On Writing, Writing Prompts

Writing Prompt 51

I’ve got a series of short prompts for you over the next several weeks, many of which could potentially be first lines. This week’s prompt is:

“I can’t do this anymore.”

On Writing, Writing Prompts

Writing Prompt 50

I sincerely apologize. I forgot to post one of these this past Wednesday, so here is your weekly writing prompt, albeit a bit late. For those who have never heard the expression that kicks this one off, I’ve included a handy reference.


“What in Sam Hill happened here?!”

I spat a mouthful of blood onto the asphalt then looked at the old man out of my one good eye and said, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

On Writing, Writing Prompts

Writing Prompt 48

Disappearing Ink

Here is this week’s writing prompt, an inter-galactic tale of pen-pilfering, ink-drinking bandits. Thanks to my husband for inspiring this one. I was wondering out loud what had happened to a particular pen that I’d had in the kitchen drawer when he suggested maybe there was some pen-stealing faction out there for whom ink was like the spice in Dune. So there you have it.

They were slick, surreptitious. He’d give them that. Those ink-drinking bandits from the outerlands of Rogon 5 had struck again, and this time, they’d hatched a plot so nefarious that the entire supply of ink in the Glacyon Prime system had literally dried up within nanoseconds. A dehydration device of some sort. That’s how they’d done it. They’d turned all of the liquid ink into dried powder form. He admitted it was brilliant. It was much easier to smuggle and transport containers of powdery ink off-world than volumes of liquid. Who knows? Maybe they wanted it in powder form. They could be inhaling it now, smoking it, rather than guzzling it; perhaps they’d found that ingesting it that way made its mind-altering effects more potent. He was wondering where the trail of disappearing ink would lead him next when an alert came in that ink-carrying vessels known as “pens” had been reported missing in large numbers from a planet in the Sol system known as Earth. He clenched his fist. His instinct told him the pen-pilfering hooligans had to be Rogons. He had to stop them before this planet Earth suffered the same fate as Glacyon Prime.

Ranée

Solace

It’s been a while since I’ve taken a walk in the nature preserve near my neighborhood, so today, I did just that. There was no one along the length of the paved path when I arrived and the rays of sunlight shone through the trees like a beacon.

I decided to take the pond trail loop this time, wondering if there’d actually be a pond now. There was no one else on that path either, at least, no human, and as I strolled along, the only sound apart from my footfalls and the crunch of dead leaves beneath my shoes was the occasional gust of chill wind rustling through the trees. Less often, I heard the chirp or call of birds.

I’d been walking for maybe ten minutes when off to my right, a little ways off the trail, I noticed a sign that warned: Danger! You are no longer on the path. Turn back! Part of me was tempted to venture into that forbidden territory, but today didn’t seem like a good day to get lost, so I smiled to myself and kept to the path. Some water had collected in the depression among the leave-covered ground, after all, I saw, when I neared the pond site, though not much; its depth was surely no more than a few feet at most.

I walked on, past fallen trunks, a tree whose twisted branches looked as though they were clawing at the earth, and a tangle of leaves and vines that had grown into a beautiful natural arch. The leaves of the arch had a bluish tinge to them in the light that I found quite lovely and I though of Alice stumbling through that archway into her magical world.

A bit father along, some logs had formed what were almost small steps and as I neared them, I heard a rabbit whom I’d apparently frightened scurry away through the brush. When I left the trail, the sight of the leaves fluttering slowly down to the ground so captivated me that I stopped to film them.

As I emerged from the tree-lined path, I saw that the sky was a brilliant, clear blue with only a few wisps of cloud. A lone woolly worm crawled across the asphalt in front of me and a bronze-colored object caught my eye. I’m not sure what the sparkly copper-colored object was, but I decided to leave it where I’d found it; it wasn’t mine to keep.

On my way back to my car, I passed other nature-lovers now who smiled or nodded, some exchanging a greeting or wave with me. Kindred souls, I knew, who also took solace in the wild beauty of this magical place. I spied another, smaller arch, this one a single vine, before I heard the shouts of children come to ride their bikes teasing their mother who balanced on the curb. I could feel the spell breaking.

As I neared the parking lot, I glanced down to see that some leaves had left star-shaped imprints on the sidewalk—shooting stars, I thought, smiling. I walked to my car and noticed the crude words my son had written in the condensation on the dirty windows a day earlier, showing clearly and sighed. I should probably wash my car.

