Writing Prompt: What’s Happening Here?

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Who is this guy? What’s his story? What about these kids glaring at him? Who might they be? What city is this? Where are they going?

Write it out, y’all.

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Writing Exercise: Write Drunk, Edit Sober

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Do you ever follow Hemingway’s famous advice, “Write drunk, edit sober?”

I’ve never had great luck writing drunk. Alcohol used to make me write these crazy, horrible poems–the kind of stuff you might’ve written in seventh grade–and then email them to an old friend who found them highly amusing.

Only once have I written anything under the influence that I later considered worth editing: a section of a story in which the character had been drinking. It was like method acting. The character had some hilariously twisted thoughts that I don’t know if I could have written sober. Interesting thoughts. Uninhibited thoughts, I suppose.

So maybe it’s worth a try, huh? Let me know if you like it.

Writing Prompt: The Horizon

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This is an exercise for those of you who are currently working on a project and might be stuck on plot or character development. I want you to take a character you’ve been with for a while and have them stop, mid-scene, and look at the horizon. It might sound cheesy, and it probably won’t end up staying in your finished work, but what does the horizon evoke for them? Where are they going?

Writing Prompt: Childish Things

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I think all grown-ups have at least one thing that triggers their inner brat: the voice inside your head that says, “I don’t wanna! You can’t make me! Waaaaaahhhh!.” I’ve got several, actually, but one of my very worst:

The dentist.

See, I had to go to the dentist this morning, and I also had to take my kids to their dentist. And my dentist wants me to buy a very expensive mouth guard that my insurance doesn’t cover, and his argument is cogent but my inner brat is just furious. Of course, even normal things at the dentist’s office get her riled up:

Hygienist: How often are you flossing?

Me: Intermittently.

Inner Brat: Yeah like teeth are so important. I’m going to floss even less now just because you brought it up so nyanyananyanyah. And I’m totally having hot coffee and gummi bears right after you paint on that fluoride stuff, maybe a big bowl of super crunchy chips, just to spite you.

Thankfully, there’s a grown-up person encasing that inner brat but still. The thoughts are there.

Anyhow, while lying back in the dentist’s chair, I realized that I hadn’t posted a writing prompt yet this morning, and that this little, snotty voice inside me would make an excellent narrator. Perhaps a conversation between the rational adult and the inner brat.

Riff on that. See where it takes you.

How to Get Through a Writer’s Block (or, How to Be a Healthy Writer)

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For writers of all genres, “writer’s block” is as inevitable as death and taxes.

All artists experience this. The brain needs its rest, the muses need their vacations, and everyone who’s ever been serious about creative endeavors has sat staring at a blank page, canvas, brick wall, stage or computer page and thought, “I can’t do this.”

But did you notice that I put “writer’s block” in quotation marks? That wasn’t a typo. I “know” how to “use” “quotation marks.”

Seriously, though: I believe that the phrase “writer’s block” is a crutch we use to make our creative clogs seem more serious than perhaps they are. I’ve known writers who treat it as an illness; when they’re blocked, they can do little more than sit around drinking soup and binge-watching Netflix. They spend a lot of time nursing themselves back to health, so to speak. This can last indefinitely.

Of course (to extend my metaphor) there are people who vegetate through an illness and there are those who just keep truckin’. Then there are those of us who used to vegetate but have had to learn to push through. Continue reading

Writing Prompt: The Sea Urchin

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Have you ever seen a sea urchin’s teeth? I did, last time I was at the Seattle Aquarium, and before the docent told me what they were I assumed they’d come out of a shark. Maybe a small shark, but still: they looked fierce. I also learned that while urchins often feed on algae, some species can gobble up fish.

Sea urchins are considered by many to be a culinary delicacy. They’ve been a featured ingredient on Iron Chef and Iron Chef America. I’ve seen Bobby Flay cut one in half, use its innards to make a soup, and then serve it up in the spiny shell. I don’t understand the appeal of it, but the judges seemed to like it. He probably won that battle. He’s good at winning.

Anyhow, this alien oddity from under the sea seemed like good fodder for fiction; this creature that by all rights should never have come in contact with humans, but is a main feature of aquarium touch pools and high-end menus alike. So today, I want you to think about sea urchins. Maybe urchins in general. Consider that some people call it the “hedgehog of the sea.” Consider the French phrase, “the elegance of the hedgehog” (and if you have the opportunity, read the novel of the same title).

As always, I encourage you to share your work in the comments; I’ll share mine if you share yours.

Writing Prompt: Falling Apart

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I’ll keep this one brief, because today’s writing prompt is something I want you to feel more than think about. Look at the picture of Mr. Potato Head. Really look at it. How does it make you feel? What does it inspire? Laughter? Sadness? Dread?

Okay, now add to that the opening line, “I’m falling apart.” See where it takes you.

I’ll share mine in the comments if you share yours!