Writing Prompts for January 2017

Writing Prompts for January 2017
Reflections at the Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle.

I considered reflecting on the events of 2016, but frankly, there’s lots you really don’t want to know–honest. The above photo is from a family holiday that included visiting Seattle, WA and Victoria, BC. I have great memories of explorations in galleries, museums, rain forests and mountains–and quiet family times of reading while the sun set. I’m very grateful for that time with my family and for every morning that I wake up and know  that I’m another day further into my life after last year’s cancer surgery–and feeling gratitude is not a bad way to start a new year.

But what will 2017 hold? I don’t know, but over the last couple of days I reread Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, and I was reminded to “share whatever you are driven to share.” I write lots of non-fiction about writing. I enjoy it, and I’m going to keep doing it. I love motivating people to write. This year, I’m going to seek out other ways to reach new writers and help them share what they “are driven to share.” And if I find myself worrying about whether or not to take a risk, I’m going to remember this, too: “Hey, why not? Because it’s all just temporary.” Exactly, Elizabeth.

I hope that you have a 2017 filled with peace, and love, and creativity, too. To get you started on your creative goals for 2017, here are your writing prompts for January.

Use one, some, or all of the words in the following lists to inspire a story or poem:

  • Slide, column, eye, remember, red, hidden
  • Glass, case, door, fear, run, seal, black
  • Escape, tunnel, race, battle, freedom, star
  • Beam, rescue patience, delay, moment, revenge

Here are some titles that might suggest a story or two: Rate of Decay, Last Chance, Brother Why?, Indefinitely, A New Year’s Resolution, The Captain’s Son, Battle Stations, Just a Step Away, Love on New Year’s Eve, Holiday, Seeing in the Dark.

Try one of the following opening lines to start a story.

  • Most people have a party or, at least, drink a toast with Anderson and Kathy on New Year’s Eve. Instead, I open my back door, a stray cat walks in, and an hour later I have a cat, four kittens and an old college sweat shirt that I will never wear again.
  • The last time I saw Harry, he had that same dumb grin.
  • Saying goodbye is never easy.
  • If they could hear my heartbeats, I’d be found in about 30 seconds.
  • Nothing made a castle colder than three days of uninterrupted rain.
  • His cloak smelled of wood smoke and rain.
  • Security! Report to Deck 9!
  • I still haven’t told my family that I was fired.
  • Helen always knew the wrong thing to say.

Here are a few snippets of dialogue. Can you write a scene using one of them?

  • When was the last time you talked to Henry?
  • This morning.
  • Then, he told you.
  • Yes.
  • Do you want to get caught?
  • No.
  • Then keep up!
  • I thought you weren’t coming back.
  • I have something to say to you.
  • Then say it.
  • I’m getting cold.
  • Just a little bit further.
  • Promise?
  • Promise.
  • So, another hour?
  • At least.

Happy New Year and may 2017 hold only good things for you!

Writing Prompts for December 2016

Writing Prompts for December 2016

I always enjoy the approach to the holidays. Decorating the house, planning meals, and even all the long-overdue cleaning and organizing are done with a lighter heart. It’s a musical time for us, too. My choir has a concert, my son’s university ensemble has a concert, and we all attend the local symphony’s holiday concert, joining my brother-in-law’s family for dinner afterwards. I hope that you and yours enjoy times filled with peace, love, and happiness in the coming weeks and that these feelings follow you through 2017.

Though your writing time may be limited in December, I encourage you to take even 10 minutes out of your day to put a few words on the page. Typing at 25 words per minute would fill a double-spaced page. Think of how those pages could add up over the month, and how much further ahead you will be starting 2017.

If you need some writing inspiration or fresh ideas, here are your writing prompts for December. Remember that you can change names and gender to suit the story you want to write.

Opening Sentences – Start a story with one of the following sentences. You could use the sentence to end the story, too.

Wait! Don’t open that!
The fire was too small to warm the room.
Henry and I had an agreement—until yesterday.
The branches of the bare trees clattered overhead.
Making a wish as you blow out your birthday candles isn’t just for kids.
Helen should have known better.
Secrets should be kept secret.
I don’t have a cat anymore, so what was coughing and hacking in my kitchen?

