Kathy fish, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Day 14 Prompt: Make a List

I love creating lists. Especially when under duress, making a list gives me a feeling of control. There’s often a lot of subtext living in the contents of a list. I’ve come across old lists and though, whoa, what was going on when I wrote this? 

Think of how much “story” you can convey, with very few words, in a simple list. Flash fiction, a form that lends itself so beautifully to innovation of form, allows you to do just that. 

So that is your prompt for today: Create a story entirely or almost entirely in the form of a list. Then send it off to McSweeney’s because they love a good list story. 😉

Here are a few ideas to get your going:

  • What would a Google search list tell you about a character and his predicament? (Yesterday I googled “health benefits of whiskey” for instance.)
  • What would a packing list suggest to a reader about a character’s plans? (i.e., a bikini, suntan lotion, camera, condoms vs. $1000 cash, a wig, a photo, and a revolver).
  • You could convey quite a lot of story in a character’s to-do list. Maybe give two characters’ to-do lists and have them play off each other.
  • Your list may be annotated for an extra layer of pathos or humor. A glossary is a kind of a list. My “Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild” is a list story. 
Kathy fish, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Day 12 Prompt: 50 Random Sentences or How to Face the Blank Page

Understandably, a lot of writers are feeling more “stuck” than usual right now. But many of us want to write, want to get in that creative zone, if for no other reason than to give ourselves an outlet and a respite. 

For Day 12, I’d like to rerun a popular prompt of mine called “Fifty Random Sentences or How to Face the Blank page. Do try this one out if you haven’t seen it before! And if you have, maybe try it again for today’s writing practice. It has never failed to get my own words flowing. Here goes:

We all have experienced that frozen feeling when faced with the blank page. This is an exercise (originally published in Lascaux Review) I have used often and it’s never failed to produce a piece of fiction:

Your goal is to write fifty sentences as quickly as you can. The sentences needn’t be connected in any way. In fact, it’s better if they aren’t. Allow yourself to write whatever comes to mind no matter how weird. You’ll want to number them as you go to keep track. You may start out with a bang, then flounder around sentence #20 or so. Don’t stop. If you have to, go ahead and write a few very simple sentences, like “the car is red” just to keep the words flowing.

When you have finished, go back and read the sentences aloud. Listen for the ones that have the most juice. Where does your voice falter? Which sentences evoke strong emotion? Which ones have their own peculiar beauty? Which demand further investigation?

Highlight these. 

Now write each good sentence at the top of its own fresh sheet of paper and write new sentences beneath it. You want to follow a line of thought if you can. Move forward into a narrative if it feels right, but don’t force it. Write whatever emerges without judgment. I promise, at some point you’ll feel a sense of urgency that tells you: There’s a story here. Now tell it.

Happy writing, my friends. As always, #StayStrong ❤

~Kathy

Kathy fish, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Bonus Unexpected Sabbatical: March 25

I hope you are enjoying our daily prompts! But today my friends I want you to know this: It’s okay to press pause if you need to.

You don’t have to write every single day. Maybe you read somewhere that that is what “real writers” or “successful writers” do. Nonsense. Down time has its value too. And times are challenging enough right now. Don’t put that burden on yourself. If you’re feeling creative, go for it! But if you’re feeling scattered, used up, exhausted, stressed, numb, it’s okay to simply rest and recharge. In fact, it’s more than okay. It’s good for you. 

All over the world, there is evidence that our beautiful planet is responding favorably to the decrease in human activity. If the earth can take a breath, certainly you and I can.

Your “prompt” for today then is to hit the pause button, if only for 15 minutes. Breathe. Close your eyes. Turn off the news. Let these 15 minutes of your life go unrecorded, un-Instagrammed, un-Tweeted. When you are rested and ready, I promise you, the page or the keyboard will still be there waiting for you. 

Rest and be well, my friends. Here is some beauty for you to enjoy:

Kathy fish, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Bonus Unexpected Sabbatical: March 23

Same Song, Three Verses

Welch Witch

Today, I invite you to embrace some playfulness and boldness in your flash. Your prompt:

Write the same ONE paragraph story THREE TIMES. Keep repeating the same elements, but change something in each version that takes the story in a new direction. See how this changes the overall arc from the first to the last story. See how you can create a sense of movement and rising tension simply by moving things around. Do not be afraid to get a bit strange or surreal in this. Keep subverting the reader’s expectations.

An example is my own “Three Likely Stories” which was published in The Forge Literary Magazine.

If you need a nudge, here are some words/images you might incorporate:

Stevie Nicks!

kangaroo

thunderstorm

an extra dry martini

basketball

“I make my own rules.”

hand sanitizer

 

Kathy fish, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Bonus Unexpected Sabbatical: March 21

Okay, here’s one for the Saturday crowd. I posted this in last year’s Fast Flash Reunion Extravaganza: One thing that is fun to do is to weave facts from other disciplines into your flash fiction (science, art, history, welding, spelunking). I’ve seen this in the marvelous work of Ingrid Jendrzejewski and Tania Hershman to name just a couple.

A human brain cell has the ability to hold 5 times more information than the Encyclopedia.

One of my favorite short stories that does this is “Body Language” by Diane Schoemperlen. I’ve been unable to find it online, but it’s in her collection by the same name and in BASS 1998. It weaves facts about the human body around a story of a couple’s troubled marriage and it’s stunning. (also includes Grey’s Anatomy type illustrations).

It does interesting things to weave a factual voice into an otherwise emotional story for counterbalance. Your facts may serve as metaphors. Or you may use a “borrowed form” from another discipline to tell your story.

Anyway! Your prompt is to do just this in the space of a flash length piece. Consider using the segmented or mosaic form for this. I’ve lifted some science facts below from the internet (so reword them a bit if you use them), but you can also find your own, from science or anything else. Consider including completely made up facts, too!

Fun Facts:

Bats always turn left when leaving a cave. 

The heart of a shrimp is located in its head.

It is possible to hypnotize a frog by placing it on its back and gently stroking its stomach.

The Gulf of California is a spreading zone – many millions of years from now, it will be an ocean.

People who wade into the Dead Sea automatically float. Dissolved salts make the water so dense, humans are less dense in contrast and so float.

A human brain can generate electricity and energy when we are awake and therefore can light up a bulb. It operates on the same amount of power of 10 watt light bulb.

A pregnant woman dreams most about three things, frogs, worms and potted plants. Other than this, due to hormones, women also dream about water or even have sexual and violent dreams.

The brain is capable of surviving for 5 to 6 minutes only if it doesn’t get oxygen after which it dies.

The average heart is the size of a fist in an adult.

Christmas day is the most common day of the year for heart attacks to happen.