Super Star

June 30, 2014  Prompt #59

star night

Today’s prompt follows up on yesterday’s Sunday Shape-Up which starred stars.

Further Writing

  • Use one of these phrases as your prompt: Gold Stars. Hollywood Star. Star struck. Starburst. Star of David. Star of Bethlehem. Star-crossed.
  • Write in response to the painting Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh. Imagine you are in the painting. Imagine you are painting the painting.

 

Variations for Writing Groups

  1. If you meet at night, find a safe but dark area from which to view the sky. Without writing, look at the stars for 5 full minutes. Then, using the minimal amount of light needed, write down impressions and sensations.
  2. Repeat.
  3. Inside, follow-up by circling a favorite phrase from your notes and using it as your first line. Write for 20 minutes.
  4. If it isn’t possible to see the night sky during your writing group, look at a photo of the night sky here. Choose one of the photos and write in response to it for 20 minutes.

 

By The Sea

June 17, 2014.  Prompt #47

DSCN0600

I’ve been steadily editing a novel of mine that takes place at a beach. Even while I am typing away here in landlocked Colorado, much of my brain has relocated to a Jersey Shore beach town circa 1993.

For today’s prompt, therefore, we’ll work with words associated with oceans, bays, beaches and shorelines. May a wave of creativity wash over you.

(For those of you who have been reading this blog closely, you’ll see this is a variation on the post “Plant.”)

 

Instructions

  1. Choose nine words from this list: bay, beach, boat, bob, breakers, bright, brisk, dive, dolphin, dunes, fish, foot prints, kite, life guard, nap, salt, sand, shell, shore, swim, tan, tide, umbrella, wave.
  2. Using the nine words and others of your own, write a nine line poem.
  3. Write for 9 minutes.

Further Writing

  • Use the same nine words and write a piece that has nothing to do with beaches. Write for 15 minutes.
  • Choose one of the verbs from the list and use it in a poem or piece of short prose nine times. Vary it at least three times, using different forms of the verb.  For instance, if you choose dive, try using also using dives, diving, dove, or diver. Write for 15 minutes.

Variation for Writing Groups

  1. Choose one or two words from the list which are both noun and verb. Play with those combinations in a short piece. This is a chance to use repetition in a deliberate way. Write for 15 minutes.
  2. Choose words from the lists that have more than one definition, such as wave, bob, shell, or tan. Write a piece that makes use of their multiple meanings.
  3. Read your writing out loud. What do you notice about its rhythm and pacing?

Next Week

Two of next week’s prompts will focus on editing and revision.  To prepare, find a story, poem, or essay to revisit.  You can use a rough draft or a polished piece with which you are willing to experiment.

 

Plant

June 11, 2014.  Prompt #42

garden bed

For the last six weeks I’ve been working on my flower bed, vegetable garden, and planters. Spring gardening is annual ritual that is sometimes hectic as I work to get soil turned and amended, seeds and seedlings planted, and everything watered in between bouts of rain and sometimes snow. Mostly, though, it is just plain joyous to get my hands in the soil and start the starts off on their new lives.

For today’s prompt, we’ll work with words associated with plants and planting. May your writing bud and blossom!

Instructions

  1. Choose nine words from this list: bed, beet, bloom, bury, dig, dry, fruit, iris, leaf, peas, pepper, pollen, rain, rock, root, seed, soil, sow, sprout, squash, stem, sun, trim, turn, water, weed, wilt.
  2. Using the nine words and others of your own, write a nine line poem.
  3. Write for 9 minutes.

Further Writing

  • Use the same nine words and write a piece that has nothing to do with gardening. Write for 15 minutes.
  • Choose one of the verbs from the list and use it in a poem or piece of short prose nine times. Vary it at least three times, using different forms of the verb.  For instance, if you choose dig, try using also using digs, digging, dug, or digger. Write for 15 minutes.

Variation for Writing Groups

  1. Choose one or two of the words from the list which are both noun and verb. Play with those combinations in a short piece. This is a chance to use repetition in a deliberate way. Write for 15 minutes.
  2. Choose words from the lists that have more than one definition, such as bed, pepper, or iris. Write a piece that makes use of their multiple meanings.
  3. Read your writing out loud. What do you notice about its rhythm and pacing?

 

Precipitation [Part Two]

May 24, 2014  Prompt #24

Photo

 

 

Twenty-four hours later and, again, it’s raining.

Good reason to expand on yesterday’s prompt.

If you haven’t read it already, do that first, then try these variations.

 

 

Further Writing

  • Apply personification (the assignment of human attributes to objects, abstract notions, or, in this case, weather) to a rain storm. Describe a storm, drizzle, or intermittent rain in terms of anger, generosity, fickleness or another human condition.  This option lends itself well to poetry and flash fiction. Write for 10 minutes.
  •  Write about someone waiting  rain. Describe the person’s actions without dialogue or conversation.