Random Words – Choose a group of words from the following list, and using one, some, or all of the words in the group, write a story or poem.

Gate, pillar, robe, wonder, blue, cry, gold
green, hills, wander, home, far, cold, rain
run, danger, lost, captain, white, strange
window, tense, sneer, answer, leave, yellow

Possible Story Titles

Yesterday’s Man, The Gold Tower, Tree People, The Leaving, Ghosts at Summer Camp, Strangers at First, Ethan’s Mountain, The Blue Sword, The Kameron Curse, The Second Gift.

Dialogue – Use one of these dialogue excerpts and imagine the story around it.

Why do we have to travel at night?
It’s safer.
It’s also cold.

I haven’t seen you with Henry lately.
Oh, we’re old news.
But I thought you were getting married.
Tell that to Henry’s father.

Are you sure we can trust Helen?
I don’t see that we have a lot of options.
But, I told you—she’s lied before.
So have you.

I don’t like the sound of that.
Me neither, but it’s too soon to worry the others.

You found something.
No.
Show it to me.
No.

Hope you have a wonderful, writerly December!

Writing Prompts for November 2014

November

I’m wishing lots of good luck and good writing to those who have signed up for NaNoWriMo this year. And for those of you who haven’t, I wish a creative month that brings you closer to achieving your goals.

Here are some writing prompts to help you find stories or add to the ones you already have underway.

1) Think of a story or poem that you could write using one, some or all of the following words.

  • Dead roses, photograph, lamp, window, card, sigh
  • Candle, glass, bowl, rustle, paperweight, cord, breeze

2) Here are some titles that might help you think of a story or two: Last Day of Summer, Pumpkin Patch Mystery, Lights Out, Shattered, When One Door Closes, Never Forgotten, The Crystal Throne.

3) See if these opening lines can get your story started:

  • “Why do you think she lied?”
  • The only thing I could think of saying when I woke up was, “Where am I?”
  • That’s it. I am done with men. Forever!
  • Going home should be a good thing—but not always.
  • I swore that I’d never start a story with someone waking up in the morning. But when you wake up in a tent with a large dog and a (pick the kind of person you want) for roommates, neither of whom you’ve ever seen before, I think you can make an exception.
  • Henry closed the door softly.
  • Moaning winds, rain and thunder. Just what I needed for my first night in the house alone.

4) Here are some lines of dialogue for you. Who are the speakers, where are they, what are they doing, what are they going to do next?

  • Do you think we’ll get away with it?
  • We did last time.
  • Yes, but this time we won’t have Henry with us.

 

  •  I’m sorry.
  • What for?
  • For telling Liz about what happened.
  • It’s okay. She had to know.

 

  • Everything’s going to be fine. Don’t worry.
  • That’s easy for you to say.
  • You’re hurt, but I’m not giving up.
  • We’ll never get away now.

 

5) A lot of special holidays and family events are ahead in the next two months. What are you looking forward to most? What are you dreading? What do your characters look forward to? What do they dread? Write the diary entry your character wrote as a child about a special family or holiday event.

Friday Wrap-Up

Yay for Friday! I had a lot of fun this week writing a story for the SCBWI mash-up. The plan is for an author to write 500 words based on a four word prompt and an illustrator to create a drawing based on the same four words. Neither knows what the other is doing. This weekend they get put together, and we get to see how it all turned out. I’ll post the link as soon as it’s ready, so you can see the final result. This week’s words: Brascoe, Television news anchor, treehouse, T-Rex.

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

It’s funny how some writing prompts work and other don’t–well, for me anyways. I love prompts in which random words are thrown together, and you have to create a story or a scene from them. I like working with stray bits of dialogue, too. I wrote 65,000-word historical romance based on three words that I drew from a basket during one of my own writing classes. That kind of prompt requires my puzzle brain, trying to figure something out with just a few clues. It probably has to do with my love of mysteries, the books on codes and secret messages that I used to check out of the library when I was in my Nancy Drew phase, and the fact that I still like to do crossword puzzles and Sudoku.

