Prompts, Comps etc
Prompts for May:
Following on from this month’s blog, here’s an exercise on noticing people’s body language or mannerisms. Choose one of the pairs of characters below and write a conversation between the two of them, including what mannerisms or body language each would show. You will need to decide first what the conflict is between them, as our mannerisms change with our situation and who we are speaking to.
- Policeman and teenage boy
- Teacher and pupil
- Grandmother and grand-daughter
- Two lovers
- Two political leaders
- Wife and husband with new baby
- Two aged gentlemen, life-long friends
And here are a whole variety of picture prompts that I hope will inspire your writing:
- It’s the second year of the Hastings Litfest. They are running competitions for poems, flash fiction and short stories, closing date end of June.
- The Wise Writer Short Story competition is open until June 15th.
- The Henshaw Short Story competition is open until June 30th, up to 2000 words.
- The Stringybark Times Past Short Story Award is a bit different – bringing Australian history to life. Word limit is 1500 and the closing date is June 15th.
- If you like picture prompts, the Pennine Ink Writers competition is based on the picture below: just 500 words and the closing date is July 7th.
- Manchester Fiction Prize. Up to 2500 words, entry fee £17.50, first prize £10,000, closing date mid-September.
- HG Wells competition. The theme is TIME. Between 1500 and 5000 words, entry fee £10, £250 first prize, closing date July 8th.
Click here for a blog on How To Write A Novel. There’s a useful checklist but remember: you don’t have to take up every suggestion.
Writing prompts and exercises for March:
- Try the exercise mentioned in the blog – find a picture (it can be a park or any other place you like). Choose two or three different characters who might be visiting that place. Write 150-200 words from each character’s point of view. See how they differ. (What they notice, sentence length, vocabulary, voice, tone)
- The same exercise can be done having one character being described by two other characters eg a young man described by his girlfriend and his mother; a teacher described by a pupil and a colleague; a criminal described by a police officer and his grandmother.
- If you can, try describing the room you write in from the point of view of a toddler (that means getting down on your knees!). This can be a very useful exercise if you have young visitors. You’ll see everything from a totally different point of view, including sharp edges to furniture, interesting hiding places and even more interesting family heirlooms on the bottom shelves!
- Another aspect to Point of View writing is to note how your character is FEELING at the time. A character feeling happy will notice different things to a time when they are feeling angry or sad or abandoned. Have a look at your pieces in number 1 above and see if you can add something to show (not tell) how your character is feeling.
- With the temporary change in weather recently, it felt as though Spring was on its way. Write about Spring from two different characters’ points of view.
- In India and Nepal, they’ll be celebrating Holi or the Festival of Colours on March 20th and 21st. Do some research and write a story.
- Suggestion for keeping track of your stories: have a file on your computer, a book or a file with pages. For each story, note WHEN you wrote it, WHO it was for (competition, magazine, writing group), WHEN it was sent off (or read out), and WHAT the result was. You could also add HOW MANY words and a brief summary. If it’s on the computer, it will be easy to do a “search” for date or title or competition name. This will also act as motivation when you see how many stories (or poems) you have actually written.
Writing Prompts and Exercises for February 2019
- If you are motivated by having a first line, then here’s a good website. You click the button and a first line appears. If you don’t particularly like that one, just keep clicking.
- Go through one of your stories and underline all the adjectives and adverbs. Are they necessary? If they really are necessary, are they the best ones? Or try to find better nouns and stronger verbs.
- Does your story start in the right place? Or does the reader have to plough through backstory before getting to the heart of the matter? Try re-writing your opening paragraph, starting your story in the middle of some action.
- Try something you’ve never done before, like going to a different hairdresser, or a different café, or going in a shop you’d normally never go in, or going to work a different way. I recently had my very first Tarot reading. Well! At least it’s given me ideas for a story! And a new experience might do the same for you.
- Write a story set on Valentine’s Day, when everything goes wrong.
