life say about you when it’s all over?

Cheers, E

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