June 2013 Writing Prompts

Peonies - My favourite June flower
Peonies – My favourite June flower

I can’t believe it’s June already. We had every kind of weather in May from snow to a heat wave with thunderstorms, high winds and hail in between. I’m hoping that June calms down a little–and not just here, but for those other parts of North America that have already had enough destructive weather to last a lifetime.Here are the writing prompts for June. If you don’t find any of these inspiring, you can find lots to write about at the Writing Prompts tab above, too. Hope you have a creative month!

1. Use one, some, or all of these words in a story or poem.

a) music, heart, fear, jacket, flower, door

b) basket, park, jewel, mirror, thunder, hope

2. Here are some opening lines for your story.

a) Jenny smelled like cookies.

b) It was only 8:30, and already I knew I should have stayed in bed.

c) Red cars are best.

d) The wind moaned in the chimney.

e) Flat tires aren’t funny.

3. Some things I think of when I think of June. Maybe they’ll inspire a story or poem.

weddings, the longest day, summer solstice, “June is busting out all over,” June bride, D-Day, Juno, school’s out, June bug, report cards, graduation, Father’s Day, midsummer, taking off the first hay, fresh mown grass, bird song, gardens, planting, change.

4. Here are some lines of dialogue that you can use to create a story.

a) I’ve had enough

Enough what?

Enough you.

b) I’ve stepped in something

You’re right. Now, keep moving.

What is it?

You don’t want to know.

c) There’s a light flashing.

Don’t worry. It’s only a problem if it’s red.

It’s red.

5. The year is nearly half over. Where are you with the resolutions you made in January? Is it time to make some new ones? Are you making progress? Are New Year’s resolutions just dumb anyways?

Hope you have fun with these prompts and find some joywriting time for yourself in the next 30 days!



Memories of Last SpringWelcome to the beginning of a new month. I’ve started my recent writing challenge (see previous post) and am looking forward to a month of daily writing and creativity.

Here are some writing prompts for April.

1. Use one, some, or all of these words in a story or poem.

a) robin, melody, fence, puddle, trunk, sigh

b) clip, branch, green, boot, window, call

c) meadow, snow, range, leaf, creep, sight, wonder

2. Here are some story/novel titles. Can you think of a story that might go with them?

Branching Out, Last to Die, Broken Glass, Heart’s Journey, Runner Smith, The Dread, Mystery on the Grand, Time’s Window, I Wish I May.

3. See if you can start a story with one of these sentences. Maybe one could work as the end of a story, too.

a) That’s blood.

b) Soon I’ll never have to answer that phone again.

c) I thought you two had already met.

d) I specialized in white lies.

e) Chris! Get that thing out of the way right now!

4. Here are a couple of exchanges of dialogue that might inspire you.

a) I’m tired.

You’re just saying that because you’re bored.

Okay. I’m bored and tired.

b) I thought he was supposed to be here by now.

Cut him some slack, will you?

And he’s earned that how?

c) What’s in your hand.

It’s mine. I found it.

Let me see.

I hope you have a creative month ahead and that you get the chance to enjoy some lovely spring weather. Today we’re in horizontal snow broken by sunshine and fat gray clouds racing across a blue sky. The wind is whistling down the chimney, and I’m actually thinking of lighting the gas fire. All I can say is, “Hurry up Spring!”

Characters and Enough of a Plot

Some characters dropped by two weeks ago with a bit of snappy dialogue and a dim idea for a story, and I thought, “Yes! I’m on my way!”  Then they took a hiatus while schoolwork and life got attended to. In that time, they lost a lot of their lustre and I wondered if they weren’t just a cute premise and not a real story.  Today, I invited them back for a visit and did my best to find out more about them and to see if I could find a way to brighten up that “dim idea.” I mean, in order to meet my NaNoWriMo goal, I need to complicate their lives sufficiently to sustain me and the story through 50,000 words of  beginning, middle and end.

I can honestly say now that these characters and their story have possibilities. I only have a name for one of them right now, and of course, that may change as I learn more about her and see her in action. But I have something to work with right now. My next step is to get names for all the other main characters, so I can listen to them talk and see what they have to tell me between now and November 1st. If people are going to be carrying on conversations in my brain for several weeks, they definitely need names. I’m going online to check out baby name sites and see what I can find.