- It’s 50 years since the plane crash that killed American rock and roll musicians Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper. Take the title of one of their hit songs and write a short story based on that title. That’ll be the day; Peggy Sue got married ….and so many more.
- How many New Year Resolutions have gone by the board already? Write a story, or poem, about someone struggling to keep one particular resolution.
- You’re on holiday and you’ve arranged to meet friends in the Red Lion pub in a local village. You arrive on time, but your friends fail to show. But when you get home and see them, they swear they were there, but where were you?
- Make up the background story to a fictitious celebrity: a pop singer, athlete, politician. What was it that drove them to their success?
- Write a page of dialogue between two people, using only questions.
KM Weiland’s blog on whether it may be better to use a single POV rather than multi. There’s also a podcast if you’d prefer to listen. Click here.
New Year prompts
- Look at last year’s writing resolutions. If they were completed – CONGRATULATIONS! If not, try to work out why they weren’t. That’s the first step on deciding on …
- … Your Writing Resolutions for 2019. Up to five, but make sure they are REALISTIC, MEASURABLE and TIMED.
- Do you have a writing file or several? Now is the time to go through them and see what’s there. Throw out any magazines, articles, papers that you really don’t think you’ll be using.
- If you don’t have a picture file, start one.
- Sort through your books. Are you really going to read War and Peace again? Libraries, writing and reading groups, schools, friends and family are all worthy recipients – and they might just get read!
- The same with magazines and newspapers. I know so many writers who confess to having piles of unread magazines. Is that you? I know I glance through a magazine as soon as it arrives in the post. Then, it stays in my in-tray for weeks if not months before I find the time to really read it. Go through your stack and be ruthless – read or discard!
- Find something new for 2019, something to do with writing. It could be a visit to a different writing group, attending an author event, trying a new genre, entering a new competition, introducing a friend or family member to writing, offering to be someone’s writing buddy.
- Do you have a collection of short stories or poems? Make it one of your resolutions to learn about self-publishing to produce your own book. This does not have to be for public consumption: they can just be for your own use, for family and friends. Or, if you do want a wider audience and an income, you can publish to Amazon for free. Start doing some research this month and then formulate a plan for your own book. Perhaps get together with a writing buddy with the same resolution – two heads are better than
Writing Book Recommendations from 2018
Steering the Craft by Ursula K Le Guin
Ursula K Le Guin was an American novelist who died in January 2018, at the age of 88. She wrote fiction, fantasy, children’s literature, poetry, drama, criticism and translation. In 2016, the New York Times described her as America’s greatest living science fiction writer.
Steering the Craft came out of a five-day workshop she taught in 1996 for experienced writers who were “afraid of semicolons and likely to confuse a point of view with a scenic vista.”
If you like reading about how to write, then I would recommend this book. It’s definitely not for beginners and does go quite deeply into things like point of view.
The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing
This book has charts and numbers and lists and formulae – and I know these are not to everyone’s liking! But if I’m stuck at any point, I can usually find something in this book that will clear the way and get me going again – not a bad recommendation! I use their section sheets for everything I write now as they give me a very clear purpose for each section or chapter that I’m planning: goal, action, conflict, outcome, new goal.
Bestseller by Celia Brayfield
An oldie but still well worth reading. Popular novelist and university lecturer Celia Brayfield provides a clear and detailed path to follow for would-be novelists. How stories work, your readers, research and turning pages are some of the chapter titles.
The Weekend Novelist by Robert J Ray and Bret Norris
If you don’t know how to start or you’ve got stuck in the middle, this book will help identify your problems. Plotting, characters and rough drafts are all covered. Includes examples and exercises.
Cracking the Short Story Market by Iain Pattison
This is great for beginners but also excellent as a refresher course, just to dip into whenever a particular problem arises. The most important aspects of story writing are covered e.g. plotting, viewpoint, characterisation etc with a really useful checklist at the end of each chapter.
Make a Scene by Jordan E. Rosenfeld
This book advocates thinking about your stories as a series of scenes. It explains what the purpose is of each scene, what the core elements are, different scene types and more.