There are a number of ways that stories come to me, one is using writing prompts because they always spark ideas or images in my mind. Some result in a short story or, occasionally a poem, but others have become full blown novels.
I recently responded to the prompt below and the character emerged complete in my mind. I could see him walking along the sidewalk, and the effect he had on the people he passed. He may appear in a future novel – who knows. Some characters stay with me and after a time begin to demand attention. This one is mysterious and I am keen to know his backstory and his future plans.
Heads turned, chatter ceased and whispers began as the tall, dark clothed man strode along the high street. His focused gaze ahead, never glancing at the store fronts, or the recoiling of other pedestrians as he passed by. The summer atmosphere cooled as an ominous air pervaded his very being. The holiday town was used to many visitors but this one was different and dangerous.
Would you like to ‘meet’ this character?
One prompt that resulted in a published book was my novella, The Rython Kingdom, which was actually a series of prompts that combined into the basis of the story. The prompts were – blue beads, a beast and a medieval town. You can read the full story (and its sequel if you want) here:
Another inspiration are dreams. And the reason, I have a small notebook on my bedside table. If I don’t write it down immediately, the dream dissipates never to be remembered again. The opening sequence of The Commodore’s Gift was a snippet of a dream that just needed to be used in a story. At the time, I had no idea that Owena, would become such a integral part of the story and evolve into it’s central character.
Do you have questions about my writing inspiration? Please ask on the comments, I will be happy to answer them all.
We are all feeling the repercussions of isolation, social distancing and lack of ‘normal’. It has affected everyone in a multitude of ways. For writers, who are normally ‘isolated’ in their writing life, there has been a change in atmosphere, inspiration, alone time and creativity. (Or lack thereof).
Whatever your normal routine, be it the impact of family at home, remote working arrangements or lack of access to resources, we can adjust.
Here are a few tips to try (or not):
One of the best options I have found is a virtual writing time. A group of us ‘meet’ on Sunday’s for a couple of hours. And although for the most part, it is a silent meeting, knowing we are connected helps with motivation and makes us accountable. We share what we will be writing at the beginning of the meeting and then summarize what we achieved at the end.
Outside time – this is vitally important to refresh the mind and body. It can be a walk, a bicycle ride and a hike. Whatever, works best for you within the confines of the social distancing parameters.
Writing space changes. It sounds odd but even a reorganization, a new arrangement of objects, a vase of flowers – can make all the difference. Maybe write in a different area of the house.
Reserve writing time. Make a commitment to write for a certain amount of time each day. As we all have favourite times of day to be creative – this can be before everyone gets up, when they are all asleep or maybe a time when you can be alone in the house. Don’t add to your stress by putting a word count on this time. It can be to write, of course, but also to plot, edit, note down new story ideas or even read some research.
Enter a contest. This idea will either spur you on or not. To create something new can be a good way to engage your Muse. Even if you decide not to submit your work, it is a great way to spark your creativity.
Writing prompts are also a great way to refresh the writing brain. There are a lot of sites and books available on the internet. Try a few, whether they are images, word collections or story starters. You never know where they might take you. Again my local writing group has prompts every Saturday, if you want to try. Link: https://www.wfscsherwoodpark.com/our-blog
What have you found to help your writing during COVID19?
I spent our ‘extra’ day, 29th February indulging in two writing workshops. One was a novel workshop, which will span four months. A group of writers email a number of chapters of their current work in progress for edits and suggestions to each other and then email them back for revisions.
The second workshop, held by The Writer’s Foundation of Strathcona County, was a monthly creative workshop, covering many aspects, styles and types of writing. As we are approaching poetry month in April, we covered different types of poetry. I have to admit poetry is not my forte, so it did stretch my creativity. We covered six styles. I am sharing my attempt of a coupled rhyme (rhyme in pairs AA BB CC). The words we had to incorporate were chosen at random. Clock, rock, storm, born, wall, tall. Five minutes later I achieved this:
The fisherman looked at the clock
Then walked to the big rock
He knew it was time with the storm
For the creature to be born
The waves rose up as a wall
And there the beast stood so tall
Do you have a certain style of poetry that you prefer?
