Lida Sideris, author of the hysterical mystery, Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters, will be here on Sunday, Feb. 26, to talk about her book, her writing and her life. And answer your questions, too. Be sure to stop by on Sunday!
Sometimes something specific will set our minds whirling. But sometimes it’s the very vagueness of a phrase that starts our inner story machine chugging along. How’s this prompt for non-specificity?
They painted it…
We’re back this week delving into our own lives for story fodder. Strong emotions can bring out the best in our writing, and made the best raw material for them. Let your pen keep moving as you explore what this subject meant to you in your own life:
Write about being in love.
Here’s a prompt from the past… something we’ve probably all heard a thousand times while growing up. Frustrating as it was back then, now it can be the start of a great writing session. Set that timer for 10 minutes and begin writing with:
How many times do I have to tell you…
Sometimes all it takes is a few words to set our minds spinning. Sometimes the simplest things end up being the best prompts. Start with these three little words and see what happens…
It was red.
Here’s an interesting opening line to her your imagination revved up. What could possibly be happening in this situation? Is it literal, thematic or simply symbolic? Just in how many ways can a person be blind?
If she hadn’t been blind before, she would be after…
Imagination can be sparked by the strange, the unusual, the unexpected. Today, imagine how you would react if your child said to you (your starting line):
Mom, isn’t the sky supposed to be blue?
Another Hump Day prompt, one filled with angst and nostalgia. I was thinking about my brother, who died in 1979, just wondering what would have been… Now it’s your turn to see what story, plot, ideas, theme this one engenders. Let your imagination go to work on this opening line:
Sometime I wonder who I’d be now if he hadn’t died.
As writers, we are lucky. We get to play with the worlds we create to make sure they conform to whatever “rules” we choose to apply. Leaving on a plane at 3:00 pm doesn’t work? Fine, just change it to a bus at midnight. Something new pops up in chapter thirty-one? No problem; go back and sprinkle hints of it in earlier chapters and the problem is solved.
Quite often we start a story, knowing exactly where we need it to go, then it takes us by the hand and shows us where it’s going to go, whether we like it or not. As we write, our characters become real and our worlds gain a measure of existence outside the confines of our minds. But it’s a malleable reality, one we have the option of changing at will. And what fun it is to do so.
But life isn’t like that. When something happens, it happens. There are no do-overs. Beginnings in life don’t always have well-set scenes, character development, plot elements, tension or the “hook” that makes you want to keep on going. On the contrary, all too often life’s beginnings are messy, confusing and just plain boring, though some are bright, straightforward and exciting.
But life’s endings are hard, fraught with sorrow and fear. They don’t feel like a well-structured wrap-up. They feel like loss and emptiness. And we can’t go back and erase things, or adjust events. Life is not malleable the way fiction is. It simply is life. It happens, we live through it, and if we’re lucky, we learn something valuable about ourselves and others along the way.
My brother, who died in 1972 at the age of twenty-one, wrote the following piece of philosophy. I didn’t find it until I was going through my mother’s things after she died in 2006. It amazed me that at such a young age he had such wisdom. I wish I’d known; I feel like I’ve lost even more than I did when he died. (See what I mean about life’s endings? That was a forty-two year-old hanging thread! You certainly couldn’t leave it dangling like that in fiction—and wouldn’t want to.)
But I realized his advice works both in life and in our writing. It’s all about endings and beginnings, and where the real truth of it all lies.
“The end is always a beginning. If an end becomes an end, you are not only refuting the nature of man, but you are also subjecting man to be dominated by history, which has no right to be the domineering force. Man can never be an end in himself, he must be the beginning for another person.” Edward Latchford Tuttle, Jr.
May all your endings be wonderful new beginnings, in life and in your writing.
A new year begins, and so does a new year of writing prompts! As a reminder, here are the “rules”:
1) You can change the pronoun/name to suit the genre you write, but the sentence has to be the opening of whatever you produce.
2) You have only 10 minutes to write. Set a timer and write until it dings.
3) Keep your pen moving, your fingers typing. Don’t try to edit anything, just write. (You can always go back later and edit/rewrite if you wish, just not when you do the exercise.)
4) And most of all have fun!
And now for the first prompt of the new year… We mine our lives to find our stories and to write believable emotions into them. This week, explore a common experience to inform and deepen your writing.
Write about something that got lost. What was it? Did you find it? What did its absence mean to you? How did finding it again make you feel? Did anything in your life change because of losing/finding this thing?