Breaking News

telegramJune 9, 2014.  Prompt #40

I just finished binge watching marathon viewing four seasons of Downtown Abbey. The very first episode opens with a close-up of a telegraph in motion, complete with taps and beeps as the operator sends a message. The telegraph not only grounds the story in history (in this case, 1912) but also conveys the urgency of the news being sent.


  1. Write a piece that begins with the delivery of news.
  2. Start with an object of communication, for instance, a television, computer, or newspaper. You could choose a newer form of communication, such as an email, text, or Skype call, or one from the past—a telegram, letter on the Pony Express, or a phone call on a party line.
  3. Next, choose a message to be delivered. What does the message say? Who sends it? Who receives it? Who announces it? Who hears it?
  4. What happens next?

Further Writing

  • If you wrote about bad news, write a second version with good news or ambiguous news. If you wrote about good news, try making it disturbing or unclear. What is the effect on the tension, tone, or pacing of your piece?
  • Slow down the action. Record in detail the moment that the news is received. Describe in detail in the surroundings, the sounds, the smells and the textures.

Variation for Writing Groups

  1. On an index card, write two messages in the style of a telegram: clear and concise.
  2. Place the cards in the middle of the table. Either deliberately or at random, choose one and write in response to it. Write for 20 minutes.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s