Writing Prompt: Family Member

I was on the train last night talking to some friends and we got on the subject of what we were going to do for Christmas. We told each other where we would be and which family members we would be hanging around with over the holidays and I began to describe my nieces and nephews. I have five in total. Although I have no kids myself, I can appreciate how much fun they can be and how totally different they all are in terms of personality, appearance and temperament.

For today, pick a member of your family. You don’t have to name names, but go into as much detail as you can. Make sure you include appearance, habits (both good and bad), voice, dress sense, hair style, likes, dislikes, etc. Go as granular as you can for as many words as it takes. If you still have the energy afterwards, try to write a day in the life for them. Make up any details you need to, such as, when they get up, dressing habits, where they go for lunch, what they order, who they speak to, etc.

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…

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: Whoof, Meow

There have been films and stories where the protagonists are animals. Think, “Animal Farm”, “Watership Down”, “Babe”, “Charlotte’s Web”. For this prompt, try writing a story from the point of view of an animal or animals. Create a world for them to inhabit and throw in some conflict based on the setting and circumstances. Are there humans in your story? If so, how do the main characters (animals) view or relate to them? How do they view the human race?

Have fun.

 

Writing Prompt: A Thousand Words

They say a picture tells a thousand words. What about several pictures all mashed up together?

For today, write a short narrative incorporating elements of all of the images below. What’s nice about this exercise is that each image is opened to interpretation and its significance to the overall writing is entirely up to you. Have fun.

 

tree_rainbow_435w the girl on the steps letter o-GIRL-CRYING-facebookkey champersglass Beautiful_Animal_Wallpaper_rp5pe

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: 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: 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: 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.

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