Category Archives: Short Fiction

Picture Prompt

Check out today’s prompt over at The Dabbler and don’t forget to sign up for my email newsletter starting in September.

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Today I am stuck waiting for guest posts, so here’s a picture prompt instead:

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What’s with this guy?

Snow Day

There’s a big snowstorm here in Toronto, and while everyone else may be miserable about it, I’m thrilled. Why? Because snowy days make for the best picture prompts:

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The storm from inside…

Please post the first sentence of your response in the comments below.

Friday Picture Prompt

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From the Roof…

Please post the first sentence of your response in the comments.

Picture Prompt

I’m really loving having a camera… and here’s some proof! Let’s see what you can write about this:

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Box in the Sky

Please post the first sentence of your response

Picture Prompts!

A handful of you might be aware that I’ve wanted a camera for a long, long time. I wanted the camera because photos make blog posts more attractive and articles about my city will more easily sell with photographs.

Last year for Christmas I was given the money for a camera. Unfortunately, it was in a check, and I managed to lose the check on my way to the bank to cash it. So I’ve spent the last year without the camera I was supposed to have, becoming increasingly irritated with my various friends and relatives who have been picking up new ones.

Then something amazing happened. I got a camera. It isn’t the best camera in the world. It’s only 10 megapixels and the shutter speed is nothing special. But it’s a camera, and I’m thrilled to finally be able to take pictures of all the beautiful things I see.

It wasn’t exactly a Christmas present, but it certainly felt like one. And it’s the best present I got this year.

So, in order to celebrate having a camera and to make sure I go out regularly and take pictures, I’ve decided to start doing weekly picture prompts. I’ve always enjoyed making use of picture prompts and I hope you’ll enjoy them as well.

Without further ado, here’s your first picture prompt of the year:

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Winter Wonderland

Please post the first sentence of your response in the comments.

Getting into the Writing Zone

Since you’re planning to write a 50, 000 word novel next month–dividing into 1,667 words per day–it’s a good idea to get warmed up by doing some writing exercises over the next few days. A good goal would be to write at least 400-500 words every day until Nanowrimo starts, so you’re already in the writing groove on November first. This warms up your writing muscles without leading to burn out before Nanowrimo begins.

Today I’d like to share three exercises designed to help you do just that. These exercises can be done with your Nanowrimo characters or completely different characters. I usually use them to flesh out the characters and world I’ve already started creating for my novel, because I find that you discover many things while writing that you never will in a thousand brainstorms. Often these are crucial details, such as character names and important moments in their history.

While these exercises are aimed at both warming up the writing muscles and fleshing out your characters and your world, you can find dozens of more basic prompts both here and on many sites across the web. There are even entire books filled with prompts to help you get going, ranging from picture prompts to detailed scenarios for you to throw your character into. These exercises are my attempt at finding a proper middle ground.

Without further ado:

1. Write about a large social gathering in the place where your story is set. This can be from the main character of your novel’s point of view, in third or first person, in the point of view of your villain or whoever you want it to be. The important thing is that you focus on what the occasion is, what people are wearing, how people act and mention any unusual customs. I can’t begin to explain how many times I’ve discovered really important things by writing scenes like this, especially about cultural expectations and traditions. Often the details you need come more easily when you’re just writing, not trying to rip them out of a blank page.

2. Write a scene in which someone dies. You can learn a lot from someone’s death, both in real life and in fiction. In fiction, it can teach you how your characters react to death, what common dangers are in that world and how death is treated in your world. Death scenes can be incredibly powerful, and you can make them as long or as short as you want. For this exercise I’d suggest writing first person in the PoV of one of your Nano characters and making the dying person someone close to them. Of course, you don’t have to do that–the important thing is just to get yourself writing, not what you write.

3. Write something about pets. Everyone loves pets. Nowadays we have micro pigs, cats, all manners of dogs, birds and lizards. In ancient times, pets weren’t usually kept unless they served a purpose, and often weren’t even called pets: dogs for hunting, horses for riding, goats for milk. Where does your world stand on the issue? Are live animals rare and most pets robotic, as in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Or are your people so poor they can’t keep useless mouths, restricting them to dogs and horses? Or do they sit somewhere in the middle, where anything can be a pet and everyone has one? You can learn a lot about your world by considering what pets they keep–and more about your characters by how they treat their pets.

