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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.

Prompts or Actions?

Today’s post was going to be a simple written prompt to get your words flowing, but then I thought, maybe that isn’t what you guys actually want. Maybe prompts aren’t suitable for the stage you’re at in your writing career. Maybe you have plenty of ideas, but no idea what to do with them or how to make them work. Maybe what would be useful to you is one simple, actionable step you can take today to create the writing career you’ve always wanted.

Though I currently only make a part time income from writing, I am actively working every day to further my career as a writer, and I know the next steps of my journey as well as the steps I’ve taken before. I don’t know everything about writing–nobody does–but I do know enough to help you, either by inspiring you to write more or by showing you the steps you can take each day to move forward.

My question to you is, what do you want from me? Do you want prompts, or do you want actionable steps you can take to move forward in your career? Please leave your thoughts here

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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.

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?

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.

Prompt time July 1st

All the best stories are driven by character wants and needs. To truly understand your characters, you must understand what each of them wants and needs. Sometimes those are not the same things, and come directly in conflict with each other. The same can be said for our own lives. Sometimes we know what we want, but not what we need. Other times we don’t know either.

While great stories can be written without full understanding of oneself, the best writers are constantly trying to understand themselves better. It is this constant drive to understand ourselves that gives us the willpower to seek understanding with our characters.

In light of that, today’s prompt is one I would like you to do for yourself–and one of your characters.

What is your definition of true love?

Prompt April 13th

Happy Friday the thirteenth! Originally today’s prompt was going to be based off of a single emotion, but in celebration of the fact that it’s Friday the thirteenth, I decided to go for a more… morbid prompt:

Write a story beginning with a character sitting at the very front, looking out the front window of a train when someone jumps in front of it.

Please post your first sentence in the comments.

My first sentence:

I’d always joked about seeing a jumper, so when it finally happened my first thought was ‘hmm, I thought the splat would’ve been louder’.

Prompt Time February 3rd

Most of my short stories–the ones that have been actual stories, not just free writes for fun–clock in somewhere between 6, 000 words and 10, 000 words. This year one of my goals has been to try to write shorter short fiction. This is mostly for selfish reasons, namely that there are a lot more markets for stories of under 3, 000 words than there are for stories in the range I usually work in.

Anyway. The motives aren’t the important part. What is important is the theory I’m using to write these shorter stories. The short stories I’ve written all encompassed multiple days. In fact, it was crucial to their plot that they encompass multiple days. One story I’ve been shopping around forever–another rejection today, but it’ll be back on the market in another two–is about the three trials a girl must overcome to become priestess. Of course, each of these trials takes up a day, and another day is taken up earlier on by a cleansing ritual. That story simply wouldn’t fit into 3, 000 words.

So, in order to write shorter fiction, I decided I needed to make the stories shorter. I needed to focus on one individual moment, maybe a whole day, instead of multiple days. I have a list of prompts written out specifically for the Write One Submit One challenge I’m doing over at the Absolute Write Water Cooler (someday they’ll get their own post, but for now I’m too lazy to even find the link), each one focusing on an individual moment. Today’s prompt–as well as many of the other prompts you will see this year–is one of those.

To honour the idea of writing short fiction, I am capping this at 1, 000 words. Of course, it’s totally arbitrary and it’s really up to you what you do with it, but I really suggest sticking with the limit. Can you write a complete story–it only has to be a moment, but there has to be a coherent beginning, middle and end–in less than 1, 000 words? Well, it’s about time you found out.

Today’s prompt is:

A man comes home from a long day of work to find that his wife has only set out dinner for one person… and that she wants a divorce.