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Write Fiction with a Story Prompt

I am a big fan of story prompts whether they consist of a word, a sentence, an idea, or a photo. The story prompt serves as a launch pad for creativity and it prompts the writer to see inward, consider possibilities, and think how the reader will respond.

On Steemit, the #freewrite group of writers tackles a daily story prompt provided by @mariannewest. Nearly 250 writers participate by writing whatever comes to mind in five minutes. Some of the output rambles around as the writer latches onto a prompt. Other writing comes away seemingly polished regardless of the writer using The Most Dangerous Writing App, a sadistic writing tool promising to give you the finished work as long as you don’t stop writing. Pause for only a second and it eats your words! Needless to say, I am not a fan. I am all for writing as fast as you can and throwing it away. However, I do like to read it first.

Amazon offers a number of writing prompt books. Writers Digest serves up a weekly offering of Creative Writing Prompts. Even if you choose not to write something to fit that prompt, each one often leads to another idea.

Sometimes an entirely random idea pops in my head, which then leads to a story. I read about a white Redwood “ghost tree” standing on the coast of California. A few days later I heard a lawyer complaining about a long deposition – a pre-interview of a witness. This led me to combining the Redwood with a deposition to write A Moment of Pure Truth. I like to think this story might not have started without the story prompt.

I make a habit of writing at least 500 words in the morning. Some of it is trash; bits of ideas and random observations. Some of it ends up in my Scribbles or Conversations. Most of it ends up deleted. Every once in a while, I find a random idea or sentence that might make a story. I then use this idea for further writing later in the day or week.

Story Prompts in the Wild

  • You can ask your friends and family for a prompt. What is the first word you can think of? They will probably wonder why you asked, but they can always read the final draft.
  • An editor may also give you a prompt. I will pay a lot of clams if you write about a physicist who hates the weird and wonderful world of science. Yeah, I can do that.
  • Read the newspaper. Discounting the threat of “fake news” what better place than the newspaper to prompt your next story? Some of the best mysteries start out as news headlines.

Wherever a story prompt comes from it is bound to result in something you can use. If anything, you can always shake out the cobwebs and get on to the real writing.

Leave me a reply and let me know what you think. All feedback helps me get better.

Oh, the Amazon Link sends me a commission.
Photo by Amber Holmes. Used with permission (She’s my cousin!).


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Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic

I occasionally offer up my writing advice. My personal routine centers around writing at least 500 words or just anything for me everyday. This could be fiction, poetry, a chat-story, or just scribbles. I am a professional writer of non-fiction. Putting up a word count of 2,000 words takes little effort. Of course, most of those words focus on how-to, technical, and specialty writing.

Writing comes natural and I enjoy it. However, those 500 words of just anything can prove a challenge. Think of writing with your non-dominant hand; the letters scrawl out, but they may not be easy to read.

Which takes me to my topic of Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic.

These topics took center stage in our K-12 learning. They were what the teacher started off with in the grade school classes, and then there were specialized classes in high school and college. Sometimes they made sense. Other times, they were a mishmash. The first two subjects – Reading and Writing – came pretty easy. Math ended up being my weak point. So, I’ll start with Reading and Writing.

writing adviceReading – Learning to identify patterns, techniques, plots, and story elements come from reading. Read as much as you can. I think the best writers spend more time reading than writing. Reading sparks ideas for your writing. For instance, the other day I was reading a technical article on generating oxygen on Mars. The article centered on making rocket fuel so Martians could get to Earth. I thought about terraforming; using oxygen to create an atmosphere. And if you could create oxygen, you could probably mix in other gases.

Reading helps you learn creativity. For instance, in poetry there are forms for verse, syllable, and rhyme. Most of these you need to learn to write them. A mystery has certain elements a writer must include. Now, you can learn about these various forms by studying the patterns, or you can learn them by reading. The creative spark comes through when a writer reads a novel, poem, or short story from start to finish. They start to see what the writer was attempting or the turns needed to get to the final denouncement. Basically, you can learn the various forms, but you don’t really understand them until you see the inspiration behind the words.

writing adviceWriting – Papa Hemingway used to say you had to just write with no stopping whatever came into your head. And then throw it away. Sort of like running oil through an engine, a writer must lubricate the keyboard to get everything moving. Now, I tend to think some of that literary lubrication can be saved. But if it is good enough, you’ll come back to it again. Like reading, writing must be done everyday. You have to put the words down on paper, or screen, so they can lead you to other paragraphs.

And try different forms. I try a different style or writing when I am practicing to give me the courage to break the rules. You can’t stick to just one style because it will become rote. Practice foreign ways to set up a story so you will have the confidence to try different styles when it counts. You may not like how the story is going. That is fine, because you will soon now how you like to write. Just mix it up so you have a reason to write everyday.

writing adviceArithmetic – You are on your own here. I know how to find a word count. And I remember the PEDMAS formula so I can do those fun math quizzes that stump others. I learned statistics because it’s the best way to catch someone in a lie. But I couldn’t spend time on algebraic equations because I don’t have the patience. Besides, I’m a writer, what do I need math for. (Oh yeah, those paychecks for word count.)

Diving into brain science, working a math equation, or puzzle, helps with your creativity. You use a different side of your brain, which causes you to jump out of your writing orientation and into problem solving. This is perfect for anyone trying to think up a new plot point.

So, yes, even math has its use to a writer.

 

Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic all form the basics of education. You really need all three to discover better ways to build a story, express yourself, and collect a paycheck. Build upon them to become a better writer.


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