Of course, when doing these exercises you don’t have to use your characters and setting for your Nanovel, but if you’re still trying to flesh out your world and your characters, these exercises will add an extra level of depth to your novel. And for those of you who are just chomping at the bit to get started, writing these back story scenes is a great way to get some writing done and give your characters some loving without cheating and starting your novel early.

What is your favourite kind of writing exercise?

A Variety of Markets

Today I’d like to introduce you to two markets which accept non-fiction and two markets looking for fiction. In the attempt to build a freelance career, I’ve been doing mostly research on non-fiction markets lately–since all my finished short stories are out to different competitions–but fiction will always be my passion and I suspect the great majority of you prefer to write fiction too.

Let’s start with the boring stuff to get it out of the way…

The Non-Fiction

Vibrant Life is a bimonthly publication promoting a healthy lifestyle and mental clarity. They’ve got lots of different sections and accept articles about any aspect of health or well-being. They’re looking for articles of no more than 1, 000 words, and shorter pieces are always in more demand. They also accept personal stories that fit with the theme of healthy living. Vibrant Life prefers that you submit finished articles to them. Payment ranges from $100-$300.

Divine is a Canadian women’s magazine, covering fashion, healthy living, love, and entertainment. They’d love to see articles about anything of interest to Canadian women, including careers and money management. They accept both queries and finished work, and they accept work from unpublished authors as long as it meets their standards of quality writing. Unfortunately, they don’t mention exactly how much they pay.

And now on to the good stuff…

The Fiction

Arc is a science fiction magazine looking for stories written in the near future. They want fiction of 3000-5000 words, and seem to be running a competition. First place wins five hundred Euros, and five honourable mentions win two hundred each. Seems like an interesting competition; if you write science fiction, don’t hesitate to submit.

Lamplight Magazine is a brand new quarterly looking for dark speculative fiction and horror. It’s published as an ebook and they pay a flat rate: $50 for flash fiction and $150 for short stories. They read year-round but have specific due dates for each issue. We’ve just entered the submission period for their winter issue, which ends on October 15th.

Hopefully one of these markets looks right for something you’ve been working on–or has inspired you to write something new. And don’t forget that if you keep writing, editing and submitting–in that order–you’ll eventually break through to the other side of published writer.

Prompt Time July 20th

Today’s prompt was inspired by a free email course I’m taking on the art of writing fairy tales–if you’re interested, you can sign up for it or any other course through Writing Bliss. The more I thought about creating my own fairy tales, the more I realized how important fairy tales are in our world–and therefore, how much depth they add to fantasy worlds.

And thus I came up with this:

Write a fairy tale retold by one of your characters.

When doing this exercise, you can either have one of your characters retell a fairy tale from our world, or you can have them tell a fairy tale from their own world. The important thing is that you’re writing in the voice of whichever character you’ve chosen, and that the character is retelling a fairy tale that means something to them. The other important thing is that you remember the form of a fairy tale: a character, usually without magic and without much depth, goes on a quest to achieve something, gets some magical help along the way, and finds success in spite of prohibiting challenges.

Don’t aim for any length, instead aim for a finished story. It can be told in dialogue, with your character sharing why it’s important to them, or it can be told as its own story about your chosen character. Whatever you do, I’d love to hear how you made this challenge your own.

Please post either the first sentence of your response or a couple sentences about how you wrote your fairy tale.

The Birthday Prompt

Today’s prompt–to write a story about one of your characters’ birthdays–may seem simple, but it isn’t.

Why’s that? Because of one extra rule I’m going to throw in:

The birthday celebration you’re writing about must be correct to their culture and must also be different from what’s usually done in our culture–how different is up to you.

Some thoughts to get you started:

  • In medieval times, they often didn’t celebrate birthdays. Instead babies were named a number of days–sometimes years–after their birth, and their Naming Day was celebrated.
  • Many cultures send their kids on pilgrimages or vision quests when the kids become adults.
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t even CELEBRATE birthdays–what if you’re character’s mad because if they lived in the next town over, they’d be having a big party, but their parents don’t believe in that stuff?
  • Not all cultures give gifts on birthdays, and in some, it’s common practice to only give gifts that will be useful.

I hope that will help get you started. Please post the first sentence–or paragraph if it’s short enough–of your response in the comments.

My response:

For my tenth birthday, my mother took me to Free Cove. I’d always wanted to see the capitol with its four towers, representing the four great families of our nation.