Friday, May 15, 2009

A writing prompt

I have been reading a lot about the process of writing lately.  While looking through different websites I have come across what they call, writing prompts.  A writing prompt is when someone starts a story for you and you have to finish it.  It is supposed to be for people who can't find anything to write about.  

I think that most of the ones I have seen are very boring.  They do not inspire me at all.  I think that I could write  much better prompts than the ones that I have seen.  

As a matter-of-fact, I thought of one last night.  For some reason, I thought of it after reading  the following sentence in Thomas Hardy's book,  Far From the Madding Crowd.  "...he saw a cat inside,  going into various arched shapes and fiendish convulsions."  

Okay, here is my prompt:

Goody Smith has just laid the dinner on the table.  Dogood,  Amity,  and Purity waited for Papa to come in from his study where he was writing a particulary fiery sermon.  After they had all gotten settled,  said grace, and were just getting ready to eat, their cat Tib suddenly sprang onto the middle of the table, sat down and began happily and noisily licking it's nether regions.  Father looked at it for a moment, his face turning red.  Then he swiped it violently from the table and said loudly,    "...........


X. Dell said...

Well, this is a better prompt than "It was a dark and stormy night."

Author Rinda Elliot used to feature a ton of exercises intended to jumpstart writing projects. You might want to check out her site and her archives.

Regarding your previous post, I cn understand where you're coming from with respect to Trinity and Joia. Sometimes, you embark upon a story with no agenda or path in sight. Then, you get the idea that you should bring this in, bring that in, dump this, change that, and so on. Then it gets to the point where you really want to plan the pacings and the intros a little better, and you get tired of adressing every single change At some point, it's just eaasier to start over.

I have a couple of stories like that. And I had a sense that you might want to redo that story when you changed the names of your protagonists. Still, the story is an adventure. Your previous version might turn out to be a very valuable first draft.

behindblueeyes said...

Thank you x. You said it very well. I really loved writing Tragedy and Joy and it was such a disappointment to me when it finally 'got away' from me. But I can see now that it is all just part of the writing process. I do plan to go back to it someday exactly as you say, I don't think that the parts that I already wrote are completely wasted though they will have to be heavily modified.

Plus, the characters are children and won't grow up to become adults during the book. Hence, Joy would not marry, Tragedy would not move away and become a wizard and come back etc..Brian the dragon actually ended up as my favorite character.

Another thing is, I used that mock english novel sort of voice when I wrote it. Once, when I was playing with it, I tried to take it out and stop writing with it because it may be a little cheesy, but when I did, a lot of the charm of the story went with it. But when I use it, its really hard to maintain it and make it keep sounding sincere and it gets too phony sometimes. I think that is what I would really have to work out. I have the feeling that I can probably do it if I really try, but it will take a light touch.

Another thing with the book, is my characters got very wooden. I've been studying novels and books about novels too help me to learn the techniques for showing your characters better. They all say show don't tell, but I think you have to tell sometimes too. But maybe that is because I have always read so many english novels.

So many of my favorite novels have started out Tragedy was a small dark girl with a perpetual frown who lived in a small village called Rubia, where everyone hated her. According to what I read, you are not supposed to start out this way. You are supposed to start out with action. I guess they mean something like this.

"Tragedy was walking home from school. A stone skimmed off her head and a jeering voice called out, "Tragedy sucks!"

It was Blob, the boy who sat in front of her in school. Tragedy put her head down and let her long black hair fall over her face so that he couldn't see that she was about to cry.

It seems to me that the first one does not bring you right into the story the way the second one does, just as they say. But on the other hand, the second one loses the sly, clever quality.'s clever but that's because I'm being silly, if I wasn't being silly it would be normal and lose its personality. I wonder if there is a way to combine the two somehow, it's so hard to find that light touch. Probably the way to write it would be to write the whole thing heavy handed, just get it down and then go back and tweak it.

Then there is the debate, do we entirely outline the whole novel before we even start? Or do we just dive in and see what happens. It seems with me, I can't come up with anything at all unless I just dive in. But then it changes completely when I'm about halfway through, I have a completely new idea and have to start over, but now I've got almost a complete outline. I would bet that is the most common, wouldn't you?

Well, sorry, I'm really thinking out loud here. Hope I wasn't too boring.

BBC said...

I have been reading a lot about the process of writing lately...

Why? Because you want other monkeys opinions of how you should write?

Hell lady, just write what you want to write, or what is trying to flow through you.

behindblueeyes said...

writing is something someone has to learn just like anything else, like building a house or cooking a meal. If I just wrote it the way it came out it would suck.

X. Dell said...

Writing is both an art and a craft. Like acting or playing the sax, it's an easy thing to do badly. Nobody's born a writer. It's a skill just like any other. Telling someone not to study it is like telling someone to just solve a differential equation without any background in calculus. Some people can do this, yes. But that person is quite rare.

The re-writing of that first line is a case of good craftsmanship. It humorously shows what people think of Tragedy, and that reflects better on whom she is than in the original passage.

Finding your voice is a bit more difficult. I have developed so many (one for freelance writing, one for the blog, one for academic papers, one for screenplays, a completely different one for novels) that they're hard to keep track of, sometimes. Your non-fiction voice is fine and relaxed. Maybe that might be a part of your natural writing voice, I don't know. But wherever and whenever you find it, I hope you don't have to look very far.

behindblueeyes said...

Thank you for saying that about my non-fictionvoice. I really needed to hear someone say that. As for my fiction voice, I think when I find it, is when I will finally be able to write.

I figure that knowing when your wrong is a good indication of having a sense of what is right and probably being able to find it one day. And just like the sentence about Tragedy that I wrote shows, reading about writing is helping me see what I am doing wrong.

I don't really read as much fiction as some people might think I do, given that I read so much. And a lot of the things that I do read are older, which is why I have trouble I think. So many of the things that I read break all the rules. And if you write like that yourself, you sound very phony, even if it's your natural writing style.

Anyway, they tell you that you are supposed to read a lot of the thing s being written now to get a 'feel for the market'. So, I least I've been looking at them, I usually don't finish them. And I'm surprised at how awful so much of it is.

It's truly awful. That's why I don't finish it. I can't.

Of course, some of the things I've been looking at are kids books since thats what I will probably write and they are just horrible.

Maybe if I would have read them a long time ago instead of all of the 'literature' I read, I would have had the confidence to begin writing sooner.

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