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Uncategorized, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Day 15: Bonus Unexpected Sabbatical March 30

We are halfway through our month of prompts–thank you so much for letting us serve you this far–and today in our writing we are going to name the elephant in the room:

Often when we are developing a character, getting to “know” and understand a character, we do exercises like “put that character in a bar/grocery store and see what they buy” or “make a list of all the things in that character’s refrigerator.” Whether you like these exercises and use them or not, the impetus behind them is the same: our characters are different from us, and we have to get to know them, as we would a new friend.

Well, my friends, there is a new character in town and it’s time to talk to them.

elephant sitting on chair

Your prompt:

Allow Coronavirus to become a character. If Coronavirus were a character, what would they say and do? Talk to Coronavirus; ask them for their wisdom.

P.S. Your prompt today might be better done in a journal, at least at first. I wouldn’t limit yourself to 1,000 words, and I wouldn’t insist on writing a story, unless one naturally arises. You and Coronavirus might have a lot to say to each other.

In solidarity,

xoxo Nancy

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. 
Uncategorized, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Day 13 Prompt: Bonus Unexpected Sabbatical March 28

From the essay “On Being Ill” by Virginia Woolf:

“Considering how common illness is, how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings, how astonishing, when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed, what wastes and deserts of the soul a slight attack of influenza brings to light, what precipices and lawns sprinkled with bright flowers a little rise of temperature reveals, what ancient and obdurate oaks are uprooted in us in the act of sickness, how we go down into the pit of death and feel the waters of annihilation close above our heads and wake thinking to find ourselves in the presence of the angels and the harpers when we have a tooth out and come to the surface in the dentist’s arm chair and confuse his ‘Rinse the mouth—rinse the mouth’ with the greeting of the Deity stooping from the floor of Heaven to welcome us—when we think of this and infinitely more, as we are so frequently forced to think of it, it becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love, battle, and jealousy among the prime themes of literature.”

This is the iconic, 186-word opening sentence to Woolf’s essay, a gorgeous, dizzying arabesque of syntax that launches us into her treatise on illness.

So…you’ve probably guessed: Today we are going to write creative nonfiction.

Here is another “treatise” essay that I love and share with all my students:

On Dumpster Diving by Lars Eighner

Your prompt:

Write a treatise. The title should begin with “On _________.”

Feel free to keep this “flash” essay length or not.

xoxoxo

 

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

Uncategorized, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Bonus Unexpected Sabbatical: March 26

“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” ~Søren Kierkegaard

There are so many dizzying moments in life, times (like now) when we feel that we’ve been knocked off our equilibrium. I tend to find, looking back on those times with distance and perspective, that they were also moments of grace when I softened, opened, grew. A great book to read (or re-read) by the way, is Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart. She speaks of these moments of grace like particles up in the air, still weightless, still defying gravity. Eventually they will return to the ground, and eventually we will be “grounded” again, but sometimes in the dizziness is where we find breakthrough.

Therefore, today’s prompt is:

Write a story using only one sentence.

Any other punctuation fine as long as there is only one official period.

m682-52

In love and solidarity!

xoxo