What kind of writing prompts work for you? Do you like random words or sentences or do you prefer the ones that demand a deeply personal response? Why do you think you prefer one kind of prompt over another. I actually hope that you’re one of the lucky ones that has so many ideas in your head for stories or poems that you don’t need a prompt. If that’s you, celebrate!!

I create writing prompts every month. I ‘d love to know what prompts you’re looking for, so I can include them in my first-of-the-month-writing-prompt post.

Have a great weekend!

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!

 

Work-in-Progress

New JournalWell, the brainstorming began in earnest this week. It was reading week, no classes, and my marking was finished last weekend, so no excuses either.

I kept a promise to myself and made sure that I found white space to create in. No cellphones, no computers, and CBC’s Espace Musique playing softly in the background. (I like listening to radio in French because I can’t understand much of what anyone is saying, so even the conversation washes over me with its own music.) The programs’ music choices are such a pleasure to listen to and never, ever boring.

And I’m pleased to say that all that white space worked! I bought a new journal (no suprise there to those who know me) and made a point of sitting with it every day until something emerged that resembled a story idea. I managed to come up with about 5 ideas that had a beginning, a muddle, and an end, and a few more with just beginnings and muddles but no endings–yet. I live in hope. 🙂

Of course, there is a lot of scribbling in my journal, too. Lists of places I’ve been, or places I should probably research, and settings of books I’ve read or am reading, anything really that I could think of that would keep the pen moving until something emerged. Last week, poet Patricia McGoldrick, suggested white paper and coloured markers and mind mapping. I’ve finally cleaned off the surface of my desk sufficiently to actually try that, so that’s my challenge this weekend. (And, also no surprise to my friends–I already own at least 2 sets of markers and more than enough paper. Please tell me that there are other writers out there who enjoy visiting Staples as much as I do!)

How do you brainstorm story ideas? Agatha Christie said she got her best ideas while washing dishes. I hope you find lots of creative ideas for your own projects that will keep you writing for a long time to come.

Let the Brainstorming Begin

IMG_4382Back in October Jean Mills, and I applied for a joint Writer’s Reserve grant through the Ontario Arts Council. Jean is a friend, but also an experienced writer and wonderful colleague. Among other things, we share two former employers, membership in PWAC and our sons went to school together for a while. We thought we’d make pretty good partners on a creative project. Receiving a grant doesn’t mean that a publisher will buy the finished project, but it does mean that a publisher thinks our idea and our writing samples are good enough to get some support to move ahead.

Last Wednesday, we received a letter from Dundurn Press to tell us that we received a grant. Yay!

And yikes!

Now I have to get writing. Our project is an anthology of short stories, and as thrilled as I was by this concrete gesture of approval, I’ve been stewing since Wednesday about whether I’d even come up with any ideas, let alone be able to write one–or six. It was one of those moments when you think, “it seemed like such a good idea at a time.”

Well, yesterday I got the idea for my first story. Yesterday I took time to create ‘white space.’ Here’s Sarah Selecky’s definition of white space: “White space: time spent doing nothing. Staring into space. Watching steam from your teacup, watching waves lap at the shore, listening to the wind through tree branches.” Selecky’s theory is that it’s impossible to be creative if we don’t give ourselves time to let our minds rest, to spend some time with no distractions. Here’s how she says it, “How can you have that gorgeous, rich feeling of having images come to you as you write, if you haven’t given your mind any time or space for insight?” Take some time to read her blog and then see what happens when you create some white space for yourself.

I am a to-do list maker from way back. If I’m going to reach my goals, ‘white space’ will be on the list, too.

If you have any strategies for shutting the attention-grabbing distractions down so that you can create, please pass them along. I’d love to learn how others find creative time and energy. Hope you find some white space today!

Writing Workshops for K-W Teens

Once again, I am offering a free series of writing workshops for teens through the Kitchener Public Library. The workshops begin on Wednesday, February 6, 2013 and will be at the Forest Heights’ Branch from 4 to 5 pm.  I’ll be working with teen writers to help them  develop story ideas, write dialogue, create characters and add action and  suspense to their writing. Check the KPL website for registration details.

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