Do you play with writing prompts? They can be a lot of fun. It’s a way to keep the writing muscles limbered up, like going to the gym or yoga class. Best part is they don’t have to be long; under 500 words is quite useful. Whether you come up with something you use later, or just play around like an artist makes sketches to train their eye, “It’s all good.”
Here’s an example. This prompt comes from Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones, but I’m paraphrasing: take something out of your trash can and write about it. What she said that stuck with me is this: “If you can’t write about trash, how can you do justice to beauty?”
One of the times I did this prompt, it went a completely different direction than I expected. Take a look:
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Piperoncelo picked his way over the piles of newsprint, gingerly setting his paws down in the cleaner spots. He caught a whiff of something tantalizing but upon investigation turned up nothing but a wrapper for lunchmeat. The waxy texture of the paper stuck to his tongue and he rubbed it off with his paw.
“Hey! You – git outta there!”
The shout came, sharply out of the night, like it always did. Piperoncelo didn’t wait around for the fat man to kick him. He loped over the piles and streaked though a gap in the fence. He was almost too slow; a bottle shattered against the metal and wood of the fence and shards skittered past him, tinkling. It was almost a pretty sound.
Almost, but not quite.
Keeping to the shadows, Piperoncelo trotted down the alley to the Italian place on the corner. He was always hopeful there, even though they locked up their dumpsters.
Besides. It’s where he last saw his family.
As he came up even with the gate, he saw the young man who worked in the kitchen. This time, the youngster saw Piperoncelo and his eyes got huge, even browner than usual. He started yelling something unintelligible that the other dogs said was “Spunich.” Piperoncelo slowed, wary now.
The joyous shout came from inside the kitchen. His boy and girl came barreling out of the door and nearly knocked him over in their eagerness, just like puppies. Man and Woman were there too, and Woman was crying.
“Oh, Piper, we missed you!” Boy was crying too.
Piperoncelo wagged his tail so hard he thought it would come off. Even the young man from the kitchen blinked a lot, that thing humans did when they were sad, but he didn’t smell sad. They all smelled like Piperoncelo felt – ecstatic.
And the best part? He didn’t ever have to eat trash again!
(Unless Boy put the pizza boxes out. He’d make an exception for that.)
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If this sounds like fun to you, I hope you’ll join me next month for a workshop, “Having Fun with Writing Prompts.” No experience as a writer is necessary, just a willingness to try new things. Let’s use some writing prompts and limber up our story muscles. Using pictures, word play, and short scenarios, we will practice writing 500 word scenes for each other. Writing should be fun; let’s play!
It will be from Sunday, June 12 through Saturday, June 25, 2016, online at the Coffee Time Romance forums. Membership in the forum is free. I hope you come play with me!
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
– E.E. Cummings