And I’m going to practise typing the name a few dozen times, too, before I settle on it. I had a character named Philip in a romance novel, and I got extremely tired of typing that particular combination of letters. I guess because they mostly used only three fingers of my right hand and typing Philip seemed just plain awkward. He was the villain in the first novel I wrote, and I decided to reform him and make him a hero in a second book. I changed his name to Simon–still mostly a “right-hand” name, but my little finger was out of the action and I was much happier. Hence the typing practice.

Do your characters  just introduce themselves–first, middle, last name complete? Or are they X and Y until you find just the right name for them? Have you ever changed a character’s name part way through or after you’ve written a story or novel? Do you have a favourite name that you’re just waiting to find a story for? Have people left such strong negative impressions with you that you would never use their name in a story–unless, of course, they were perfectly horrible characters?  How do you find the names for your characters?

Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo

 Yes, I have signed up for NaNoWriMo again this year and am looking forward to a whole month of writing and creating. Last year I managed around 23,000 words before another book took over and I abandoned my nightly creative free-for-all in favour of “purposeful” writing. Though I didn’t win NaNo, I did finish the book and had it published this spring. So, for me, a win.

This year, I have no books burning to be written, in fact, I don’t even have an idea for a story. I’m not an especially good “pantser,” so I’ll be spending the rest of October looking for characters, a setting, and 50,000-words-worth of conflict. When it comes to plotting, taking a look at the Hero’s Journey is definitely on my to-do list. I wrote a blog about it last year during the run-up to NaNo.

If you’re stuck for a story idea, too, I’ve been posting a series of writing prompts at http://wrightingwords.wordpress.com/writing-starters/  for other NaNo writers and anyone else who needs a creative boost.

What are you doing to get ready for NaNoWriMo? Are you a pantser or are you going to have a detailed plan for your novel before you begin? If you have any tips for success or sites to recommend to others taking on the challenge, please share.

If you sign up for NaNo and are looking for a writing buddy, I’m “wrightwriter” and I’d love the company.

Can’t think of anything to write? Read someone else’s mail.

No, I don’t want anyone to break the law; but there is a way to find great story and poem ideas in someone else’s mail.  Check out your nearest flea market or antique store and see if they have any old postcards–old used postcards.  Though ideas for stories and poems can be found in the pictures, inspiration awaits in the writing on the other side.  These notes from real people to real people are an Aladdin’s treasure cave full of humor, pathos, mystery, bravado, family life, and love.

 Here are some of my finds.  See what stories or poems you can conjure up from these real-life messages from the past.

 One card, addressed to Mrs. Arthur Ridgewell and dated 1907, reads: “I suppose you are still in Plaster Rock.  Heard that Frank 1st has left you.  I guess he must be a wanderer.” 

 Like all good story openings. this card leaves the reader with lots of questions.  And when the reader is a writer, a story is bound to follow.  Who is Frank 1st? (And, for that matter, who is Frank 2nd?) Why did he wander before? Why did he come back?  Why is he leaving again? Where is he likely to go? The word ‘still’ seems important to the writer. Where, other than Plaster Rock, should Mary be?  What is the relationship between the sender and the writer?

 A card from Vancouver, dated 1911 and addressed to a Miss McLeod in P.E.I., reads:  “How soon do you think you can leave College to come west?  You are needed very badly as chaperone and we would be more than pleased to have you with us.

 More questions: What was Miss McLeod studying in college or was she a teacher?  What kind of person would think it perfectly acceptable for a woman to leave college, head west, and become a chaperone?  Why would the sender need a chaperone ‘badly?  Why is there no salutation to the note–no Dear…?  What social milieu are we dealing with here? Is the sender wealthy and is Miss McLeod a poor relation?

