June 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.
- Write a piece that begins with the delivery of news.
- 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.
- Next, choose a message to be delivered. What does the message say? Who sends it? Who receives it? Who announces it? Who hears it?
- What happens next?
- 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
- On an index card, write two messages in the style of a telegram: clear and concise.
- 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.
June 4, 2014. Prompt #35
Today’s prompt follows up yesterday’s post on artist Gary Hirsh’s Bot Joy interactive mural. Learn more about the mural here and at #botstories.
- Writing for five minutes, list people, situations, activities, and emotions that you are afraid of. For instance, mine would include gondola rides, small planes, glass elevators and global climate change. (I also think clowns are creepy, but I’m not actually afraid of them.)
- Next, for fifteen minutes, choose one of the items above and write about it in details. Include large and small descriptive details and well as emotional ones.
- Write about something that is both scary and pleasant, perhaps at different times or at the same time. (Mine would be light houses.)
- Write about a fear you’ve overcome or a new fear that didn’t used to bother you.
Variations for Writing Groups
- As suggested above, write about a time you experienced fear. Re-reading what you have written, circle twelve to fifteen of your strongest or most surprising words and phrases. Re-write them all on a new piece of paper to create a poem or prose poem.
- Using a story, essay, or poem you are currently writing or revising, work in a moment of fear. How does this enrich the work?
- Write a piece that combines fear and joy.
June 3, 2014. Prompt #34
Last month in Boulder, artist Gary Hirsh of Bot Joy painted an interactive mural at the northeast corner of Arapahoe and 13th Street, near the Farmer’s Market. The mural poses several introspective questions of its viewers. You can find out more about the mural here and at #botstories.
For today and tomorrow’s prompt, we’ll work with two of the “bot prompts.” Feel free to draw your own bot to complement your writing!
- For five minutes, free write about joy. Include whatever associations, people, places, activities—general or specific, arise.
- Next, for fifteen minutes, focus in on a time when you were filled with joy. Include the both large and small details of the setting, who you were with, what was happening around you and inside you. Include sensory details. Did the joy last for days, hours, or just a moment? Had you worked to create it or had it unexpectedly emerged?
- Write about a time when you experienced unexpected or fleeting joy.
- Write about daily small joys that you try to cultivate in your life.
Variations for Writing Groups
- As suggested above, write about a time you experienced unexpected or fleeting joy. Re-reading what you have written, circle twelve to fifteen of your strongest or most surprising words and phrases. Re-write them all on a new piece of paper to create a poem or prose poem.
- Using a story, essay, or poem you are currently writing or revising, work in a moment of profound joy. How does this enrich the work?
June 2, 2014. Prompt #33
As a writer, I am often asked, “Where do you find your inspiration?” That question always surprises me, as I find inspiration everywhere. In this week’s posts, I’ll offer a variety of people, places, and instances that may inspire you. Using your writer’s notebook, track what engages you throughout the day.
Last week, writer, performer, professor, and activist Dr. Maya Angelou died. My Facebook feed was filled with tributes and quotes. This was among my favorites: Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.
- For five minutes, free write about the word courage. Include whatever associations—people, places, situations—arise.
- Next, for ten minutes, write about a time when you acted courageously, in either word or action, either big or small.
- Write about a time when you (or your character) were not as courageous as you wished you’d been. Was there a time when you missed an opportunity to act courageously?
- My father used a say, “Discretion is the better part of valor” (originally “The better part of valoris discretion,” from Shakespeare’s Henry IV.) Write about the difference between valor and courage and the complexity of courageous acts.
Variations for Writing Groups
- On an index card, write a short description of a real or imagined courageous act.
- Place the cards in the middle of the table and choose one to write about for 15 minutes.
- Discuss the power of big vs. understated courageous acts. What are the challenges of writing about each of them?