On Writing, Writing Prompts

Writing Prompt 46

As we are now full into fall and harvest season, my favorite time of year, and Halloween/All Hallow’s Eve/Samhain, my favorite holiday, is this weekend, I give you an autumnal scene and an accompanying quote. May they inspire you as they have me, fellow ink-slingers.

Go out in the woods, go out. If you don’t go out in the woods, nothing will ever happen to you and your life will never begin.

Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves
On Writing, Writing Prompts

Writing Prompt 45

For this week’s prompt, your challenge is to describe something without using any visual descriptors. In other words, describe something that either cannot be seen or that the person describing it can’t see. You can try variations of this prompt leaving out one of the other five senses or, alternatively, describing something using all of the senses.

On Writing, Ranée

Disorder

Creativity requires a certain amount of disorder—a good kind of chaos, if you will, and I fully admit to being a bit Scarlet-Witchy (OK, more than a bit). However, in this post, I’m talking about the bad kind of disorder, the sort that comes from a lack of clarity and has nothing to do with creative spirit.

I’ve spent some time this week migrating content that I’ve written for my current story from my notebooks into Scrivener and, in the process, I’ve come to an important realization—I should not be writing when I’m depressed or stressed out unless I’m just writing about how I’m feeling. I haven’t got much of substance to show for the months when I’ve been trying to write while feeling bad; the little that I do have is a jumbled mess. All of the more organized threads that flow into actual chapters were written prior to depression and anxiety setting in. It is exceptionally difficult for me to maintain a decent level of concentration and to organize myself when I am depressed or anxious; that’s always been true. The difference now is, I’m aware of it. I know now that this was the real reason I could never finish a book let alone really get one started—my emotional struggles caused me to lose focus to the point that I just couldn’t get it together.

The other lesson I’ve learned is that I need to follow my own advice and when nothing good is coming or I’m just not feeling like working on a particular project, then I need to write something else, whether that something is journaling, writing a blog post, or working on another creative project. With regard to the latter, I’ve been forcing myself to stick with one creative writing project at a time out of fear I’ll never finish anything if I don’t make myself plow through, but I’ve realized that, by doing this, I’ve been hampering my own creativity (and as I noted above, the real problem for all those years was depression, not my tendency toward chaos-witchiness). I hate doing the same thing all the time; I get extremely bored and end up feeling constrained. I certainly need some structure to keep me on track, but instead of forcing myself to push on when my heart’s not really in it, I should instead embrace my own dynamic nature, be flexible, and work on whatever project I feel like on a given day (employ an organized chaos, so to speak). My hope is that by changing things up, I’ll avoid stagnating and will instead keep the embers of my creative fire burning.

Along the same lines, while my story ideas tend to be nonlinear, with scenes/flashes coming at random, I need to write in chapters. If I have a scene in my head, then I will write it but I also need to write what goes around or with it, connecting the dots. This will save me having to go back and fill in loads of blanks later and will help to keep me organized. I mean, even when Wanda was completely disrupting people’s lives, she still provided a substantial amount of structure. The least I can do is turn random scenes into full-fledged chapters (the fact that I have already done it is proof I can do it again).

So this will be my new process once I’ve moved over the stuff I’ve got in my notebooks. Maybe I’ll even consider going back to writing on the computer. Ha! Sorry, but computer writing for creative projects is reserved for revising . . . unless I find a good electronic approximation for a pen and notebook that can be transferred straight into the computer and integrate with Scrivener, but that’s another topic for another day.

On Writing

The Writing’s on the Wall

Or, as the case may be, in the song, in a perfectly brewed cup of chamomile tea, in your dreams . . . Literally, anywhere.

A while back, the topic of discussion for Paper Cuts, our monthly writers’ group, was inspiration. Our conversation got me thinking about ways to maximize or play to your different sources of inspiration. I’ve put together a short list below, but since, as I’ve noted above, inspiration can come from almost anywhere or anything, feel free to note your specific sources in the comments and I’ll suggest some ways to make that work for you and your writing. Note that all of these are also good tactics for battling the beast known as “writer’s block.” However, keep in mind that your triggers shouldn’t be a distraction from your writing; if you find that you’re spending too much time setting the mood and not enough actually getting down to business, then your source of “inspiration” is really just a procrastination strategy and you should let it go.