Variations for Writing Groups

  1. On separate index cards, each member writes down two emotions or feelings, such as frustration, joy, relief, trepidation, boredom, etc.,
  2. On a second set of cards, write down words associated with rain, such as thunder claps, puddles, windshield wipers, boots, rain jacket, flood, soaked, partly cloudy, etc.
  3. Keep the words in separate piles, face down so you can’t see the words written on them.
  4. Each member chooses one word from each pile and, from there, writes for 15 minutes. Unlikely pairings often make for the best writing, so resist the temptation to choose different words if yours seem unwieldy.

What did you think of this writing prompt? Share your thoughts.

 

Precipitation

May 23, 2014  Prompt #23

PhotoLast night, I saw Venus in Fur at Denver’s Curious Theater. As an accompaniment to the show’s vigorous, changeable dialogue, the production included a thunderstorm. As I write this, back in Boulder, we’re having real live downpour, complete with rumbling thunder and flashbulb-style lightning.  All this to say: Rain is on my mind. Its tension and variability (from mist to an out-and-out thunderstorm) can enrich your writing. Yes, if mishandled, it can become a cliche, but with practice, rain (and other weather events) can skillfully drive action or accentuate tone.

Instructions

  1. Describe a light drizzle, steady downpour,  late afternoon thunderstorm, or another kind of rain. Be sure to include sensory details, such as sound and smell, as well as the setting.  (Rain in a city or desert is different than rain on a beach or against a farm house.) Write for 10 minutes.
  2. Next, write a conversation that includes either a) someone making a difficult request of someone else  or b) two or three people arguing about something minor as a way to avoid a larger issue or conflict.  Write for 10 minutes.
  3. Next (you guessed it), combine the two. Feel free to adjust the dialogue or the rain to better fit each other. Write for 15 minutes.

A Few Thoughts

  1. How does the pace, intensity, and style of rain magnify or delineate the conversation?
  2. Does the rain stop and start? How does that effect the action?
  3. How do your characters react to the rain? Do they hide under trees, shut windows, place pots and pans to collect drips?

Tomorrow: Further Writing and Variations for Writing Groups

What did you think of this writing prompt? Share your thoughts.

 

Interview With A Plant

curly cup gumweed

May 3, 2014  •  Exercise #2
15 to 20 minutes

Getting Started

I just got off the phone with a long-time writing friend who reminded me about this playful writing exercise: “Interview with a Plant.”

I first wrote from this prompt on a hike sponsored by Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks. The instructions were to sit near a plant and “interview it,” posing questions in order to increase our awareness and appreciation. For instance, “Why do you grow in this particular place?” “Does any animal nibble on you?” etc.

After listening to the instructions, I asked, “And what if the plant answers?” The group laughed, but I decided to give voice to the plant — in this case, a Curly Cup Gumweed.

At the end of this post is my interview, which you can read before or after you write your own  interview. Choose whatever plant appeals to you — from a towering tree to creeping moss to an indoor spider plant.

Writing Tips:

  • Spending two minutes staring intently at the plant. Move around it. Look at it from above and below, if possible.
  • Make use of your senses. Touch its leaves, stem or branches. Listen with your eyes closed. Sniff.
  • Aim for six to ten questions.
  • Find an interview style that suits you. Need ideas? Imagine you are a reporter from the Washington Post or from a small town local news station or an elementary school newspaper. How would your questions differ if you were writing for the Sierra Club, Midwest Living, or Agriculture Week? What would Oprah ask this plant, what would Steven Colbert ask, what would you ask?

Again, if you are currently working on a book, you might pose your questions from the point of view of one of your characters or connect it to a theme you are already exploring.

How This Prompt Can Strengthen Your Writing

  1. It may help you break through writing resistance and start writing.
  2. It offers a point-of-view you might not have considered before.
  3. It’s a brain-stretcher!
  4. It encourages you to be outside and connect with nature, which, in my book, is always a good thing.

Follow-Up

Take one of your interview questions and rewrite it at the top of a new page. Expanding upon it, write for 15 more minutes. Be fanciful, seek metaphors, incorporate it into a larger story or go off into a whole other direction.

Have fun and have at it. Ready, set, write!

Ellen

Interview with a Curly Cup Gumweed
© Ellen Orleans 2009

Q. For the record, what is your official name?
A. Grindelia squarrosa. This is your language, not ours.

Q. Why are you gummy?
A. To trap aphids and weevils. To screen the ultra violet. To stick in your thoughts.

Q. Why are your petals yellow?
A. To entice the bees. To thank the sun.

Q. Why are your leaves serrated?
A. I once was in love with a plant named Holly.

Q. The scent of your resin reminds me of the Ponderosa Pine. Are you related?
A. She grows not far from here.

Q. Why do you have curly tendrils on your globe?
A. To spread the resin. To entrap our enemies. To honor our ancestors, the furled fern.

Q. But why are they so beautiful?
A. To whet your wonder. You marvel, don’t you?

Q. Yes.
A. Yes.

Q. How do you feel when children push your sticky cups together?
A. Their fingers will remember us all day.

Q. What’s inside your globe?
A. Milky stems. Pearl bulbs. My flesh. Fields to be.