Category Archives: Writing Prompts

Day Eight – June 25, 2018 – Ma Maison

If you’ve done the Free Writing Challenge before, you’re probably not surprised to see this eighth prompt in your email inbox. I like to follow the Cajun tradition of lagniappe or a little something extra and give you one more chance to write.

Many of you know that I was in South Louisiana for three weeks, first tending to my mother and her medical needs and then celebrating the life of my dad following his sudden death. As I traveled the backroads of Cajun country, I became fascinated with the wide variety of homes I found there—large, small, new, old, shotguns, mansions—some situated right next door to each other. I began taking photos just for fun.

Those images, some of which I’ve included in this prompt, made me think about the people who called each place home. Who were they? What were they like? Why did they choose these homes? What did their homes say about them? I wondered.

So, let me ask you. Take your current home or one from your past and tell us what this house says about you. Was this a place of your choosing or someone else’s? Did you love or hate those four walls? What history does this home hold for you? What unique feature of this house stands out in your memory? Do you have a particular story associated with some aspect of this home?

These questions should give you plenty to write about, but the power of our writing comes when we focus in on one story and tell it in detail. So that’s my challenge for you today. Use the questions as a springboard to launch you into a narrowly focused story that we can experience as you did. Happy writing.

Day Seven – June 24, 2018 – Sprints

Welcome to day seven. So, what do you think? Has this challenge been helpful to you? I hope it has. I’ve certainly enjoyed reading your stories each day. Even though I haven’t been able to comment on your entries this time around, I’ve been truly impressed with the way everyone has written their responses. It has been my pleasure and privilege to walk with you these few days.

So, on to today’s prompt. You’re either going to love this one or hate it. I hope you love it. I like to do this writing exercise I call sprints. It involves writing with short bursts of energy on given topics. Each sprint lasts only for one minute. When given the topic, just write whatever comes to mind. Don’t put a lot of thought into it and don’t reject anything. Just go with the thought that enters your mind no matter how crazy it may seem.

I am going to give you five words or phrases. After I show you each word, I’ll set a timer and give you exactly one minute to capture your thoughts. Once the sixty-second mark has been reached, the next subject will appear. Got it?

Do you have your pen and paper or laptop ready to go? I urge you not to play the video until you can do the exercise. Even though we love being in control, the element of surprise in this assignment serves a great purpose.

I encourage you to use the video below to give you the topics and keep track of the time for you. If for some reason, you’re not able to watch the video, click here for a document to see the words in the sprint exercise and time yourself. Just don’t scroll down until you are ready to begin. You will see one word per page.

Ready, set, go!

 

 

Day Six – June 23, 2018 – Cats and Dogs

Some folks are dog people, some are cat people. There are those, too, who have no interest in pets whatsoever. In any case, there might a story that explains it.

Write a cat or dog story. What has been your experience in living with a cat or dog? Is there a specific memory that comes to mind? Write about it. Was it funny, sad, scary, irritating?

If you don’t care for dogs or cats as a result of a particular experience, write out what happened. Did this influence your choice in having future pets?

What have you learned from dogs and cats? What is most intriguing? Most frustrating? What do you love most? What kind of relationship have you formed with a cat or dog in your lifetime?

photo credit: eliduke Portland: Luna & Simba at The Jerkstore via photopin (license)

Day Five – June 22, 2018 – I Am a Memory

We all have memories of others. Some memories are tender and treasured. Others are painful and linger longer than we wish. Have you ever thought about being a memory to someone else? Who holds a memory of you?

Perhaps you have written about the many adventurous experiences you had as a young child with a grandparent, sibling, or friend. Have you ever considered how this person might recall you in those same memories?

What is the memory? Focus on a specific memory, a fixed point in time. Play it out on the page. What were you like to them?

Day Four – June 21, 2018 – I’ll Show You How

Could you teach someone how to finger knit in two minutes or less? Could you teach someone how to perfectly dice an onion or how to expertly tie a bow on a package?

Today, I want you to write about what you could teach someone to do in two minutes or less. How would you teach them to do this? Who taught you to do this thing? Is this something that you do every day or once in a while? Why is it important to know how to do this?

I can’t wait to learn about your hidden expertise and talents. 

photo credit: marcoverch Draufsicht von Zwiebeln in einem Sack via photopin (license)

Day Three – June 20, 2018 – My Do

Jim Morrison, songwriter and lead singer of The Doors, once said, “Some of the worst mistakes in my life were haircuts.” Do you relate to that statement?