  • Music. If, like me, you’re inspired by music, then why not listen to music while writing? Put on a record, create playlists to accompany your work, or just allow some ambient music to play in the background. Going to a concert, orchestra, symphony, or other musical event is another way to tap into your source.
  • Atmosphere. If you find that there’s a certain type of atmosphere that’s conducive to your writing, then create that environment for yourself or seek out that ideal writing space (library, coffee shop, etc.). If you need a cup of coffee or tea in your favorite mug, a glass of bourbon, candles, certain smells, a particular writing implement, absolute quiet, a blanket, whatever it may be to get you ready to write, then make it happen.
  • Dreams. If you’ve ever woke up from a dream thinking, “That would make a great/weird/cool story,” or if you often find yourself getting ideas from dreams you’ve had, then try keeping a dream journal. As soon as you wake up, jot down all of the details you can remember from any dreams you’ve had so that you can use those notes to generate future content.
  • Nature. I often find that going for a walk in my favorite nature preserve/park stirs up new ideas and images for me. If you’re also inspired by nature, then do your writing outdoors or choose a spot facing a window with a view. If, like me, you’ve got a particular place with which you feel a connection, then go spend some time there and see what comes up for you.
  • Images. Put up pictures or artwork in the space where you write so that those visual cues are prominently displayed where you can see them as you work. Alternatively, go to a museum or art gallery or watch a film that you find inspiring.
  • The Zone. If you’re inspired when in “the zone,” then try meditating on your project before getting to work to help you get into that highly creative space and tap into your subconscious. You can also do some automatic writing to see what ideas flow up from beneath the surface.

Again, these are just a few strategies that come to mind for me. I welcome your thoughts to build upon this list.

On Writing, Writing Prompts

Writing Prompt 44

Accidents Will Happen

When he was seven years old, Henry Sato went to his first hibachi restaurant. He stared, eyes wide and mouth agape, as the chef performed such magnificent feats as lighting an onion volcano and tossing his sharp knife in the air. From that moment on, Henry’s dream was to be a chef, but no ordinary chef, mind you. He would be fearless, inventive. He was well on his way to realizing his dream when a freak accident caused him to lose his thumb and half of the forefinger on his left hand—his carving hand.

What was the accident, how did it happen, and did Sato fulfill his dream in spite of it, or did he follow another path? That’s all up to you, fearless writer!

On Writing, Writing Prompts

Writing Prompt 43

A Paradoxical Sentiment

Am I thinking what everybody's thinking?
I'm so glad I came but I can't wait to leave?
— St. Vincent, "Slow Disco"

For this week’s writing prompt, I give you the above lyrics from one of my favorite St. Vincent tunes, “Slow Disco,” from the album MASSEDUCTION. Two seemingly opposing sentiments are expressed in these lines—the notion of being happy to be somewhere yet simultaneously eager to escape. Your challenge this week is to envision (or recall) a situation in which your character/speaker (or you) might be feeling both of these emotions at the same time and then write about it.

Alternatively, do some freewriting about what comes to mind when you read the lyrics. For me, the song inspired a scene where one of my main characters was standing still amid a roomful of people yet feeling utterly alone. There was a moment where time seemed to stop for her; the noise faded out and everyone around her froze. In that moment, she was grateful for the silence, the sudden solitude that afforded her an escape from the din, however brief. Drop a comment below to let me know what this song inspires in you!

On Writing, Writing Prompts

Writing Prompt 42

Think of a person you knew when you were a child but with whom you’re not currently in contact. Imagine what that person might be doing in their life now, what they look like, what they are like, where they live, who they know, etc. Where has life taken them?

Ranée

The Ground Beneath Her Feet

Grounding is all about connecting with nature and the outdoors, which is root chakra, or muladhara, territory. Much of the work that I do involves using a computer and I tend to sit at my desk indoors while I work, so I try to spend at least some time every day outside. Sometimes, I’ll take my laptop with me and do some work outside or sit in the grass with my notebook and pen, writing, but generally, when I’m outside in nature, I want to enjoy it without distraction.

One of my favorite places to venture

One of my favorite ways to get in touch with nature or “get grounded” is to go for a walk. I live quite close to a nature preserve and park and that’s my absolute favorite place to go for walks. I also live in a relatively quiet neighborhood that doesn’t get a lot of traffic, so tend to go for daily walks by myself, with my dog, or with my family.

Most days when it’s warm weather and not raining, I’ll just step outside and stroll through the grass in my bare feet. I hate shoes and don’t even wear socks unless it’s super cold, but walking barefoot is more than that for me. I find the feel of the grass beneath my feet comforting; it’s a reminder that I’m always supported. You can’t accomplish much without first having a strong foundation. The ground beneath my feet is a tangible, literal reminder that I have one.

