Reading & Writing

Writing Prompt: Random Word Generator Flash Fiction

Last week, I attended One Story‘s week-long Craft Lecture Series on Zoom. Most of the lecturers dedicated a chunk of their time to a generative writing exercise. I enjoyed all of the exercises, but I felt most inspired by a very simple but restrictive exercise presented by Don Lee during his lecture on flash fiction.

Before we began, he’d used a random word generator to gather several sets of words. We each chose one group. Each of these words needed to appear in our piece of flash fiction, which we were to try to keep to 120 words or less. We were to try, within those 120 words, to stick to a pretty basic plot arc:

  1. Begin with one situation
  2. Something happens to someone.
  3. End with a different situation, after which nothing is ever the same again.

This is a lot to ask in so few words, but I loved this exercise because I love a challenge. I work well within prescribed structures and I like to meet a goal. For my exercise, I chose the words stingy, questionable, and violet. You can go to the word generator on your own, or choose from some of the word groups I’ve gathered for you:

guitar, wealth, pasture
agenda, tree, instruction
bronze, perforate, passage
rage, village, short
slime, handy, Mars

As always, I’d love to read what you come up with! Here’s mine:

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Reading & Writing

Writing Prompt: The Center of Attention

To find today’s prompt, I scrolled through the photos on my laptop. Most of them were of my daughter, in a pink dress, frolicking with our dogs. She’s wearing a peacock feather in her hair and holding a few fake flowers. There’s paint or ink on her arms.

Twenty minutes before these photos were taken, my daughter was not smiling. She moped around the house, growled, grumbled. She was BORED. Everything was BORING.

For a moment, I saw myself at five. I remembered a day when my mom dressed me in a new outfit and took me to the playground, camera in hand. Just us. She had me climb the slide, sit on the swings, look over my shoulder while she took pictures. She used up the roll of film. Just on me. It was one of the very best days of my life.

So I did the same for my daughter. I let her put gel in her hair and loaned her my fanciest headband. She had a great afternoon.

Looking at these photos, I initially titled the exercise “Happy Place.” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized what made those moments special for my daughter and me, and it wasn’t the place. It wasn’t the clothes or even the photos. It was time spent with our mothers, but that wasn’t quite it, either. It was time with our mothers’ undivided attention.

So I want you to think about one of your characters, or if you’re writing memoir, yourself. I want you to think about a time when they (or you) were the center of attention–the very center–and if they/you never were, I want you to imagine it, preferably in a positive light. This might mean the character has to be very young, and the attention will probably come from an adult whose attention feels terribly important.

Give yourself ten minutes. Try to fill them.

When you’re finished, I’d love to read them! Post in the comments!

Here’s mine:

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Goals & Challenges, Reading & Writing

Am I Ready for Some Feedback?

The other day, I had a meeting with my lovely friend Antoinette. I say “meeting” because while I’ve known her (off and on) since second grade and I consider her my friend, this was not just coffee talk. Antoinette is a business coach, and I had booked an hour of her time.

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Reading & Writing

The Resolution to Write

I love New Year’s Resolutions. I tend to make a lot of them. But there’s one resolution I make year after year:

The resolution to write.

Then again, it isn’t really one resolution. Some years my resolutions are about word count. Sometimes they’re about establishing routines, carving out time–my “writer’s life,” if you will. There are dozens of ways to resolve to write, and that resolution can be regularly renewed or revamped. I’d say there are so many ways to resolve to write, that the blanket statement isn’t enough: we need to focus on a more specific, more concrete goal.

Since I’ve been resolving to write for so long, I thought I’d share some of my more specific resolutions. You’ll notice that they all come with a common theme: Don’t expect too much of yourself. I don’t want you to underestimate yourself, either, but it’s better to set yourself up for success than for failure.

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Reading & Writing

Writing Exercise: Beginning with the End

Last night, I was watching A Christmas Story with my kids when bedtime hit. Right as I had to turn off the TV to start the bedtime routine, the narrator (adult Ralphie) uttered one of my favorite lines: “From then on, things were different between me and my mother.”

At first, I thought this would be a great opening line–for an exercise, perhaps, but not for an actual story. So I thought, perhaps I could use it as a last line–sort of like reverse engineering. I’ve heard of writers thinking this way (the one that comes to mind is Gilmore Girls and the six words Amy Sherman-Palladino swore would finish the series–six words she didn’t get to write until the follow-up episodes a few years ago) and while it might not be the very best way to work, it’s something I hadn’t tried.

Read my attempt below (there is sooo much more work to be done!) and share yours in the comments!

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Reading & Writing

Writing Exercise: I’d Like to Make a Toast

Have you ever made a toast? I mean, a real one–not just “to us!” but a long, thought-out, possibly memorized speech. It’s an embarrassing prospect, especially for those who fear public speaking, but it’s also a nice idea, isn’t it? So I thought this year, though I won’t be standing up in my dining room making everyone listen to me prattle on, I’d write a toast–just for the heck of it. And then I thought it’d be more interesting to write a toast from one of my characters’ perspectives. Even if they, also, would never stand up and orate.

From the perspective of a highly introverted, possibly autistic sixteen-year-old girl, to her very large family on Thanksgiving:

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Reading & Writing

Writing Topic: Goodness and Likability

In my third year of college, we read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I believe it was a fiction workshop, though the book is considered a nonfiction novel. As we went around the room discussing the book’s setup and the way Capote presented the characters, I said something that made the class erupt.

I said I didn’t like the daughter–a young girl who was brutally murdered in the book and in real life.

I was insensitive. I was brutish. I was completely out of line.

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