Kathy fish, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Day 20 Prompt: Three Songs, Three Decades

This is a prompt I used in one of my Fast Flash Reunion Extravaganzas (this summer will be my 5th anniversary of teaching Fast Flash!).

Songs are hugely evocative. You know those songs you hear the first few notes of and are instantly and vividly transported to another time in your life? Here, I want you to find 3 songs from 3 different decades of your life. If you’re still in your twenties, get out of here! No, I’m kidding. If you’re still in your twenties just find three songs that were recorded during your lifetime.

I want you to write a one paragraph flash for each song. The songs may serve as the titles for each one paragraph flash, they may be mentioned within your one paragraph flashes, or they may just serve as inspirations for your one paragraph flashes.

Go HERE to find what was the #1 song on the day you were born (Mine was “It’s Now or Never” by Elvis Presley).

The result should be a trio of microfictions that feel somehow connected. If you want to give the trio an overarching title, go ahead.

Also, you may approach this as fiction or memoir or some hazy blend of both. Try to write these very tightly, for a total of fewer than 500 words if possible.

Rock on, my friends. xo

Kathy

 

Kathy fish, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Day 18 Prompt: Write a Letter

Dear Friends,

Years ago, I lived in Australia, long before internet and email. I missed my family and friends back home terribly and while my little ones napped, I’d sit down and write long letters. One of my friends said she kept my letters in her purse and would sometimes read parts of them to her co-workers. I should add, this was before I fully recognized that I was a writer. 

I recently received a letter from one of my writer friends. A real honest-to-goodness handwritten letter. It brought me such joy. It made me feel more “connected” to another human being than I’ve ever felt on Twitter or from an email. The letter was newsy and rambling and kind and funny and warm, filling every inch of the notecard it was written on.

Communication is so quick and easy now. Personal events and news are frequently shared, even as they’re occurring. Everyone knows our business. What’s the use of a letter anyway?

Well, that’s my prompt for you for today: Sit down with paper and pen and write someone a letter. No, I’m not asking you to write an epistolary flash fiction (though you can if you’re so moved!). Look around you. These are strange days indeed. What has changed in your community, your neighborhood, your family? Think of the odd details. The other day on my Next Door app, someone had posted: WHYYY IS THE ICE CREAM MAN STILL COMING AROUND??? 

Share your hopes and fears. Or just something funny or exasperating your kid did. Because this is a writing prompt, I’m going to nag you to employ your writerly skills of observation, include strong, concrete, specific details, and engage the senses. Does it seem like the stars are shining brighter, for example? Is the local wildlife getting bolder? 

Pretend social media doesn’t exist today and reach out to one person. And hopefully you have a stamp because I don’t want anyone going to the post office. I’d love to hear if anyone out there actually does this prompt. Let me know. 

With love & affection, ❤

~Kathy

Kathy fish, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Day 16 Prompt: Meander

In her excellent craft book, Meander, Spiral, Explode: Design and Pattern in Narrative, Jane Alison says:

“If a narrative naturally wants to flow toward its end but doesn’t want to get there yet—the pleasure’s in the journey—it might hold back by strewing conflicts, boulders, along the way, as an adventure story might. But it might be bored by classic conflict, so instead lingers by flowing along an extravagant arabesque of detours: this is what meandering narratives do. A meander begins at one point and moves toward a final one, but with digressive loops. Italo Calvino says that “digression is a strategy for putting off the ending, a multiplying of time within the work, a perpetual evasion or flight. Flight from what? From death of course.”

Read “Friday Night” by Gwen E. Kirby, published in Wigleaf. This narrative is all over the place, yet focused like a laser at the same time. Take note of the breathless structure. It’s actually one looping sentence, spilling over with emotion, yet banal in its attention to, well, that pizza. It’s funny, angry, sad, desperate, tender, real. And it’s a wonderful example of the power of meandering.

So you guessed it. Your prompt for today is to write a story that meanders in this way, keeping the central conflict on low hum the whole time. Write a first person POV breathless paragraph or sentence like this Gwen Kirby did here OR do your own thing, but don’t write in a straight line. Take detours.

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