Apart from walking, I’ve also come to enjoy gardening, something I never really thought I’d be into. It was and still is one of my mom’s hobbies. And now I can sort of see what she loves about it—planting flowers, trees, vegetables, and herbs in the earth, cultivating life. I’ve come to love watching my plants grow and I hate seeing them dwindle. And, yes, I talk to them. I’ve even named some of them.

Whenever it’s raining or snowing or temperatures rise to sweltering (above 85 degrees tends to get intolerable for me) and I can’t go outside, I have to find alternatives. I’ve brought nature indoors by getting some indoor plants (a couple of succulents and Artemis, my aloe plant, who is thriving).

Root chakra isn’t just about getting in touch with nature, though, as I’m learning. It’s also about being at home in your body, nourishing it, caring for it, paying attention to its cues (eating when hungry, resting when tired, examining aches and pains). Now that I know this, it makes sense to feel invigorated after physical activity and to feel satisfied after eating a wholesome meal. The things that you put into (and, for that matter, onto) your body really do make a difference. I didn’t really start taking care of my body until a few years ago. I didn’t eat well, didn’t exercise, and ended up feeling really bad. I noticed such a difference when I began working out, eating healthier, and finally stopped hating my body. I felt like a new person! I have to say that I was only able to tap into higher spiritual levels and wake up the upper chakras after I got grounded. To me, that makes perfect sense. You can’t build on a shaky foundation.

A part of muladhara that I still wrestle with from time to time is fear and feelings of security. I experience some anxiety and worry at times over things like money and job security, though it’s nothing like what I previously went through. Interestingly, I’ve noticed that whenever I’m out among nature, with my feet on the ground, I don’t feel that stress. I guess in that way, grounding helps me to clear my mind, regain focus and clarity. And it brings me solace. As I reflect on that now, I realize that Mother Gaia has always brought me that sense of comfort. She was there when I was a little girl running around barefoot in the yard and she was there when as a teenager I’d lay out in the grass at night gazing up at the stars. I lost that sense of joy and peace for a while when school, work, and other obligations kept me more indoors than out, and I drifted for a long time. She was there all that time, though, waiting for me to finally get my feet on the ground once more, and she welcomed me back into her nurturing arms.

On Writing, Writing Prompts

Writing Prompt 40

Iris

On the anniversary of his wife, Iris’s, death, Evan receives a delivery of the flowers that were his beloved’s namesake. The mysterious gift arrives without a note or card, leaving him baffled and more than a little unsettled.

Take it away, my fellow ink-slingers!

On Writing, Writing Prompts

Writing Prompt 39

My Arm’s Not Off; It’s Just a Flesh Wound!

For the first time since I’ve been posting these Wednesday writing prompts, I missed one. I was terribly sick yesterday (vaccine kicked my ass) and spent the entire day in bed. Anyway, I’m feeling more myself this morning, so here’s this week’s writing prompt, a day late. Hope you have fun with this one!

In this photo, Batman’s nemesis, Bane, is missing his right arm. Your challenge is to tell the tale of how he lost it.

On Writing, Writing Prompts

Writing Prompt 38

This week’s prompt is to write about an object that has sentimental value.

Questions to answer:

  • What is the object?
  • To whom does it belong?
  • Was it a found item or a gift (if gifted, who gave it to whom and why)?
  • What makes the object special?

Happy writing, ink-slingers!

On Writing, Writing Prompts

Writing Prompt 37

Take an existing myth, fairy tale, or fable and rewrite it with a different perspective or a new twist. Modernize it, drop it into a new setting, change the genders of the main characters, switch up the ending—do what feels right to you. Some examples of published works embracing this idea are Salman Rushdie’s novel The Ground Beneath Her Feet, which was based on the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, and Carol Ann Duffy’s book of poetry The World’s Wife, which has many excellent examples of such retellings.

On Writing, Writing Prompts

Writing Prompt 36

Be Careful What You Wish For

Your character just got so angry with another person that they shouted, “I hope you die!” or “I wish you were dead!” (you choose). And the person did.

Some things to consider for this prompt:

  • Are these two events actually connected—in other words, did your character’s words or thoughts cause the other person’s death or was it a coincidence? Does your character know this?
  • How is the person connected to your character (if they are)?
  • Why was your character so angry?
  • How does your character react or feel when the person they shouted at actually dies?
  • What’s the aftermath (what happens after this incident)?
  • Does this incident change your character in any way? If so, how?