 The following card is posted from Winnipeg in January 1909 and addressed to Mrs. Sharpe in Listowel, Ontario.  “Just a line to thank you for the nice Xmas cards you sent.  We were too poor to send anyone anything this winter as Will’s work will be done this week.  Things are dreadful dull and it is so dreadfully cold, about 42 below.  We did not go far when it was that cold.  Dick and Elsie are well.  He is working steady. How is Clarence? Remember me to him.  Love to all from all.  Sade

 Think of how Sade must have felt writing that her family was too poor to send Christmas cards.  The postage on the postcard was one cent and though the card was dated January 1st, it wasn’t mailed until the 8th.  Did Sade have to wait that long to get the postage or was it just too cold to go out?  Who are these people and what work might they be doing?  The card is addressed to Mrs. Fred Sharpe; then, who is Clarence and why does Sade wish to be remembered to him?  What if he is a brother of Mrs. Sharpe that Sade was fond of once, or perhaps Mrs. Sharpe is Sade’s sister and Clarence is Sade’s nephew.  Put yourself in Sade’s shoes while she is writing this card or in Mrs. Sharpe’s when she hears such sad news from her friend.  Maybe Mrs. Sharpe is a relative of Sade’s husband and Sade is hinting for her husband to be rescued from unemployment in Winnipeg and offered work in the family business in Listowel.

 If you are a poet, think of the wonderful ‘found poems’ that are waiting for you in these postcards.  You could weave a poem like the following:

 Winnipeg, 1909

 Just a line to thank you

for the nice Xmas cards you sent. 

We were too poor

to send anyone


Things are dreadful dull

and it is so dreadfully cold.

How is Clarence?

Remember me to him. 


I paid three dollars for those postcards and have covered a couple of pages in my journal with possible ideas from each one–a small investment in inspiration.  Consider what some postcards could do to fire your imagination or help you break out of one of those (thankfully rare) cement-brained-writer’s days? 

 Inspiration on a postcard?  Why not?  Find the wonderful stories and poems that are possible when your writer’s imagination meets someone else’s mail.

Lists and Me

I confess. I’m a list maker. I love making lists because I really enjoy crossing things off them when the jobs are done. In fact, it’s so bad that if I get part way through my day and realize that I have completed tasks that I didn’t write on the list—like making a phone call for a dentist appointment or putting a load of laundry in—I add those items to the list, just so I can cross them off.

A good time for me to write my list is just before I go to bed. It’s the best way for me to avoid lying awake worrying that some the things I have to do the next day will be forgotten over night. (I’m a worrier by nature, so anything that can short-circuit the worry reflex is good by me.)

I make lists when I’m writing, too, especially in the early stages. I make lists of possible names for characters, hobbies or special skills they might have, places they might have visited or lived, things they might carry in their pockets or purse. I write down just anything I think of. Some items on the list will get scooped up because they seem just right for my character or make me ask good questions about my character that add a needed dimension. Other things on the list might be picked up by secondary characters and the rest languish unclaimed until another story comes along. I use coloured markers and pens for these lists, too, because I find ideas at the brainstorming stage come more readily when I’m not working with black and white.

Are you a list maker, too? How do you use lists when you are writing?

How do you plot a novel?

Like many writers, I read about writing and how other writers plot their stories. Some have basic outlines, others create very detailed ones, some never plan at all.

I seem to fall somewhere in the middle of it all. I begin a project with a scene that just has to be written. A character arrives in my imagination who is going somewhere and I follow. We race along for a chapter or two and then I have to stop and start creating a roadmap for the rest of our journey.

I like this character; I’m ready to have fun with (let’s say) her for the long haul, but she needs to get into serious trouble for us to have a lasting relationship. And that’s what my planning consists of—finding trouble for my character to get into, then out of, and then into some more. Then we hang out for a few more chapters. As my character reacts to whatever problems I’ve set up, I learn more about what happened to her before we met. That history can have a serious effect on the plans I’ve made–for better or for worse– and then the road may change direction and lead to different complications than the ones I first thought of.

But that’s okay, too. In fact, it’s definitely okay, because now the roadmap is being drawn because of the new things I’m learning about my character. The story grows as I learn and the more I learn, the more I know about what I can put in my character’s way that will be hard, that will hurt, that will challenge, frighten and test and that will help the reader care and be more willing to stay with us for the rest of the journey.

Every time I stop and re-evaluate, I plan a few more chapters or scenes ahead, and then (thankfully) at some point in the process, I realize how the story is going to end. I can see how all the loose ends are going to be tied up and I can make a list of the chapters I need to get there.  In fact, if I can see it clearly enough, I even write the ending at this point. I like knowing how it’s all going to end, but it does make me hugely impatient to get there. I know when I go back to edit, that these chapters will need special work because I wrote them in a hurry and they will be way too lean on the details that make a story real.

So that’s me. That’s how write a novel. What do you do?

%d bloggers like this: