Let’s dive right in and play with words. Today’s words will involve something that goes by way too fast and that we can almost always use more of. Choose your scene and who knows, it might be spun into a novel.
Your character has suffered a great loss and has hit rock bottom. It is at that moment that a mysterious phone call during which someone describes an object that can give you powers to control time. It will be dangerous to retrieve it, but your character might be willing to risk it. Write this scene.
Your main characters suffers lapses in memory. He thinks he’s crazy, and so does everybody else. This changes when he gets attacked by an intruder and freezes time. The plot thickens when the intruder seems to have been sent by someone who knows about what he can do…and wants him dead. Write this scene.
Someone your character thought was dead, shows up. That’s not even the weird part. He claims to have travelled through time in order to give you an important message. Write this scene.
You tear up as you write the final sentence and then you jump out of your chair to do a happy dance. All those anti-social days, the times you forgot to drink water and to go to bed are worth it. You’ve finally finished your first draft. Your story is ready to simmer before the re-reading starts, followed by the editing. Such a feeling of relief because all your hard work has produced something that you’re happy with. (Or maybe not, it depends on how good you are at first drafts.)
This means, though, that you’ve entered the stage called The Pause. This is the part where you leave your novel alone for about 2-4 weeks before looking at it with fresh eyes (depending on your patience). The day that you finish the draft is indeed a celebration, but for me, the days after that are tricky. I mean, what’s a writer supposed to do without characters to play with? My mind and heart are still in the world of my last WIP and my mind is still working on it in the background. I therefore find it hard to open the door to a new novel. Still, how could I possibly go without writing for even more than a few days? I feel empty and bored without the possibility of spending time with fictional characters. And so, besides from sleep (or a coma), my only resolution is working on short stories and writing prompts. Also, it can help to work on a new idea for a novel even if your head isn’t ready, because by the time that you are you will at least have something. Even if it is crap.
So, if you’re in the same paper boat as I am…Jump aboard for some short story fun so we can keep on sailing over our creative juices and enjoy purple dolphins and birds made out of Skittles.
Lots of things hold the reader’s attention, but what helps the most is having a story that is unpredictable. I don’t mean random, but just hard to predict. ‘What will happen next?’ is the question that will keep the reader hooked. One of the best ways to do that is by adding a twist, either one big one, or several small ones. Just when you think it’s going one way, do the opposite. You might surprise yourself.
1) The Secret
Every character has a secret, whether a small one or a big one. Write a scene where another character is close to finding out your character has a secret. There are clues and they think they have it figured out until your character confesses something completely different.
As always your female character gets hit by her husband after a night out with his lads. She expects this even though she tries to avoid it. It goes down as it always does, until something unexpected happens. You decide what that is.
3) The Interview
Most people have had interviews in their life and there are certain expectations that come with it. Have your character go to an interview. Only this interview has a little twist.
4) The Meeting
A meeting for addicts. Or is it? What exactly is this meeting? Make it clear through dialogue. What are these characters talking about, and why have they formed a group for it. Reveal it until the very end of the scene.
5) The Jumper
Your character stumbles upon someone who is about to jump. They do their best to talk that person down. But is the person really a jumper? Is their meeting really a coincidence? What is going on here? And what will happen next…
Have fun and surprise yourself!
Some things are better left unsaid is a saying, right? It could mean that some things we are better off not knowing, but in this case I’ll take it that showing can be better than telling. This set of writing prompts is about how the unspoken can be used to benefit a character, give them some depth with subtlety. Saying things out loud can sometimes make things seem trivial and in this case we’ll use that to our advantage. Oh, the wonderful life of a writer! Let’s play with some imaginary friends…
Showing respect for a friend is best done by actually showing respect. Your character is the friend of an eccentric writer with mental issues. Without being asked to friend regularly shows up and helps out the writer with little things. Show one of these acts of kindness and how both characters respond to this act. Feel free to add a flashback to show the depth of their relationship, but keep the dialogue to a minimum, or at least avoid deep conversations.
Two colleagues, one (dangerous?) job, and one secret. Drop two characters and a moral dilemma on the page. One character (A) knows more about the other, because of a secret where A is the victim and B the perpetrator. Were they thrown together by fate? Or was it all planned from the start? Either way, A is now in a position to strike a blow, figuratively speaking or literally, that’s up to you. A lot of time has passed, however, and the victim has seen another side to B. Can he/she do what his/her darker side wants him/her to do? Why does he/she want revenge anyway? Make it interesting. A plot twist might not hurt.
Character A is in love with Character B, but Character B has just started dating Character C. How does A show (against his/her will) jealousy? Does B pick up on this? If so, how does B handle this? You can make A an extremely proud or shy character. How will A handle this new development without being able to say what A feels? Perhaps B feels the same way as A but can’t say it either. Dialogue could be very interesting here. Riddle it with clues for the reader!
Feel free to make your own variation. Hopefully this sparked something in that wonderful mind of yours. Grab the brushes and start painting a new world in your head. The unspoken words that someone holds in their heart are always the most powerful. They are unspoken for a reason. Tortured characters are the most interesting ones.
“…I gave you painted air – tears I couldn’t weep – truths I couldn’t speak – all the words that caught in my throat…”
― John Geddes, A Familiar Rain
Who doesn’t like a bit of weird? I know my pet dragons do so I’m dedicating this post to them. The following writing prompts will hopefully spark an incredible journey in your mind, because I find that the best journeys are usually weird.
1. You are invited to a party but you don’t know who invited you. You still go because you just got dumped and need the distraction. When you arrive, to your surprise, it turns out to have a twenties theme. Since you are not properly dressed you decide to leave but when you step outside you realise you are actually in 1920. What is your next move?
2. Not only do you find out you have an aunt that your family has kept secret, you also find out that she died and left her estate to YOU. When you arrive in her home town you fully intend to sell the place, but things take a different turn when you discover what she has in her basement.
3. You follow a strange creature in the woods behind your house and discover something extremely unusual.
4. It’s been a while since your last relationship and you finally decide to take the plunge and go online dating. You hit it off with the first guy you encounter and decide to go on a blind date. Though he seems to have told you the truth about who he is, there is one big thing he hasn’t yet told you.
5. You find a strange coin and make a wish as you pass the fountain in the town square. When you wake up the next day you find that your wish came true, but at a price. Everybody you know, including yourself, is an animation figure.
Good luck and keep it strange, because somewhere among the strange lies the wonderful.