Today, I want you to write about your hairstyle. What does your hairstyle say about you? Is this a new hairstyle for you or one that’s tried and true?

How has your hairstyle changed over time? Has your hair ever helped you feel a part of a group or disassociated from a group? Have you had a favorite hairstyle representative of a bygone era?

Tell me about your hair through the ages or just one hairstyle you’ll never forget.

photo credit: classroomcamera DSC04478 via photopin (license)

Day Two – June 19, 2018 – I Never Thought I’d Ever

I never thought I’d ever…

Today, I’d like you to complete that sentence.

Write about something you did that you never thought you’d do. What did you do? Why did you do this? How did you feel doing this? How did you feel afterward? Did it change you in any way? What do you think doing this thing says about you? Continue reading

Day Eight – Monday, June 26, 2017 – Sprints

Welcome to day eight. Yes, day eight. Has this challenge been helpful to you? I hope it has. I’ve certainly enjoyed reading your stories each day. Even though I haven’t been able to comment on every entry, I’ve been truly impressed with the way everyone has written their responses. It has been my pleasure and privilege to walk with you these few days.

So, on to today’s prompt. You’re either going to love this one or hate it. I hope you love it. I like to do this writing exercise I call sprints. It involves writing with short bursts of energy on given topics. Each sprint lasts only for one minute. When given the topic, just write whatever comes to mind. Don’t put a lot of thought into it and don’t reject anything. Just go with the thought that enters your mind no matter how crazy it may seem.

I am going to give you five words. After I show you each word, I’ll set a timer and give you exactly one minute to capture your thoughts. Once the sixty-second mark has been reached, the next subject will appear. Got it?

Do you have your pen and paper or laptop ready to go? I urge you not to play the video until you can do the exercise. Even though we love being in control, the element of surprise in this assignment serves a great purpose.

I encourage you to use the video below to give you the topics and keep track of the time for you.

If for some reason, you’re not able to watch the video, you can click here to see the words in the sprint exercise and time yourself. Just don’t scroll down until you are ready to begin. You will see one word per page.

 

Day Seven – Sunday, June 25, 2017 – History Through Objects

I have a 707-page book on my shelf called A History of the World in 100 Objects, compiled by Neil MacGregor from a BBC series of radio programs. All objects featured in both the radio shows and the book are housed in the British Museum in London; MacGregor is the museum’s director.

MacGregor and his staff sought to tell the story of human history from earliest recorded time to the present day, of both ordinary people as well as the rich and powerful. One of the oldest items is a stone chopping tool 1.8-2 million years old. Most recent are #99, a credit card, and #100, a solar-powered lamp and charger. Number 15 is a clay writing tablet from 3100-3000 BC. Writing goes way back.

How does this apply to you? Think of a story you’d like to write, but I want you to tell it using no more than five objects. This could be a story of childhood joys, married life, being a mom or dad, a profession you loved, any story you’d like to capture. Identify each object, give a brief description for those of us who cannot see it, and then write about its significance to you, how that item helps tell your story.

 

photo credit: bluesmoon Cuneiform tablets via photopin (license)

Day Six – Saturday, June 24, 2017 – Set the Stage

In 2012, Paula McLain, author of historical fiction, The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun, and the memoir, Like Family: Growing Up in Other People’s Houses, taught a master class about setting at Rollins College. My assistant Catheryne, before I knew her, attended that master class, and I sat in the audience, observing.

During the class, McLain encouraged the students to consider setting as another character in their story because many times, the where is as important as the who, what, when, and why. We often focus on telling the story and neglect the container in which the story rests. Settings matter, in how we grew up and in our stories of today.

For today’s prompt, let’s chew on Bite #81, The Place Where It All Happens, from my book, Eating an Elephant: Write Your Life One Bite at a Time:

You have many ways to describe the location where your story takes place. There’s always the physical description, but don’t be satisfied with what can be seen. Think about smells, sounds, and the feel of the place. What objects are there? What is the weather like? What’s the season of the year? What is the locale’s historical background? Are people part of the setting, e.g., crowds, street vendors? Are animals involved? What is the mood like? The lighting? All of these elements may be helpful in describing your setting.

Think about an important place where you spent time as a child and one thing that happened there. Take a few minutes and make a list of all the characteristics of your setting. Once you have finished, start writing your story.