A Tip of the Hat

Me and my pal Magic goofing around with hats at the costume shop at the University of Colorado many years ago.

Me and my pal Magic goofing around at the costume shop at the University of Colorado many years ago.

May 28, 2014  Prompt #28

Bonnets, boaters, and bowlers. Berets and beanies. Sombreros. Stetson’s. Stovepipes. Fedoras. Fezzes. Fisherman’s caps. Coal miner helmets. Army helmets. Bike helmets.

Yes, today’s prompt is all about hats.  With their long and rich history, writing about hats can enrich characterization, provoke memories, and, again, ground your writing with specific, sensory details. Hat’s off and let’s go!

Instructions

  1. Choose a hat–yours or someone else’s–for this exercise. While it is best to have a physical hat to hold and feel, you can, alternately, look at headgear on Wikipedia or check out The Hat Blog for inspiration.
  2. Have your hat? For five minutes, write a physical and factual description of  its style, color, and condition. Write briefly about where, when and how you acquired it. If you are looking of a photo of the hat, you can imagine its history .
  3. Next, write the psychological and emotional history of the hat. Do you put it on for practical or stylish reasons? How do you feel wearing it? Do you associate the hat with a person, place, or stage of your life?  Tell your story.

Further Writing

  • Write a poem about your hat. Capture a small slice of time or a specific emotion associated with the hat. Include two or more of these words: mirror, door, sun, eyes, breeze, sturdy, light, other, tilt.
  • Write about trying on the hat of someone who has died.
  • Write about someone who is incomplete without their hat. Tell us how it transforms them.

Variations for Writing Groups

  1. Each member brings one or two hats to writing group. Take turns trying them on and snapping photos of each other with a digital camera. Choose one of the photos as your springboard and write from there.
  2. You are walking on a beach, on a city sidewalk, or in an open meadow. A stiff wind blows a hat your way and it lands two feet in front of you.  What do you do (0r what does your character do?)? Include sensory details, such as texture, temperature, and sounds.

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

To A “T” [or Don’t Sweat It]

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Here’s me wearing my brother Bill’s Goddard Sweatshirt in the late 1970’s. Twenty years later, I’d choose Goddard for my M.F.A in Writing Program.

May 27, 2014  Prompt #27

It’s Day Two of The Writeous Sisters’ Clothing Week.  Today’s prompt can help you ground your writing with specific, sensory details and make stronger connections between the physical and philosophical.

Inspriational Attire

The weather is warming up here in Colorado and I’m finally switching out my fleece and wool for cotton. Because I live in a small house, I store bins of off-season clothes in my garage and swap them out twice a year.  It’s become a seasonal ritual, a time to contemplate the passage of time and cycles of life. It’s also a practical opportunity to donate or recycle clothes that are worn out or that I rarely wear.  The clothes  I have the hardest time parting with, even when they are stained or frayed, are T-shirts. So many of them are associated with a specific time or place in my life.

Instructions

  1. Choose a well-loved T-shirt or sweatshirt with a logo, image, or text on it. Or, find a photo of you wearing a favorite T-shirt. Conversely, you can choose one that you dislike or feel ambivalent about but still have kept.
  2. For five minutes, write a physical and factual description of the shirt. Describe its style, color, and condition. Where, when and how did you acquire it?
  3. Next, write the psychological and emotional history of the shirt. How do you feel wearing it? Proud, hardworking, part of a team? Nostalgic or bittersweet? Do you associate the shirt with a person, place, or stage of your life?  Tell your story.

Further Writing

  • If you are currently working on a novel, consider how clothing factors into it. Do any of the characters wear T-shirts? Can you deepen characterization by including one?
  • Write about a child who outgrows a favorite T-shirt.

Variations for Writing Groups

  1. Each member brings in one or two T-shirts. You can write about the shirt you brought or someone else’s.
  2. Imagine discovering this T-shirt in a box of old beach towels after not seeing it for 10 or 20 years. Write for 20 minutes. Considerations: Is the T-shirt yours or someone else’s? Where did you last see it? How does it smell? Do you try it on?

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

A Pair of Shoes

red reeboksMay 26, 2014  Prompt #26

It’s Clothing Week here at The Writeous Sisters.  All the prompts will help you connect the physical with the abstract and delve into the story of objects everywhere.

Well-Shod

Last year, the University of Colorado’s Museum of Natural History hosted “To Feel The Earth,” an exhibit about the history and tradition of moccasins among the indigenous peoples of the American Southwest. I was moved to learn about the spiritual connection that comes from feeling  soil, rocks, and grasses through the soles of our shoes. Similarly, phrases like “walk a mile in another man’s shoes” and “boots on the ground” speak the the power and symbol of shoes.

Instructions

  1. Choose a pair of shoes that you currently own or that you remember vividly.
  2. For five minutes, write down the facts of these shoes. Describe their style and color. Did you buy them new? Find them a thrift store? Did someone give them to you? When did you begin wearing them? Are they worn or still look like new?
  3. Next, write their (and your) story.  How did you feel wearing them? Athletic, stylish, sexy, competent, ashamed? Do you associate a particular person, place, or stage of your life with them?  Do you polish them? Have you thread in new laces? Did you ever get them repaired? Do you still own them? Did you outgrow them or give them away?

Further Writing

  • In poetry or micro fiction, write about strapping on or lacing up for a memorable outing in the shoes. Keep your descriptions and narrative tight.
  • As today is Memorial Day, write about a pair of Army boots.

Variations for Writing Groups

  1. Each member brings in two pairs of shoes (or photos of shoes).
  2. Each member writes descriptions of people written on separate index cards. (For instance, “Ten-year old girl, raised in Chicago, visiting New Hampshire for the first time.” “Middle-aged woman returning to an office job after 10 years working at home.”  “Wyoming car mechanic, getting ready for a date, two years after his wife has died.)
  3. Match up people with shoes. Write for 20 minutes.

See the following post “Twelve Black Shoes” for my shoe story.

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

Precipitation [Part Two]

May 24, 2014  Prompt #24

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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.