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 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…

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: On the Road (Edinburgh to London)

I’m no Jack Kerouac. My journeys are not necessarily about self discovery, but I do find myself travelling quite a lot these days. I’m on a train heading into work for my weekly commute from Scotland to London. (I know…right!?)

However this is going to be a particularly tough week. I’ll be visiting Vienna, Oslo, Malta and Stockholm as well as going home to Edinburgh in between. This might sound glamourous, but in truth, after a while, all you want to do is stay home under the covers and sleep. These journeys for work can be entertaining if you’re with colleagues and clients you like, which fortunately, I will be, but you never quite clock off. It also makes writing a bit tough when you’re time-poor and tired. So, what’s my point? It’s that you must write even when you don’t feel like it. Inspiration is fickle and if you wait for when you’re in the mood, you’ll never do it.

So, here I am, at 8am heading into the office and I’m writing to you even though I should be wrapped up with my coat over my eyes snoozing for the week ahead. I’m listening to Radeohead too – that helps…

This week, I’ll be writing about my travels, who I see, what happens, any adventures…

Try this, during the week, as you go from place to place, whether it’s from home to work, taking the kids to school, hopping on a bus and going to some random place or hitting the shops, keep you eyes open and writing about the journey. Try to make it a travel diary of the day-to-day. You’ll be surprised how much interesting material is buries in what we treat as mundane, day-to-day routine. You just have to look out for it.

Safe travels! Catch you later…

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: 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

Writing Prompt: The Empty Office

You’re sat at your desk in an open plan office. Your colleagues are gone. The cleaners have mopped the floors and loaded the dishwasher. It’s raining outside. You’re surfing the net trying to motivate yourself to get finished with your work so you can go home, but you can’t face the walk in the weather. You think about ordering in a pizza and sleeping on the couch in one of the meeting rooms, but it’s a bit creepy up there, besides, you don’t have your toothbrush and the shops are shut. With a sigh, you get back to it and remember you need to get something off the printer, but at this hour, only the motion sensor lighting is on in the hallway and it’s pitch black if you don’t move fast enough. Did you remember your keys? How many paces is it from your desk to the light and the front door? You give yourself a mini lecture and tell yourself that the sooner you finish, the sooner you can get home to your own bed, some tea and the cat.  Then it happens, you hear something out in the dark corridor, you know, the one with the motion sensor lighting? The one with the light you can now see from the crack under the door….

Fill in the rest…

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