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 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.”
It’s time for yet another weekly writing prompt. Read on, then get writing!
They would smell the blood, come for her. Let them, she thought, a wicked smile curving her lips. She waited in the gloaming.
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.
Here’s this week’s writing prompt. As always, I’d love to hear what this inspires in you!
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
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.
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.
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!
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!
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?
I like posting images as writing prompts because I feel as if they’re relevant to multiple types of writers. In any case, I hope this photo of this morning’s sunrise inspires you.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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?
Seen inside a public restroom:
Sure, maybe that was the only space available for storing extra chairs, but you’re a writer, so come up with a more creative and interesting story for why there’s a row of chairs facing the toilet and/or a character’s reaction to seeing them there.
Special thanks to Shelf Life‘s Catherine Forrest for inspiring this week’s writing prompt.
Your character went to a party fully dressed but came home in their underwear. Whether or not they were still wearing accessories or were in possession of a wallet, purse, or phone is entirely up to you. Some things to consider that might help you along are your character’s age, mode of transportation to and from the party (are they the same/different?), who they are or were with, their physical/mental/emotional state, what happened at the party, and, of course, how they lost their clothing (if they can recall those details).
The terribly bored-looking gargoyle in the forefront of this photo I took atop Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris back in 2008 is this week’s writing prompt.
Maybe you want to try some personification and write about the gargoyle itself—what it’s contemplating, feeling, or daydreaming about, what it’s saying to its companions (Disney did it ages ago, but I believe you can do it better). Perhaps your bored AF character sees the stone figure and it prompts some inner reflection on their part. Or maybe you’ll be inspired to record the thoughts and feelings that the gargoyle stirs in you. You might even choose Paris as the setting of a new story. Or, if you’ve been to Paris, maybe you’ll choose to write about your own journey to the City of Light.
The possibilities are numerous. Bon chance and happy writing, fellow ink-slingers!