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

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.

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In love and solidarity!

xoxo

Uncategorized, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Bonus Unexpected Sabbatical: March 24

I love satire. Satire is truly able to “say” so many of the things that are too painful/blunt/raw to say straight. And I love The Onion. For more than 20 years, The Onion has been saying it with more truth, somehow, than anyone. And I love to laugh. Headlines I laughed at in The Onion today include:

“Defiant 123-Year-Old Not Going to Let Coronavirus Stop Him From Hanging Out With Friends”

“Parents Don’t Remember Enough Colors to Help With Kindergartner’s Homework.”

“Trump Quietly Checks With Aides to Make Sure He’d Be Included In Receiving $1,000 Checks.”

“Frustrated Dog Has No Time To Jerk Off Now That Owner Home All Day”

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Now it’s your turn.

Write a satirical news article, the kind that could be published in The Onion.

Have fun and laugh hard today, friends!

xoxo