Lavinia by Ursula K Le Guin – my review:
To be immersed again in ancient Italy was a joy for me. I learned Greek & Roman literature in school and was transported back to the world of gods, mythology and mystery.
A wonderfully written narrative, anyone would enjoy.
I have been the advocate of prompts to spark imagination ever since I began writing. In fact my first ‘real’ piece of writing was the result of a three word prompt. Here it is:
Fire, Clock & Certainty.
Fire light flickered on the walls and ceiling as Joan sat with a glass of her favorite red wine. Watching the flames lick the logs and send little sprays of ash and sparks upward, she tried to calm her mind. It was a certainty that Thomas would be angry with her once he knew of her accident. The clock ticked as its hands made their gradual path towards 9 o’clock and the inevitable argument.
Joan had tried to cover up the dented fender with a casually placed cloth but Thomas would immediately know something was wrong as she had parked in his place in the garage. Such a creature of habit, her husband he had rules and very particular likes and dislikes. His routine had to be strictly adhered to or there was hell to pay. She knew he would go over the top with his recriminations and probably ban her from driving for months.
The clock struck nine and she heard the garage door open as Thomas drove up to it. Straining her ears she heard his car drive forward and then shriek to a halt. His place was taken up by her car now he would be mad. A slam of the driver’s door told her he was walking through to the kitchen and she could feel his presence enter the lounge.
She squeezed the trigger slowly as the instructor had told her and Thomas’ face flew apart. No more shouting, no more rules, no more living in fear. Watching Thomas’ foot twitch as the life left him gave her a rare feeling of joy. No more tormentor.
Since those humble beginnings, I have continued to use prompts, whether words or pictures to engage my Muse. At Christmas, I was given a Word of the Day desk calendar and will utilize the words to create a short story or poem. These is the result of the first 10 days of January. As you can see the words are unique and gave me more of a challenge.
Jensen stood in line with the other candidates listening to the bloviate speech of the head of the facility. As he exalted the program’s cathexis in their training, noting one man stood out above the rest. Jensen saw the commander’s eyes glance towards him and he an epiphanic sensation went through him – he would be the one, it was ineluctable after all, and his tests had all proved top marks coupled with his deportment in any given scenario. Jensen knew his was palmary among these excellent candidates in the chrononaut program.
His first glimpse of the other universe as he emerged as the first time traveler was an elaborately set table with a kinara lighting the room with a redolent kolacky set in the middle.
As writers we are always immersed in our own creative world, full of locations, characters, plot lines and scenarios – whether imaginary or real. However, sometimes our brains become stagnant, unresponsive or just plain tired. To leave our current ‘work in progress’ can help us greatly to refresh and regroup. That is where prompts come into their own. With an unrelated word choice or image, comes new insight and fun. They maybe a quick ten minute exercise or, as so many do, take on a life of their own propelling you into a story you had not previously imagined. Three prompts I found lent themselves to the creation of a novella.
The easiest way to use a prompt is to let the initial thought flow and just let it take you wherever feels right. It maybe result in a poem, short story, a character study, a word association or something else. Many will be forgotten and not saved but some ignite that creativity to renew.
When I began writing, I used to spend a lot of time using a site called, Espresso Story, where the stories were 25 words or less. It helped me define a story in a few words until I felt able to increase my word count and descriptions.
Here are a few examples.
The stick flew My dog pounced And collided with him That’s how we met My love and I
Trapped but guilty to move on Loving but alone in a crowd Sleeping but horror in her dreams Smiling but crying within
Free of her kidnapper She fled the horrific basement Running along a darkened road Through torrential rain The driver never saw her
Tantrum: But I want it!!!! You’ll get it alright
Karma: We knew each other from before, Have loved in the present, Now to guarantee our future.
Boat Trip: The boat tips, Water seeps in, No land in sight, Help!