A Library-Inspired Writing Prompt

Shhhhh!

What’s so inspiring about a public library? I mean, besides all of the fabulous books, movies, and other awesome stuff available for free (That’s too obvious!). Well, public libraries also have a certain ambience. Namely, you have to be quiet and not disturb other library-goers. Picture a stern-looking lady with a bun and glasses shushing people. That’s the atmosphere, and that’s what we’ll be using for this library-inspired writing prompt.

  1. Think of the sorts of things that you are strongly discouraged from doing in a library: for example, anything loud or rambunctious.
  2. Pick one (the more improbable, the better) and set it in a library. Or have it pass through a library.
  3. Write the scene so that the action occurs without breaking the public library’s atmosphere. It’s going to be a challenge, and characters will have to go to extreme lengths to do it (except, perhaps, ninjas or mimes).

Does it have to be a public library? No, not really. The main point is that the atmosphere and the action do not normally go together, so you (and the characters) have to work harder to make them go together.

This one way to use Schrödinger’s setting to brainstorm and explore how character behavior changes when the setting does. I think there have even been movies or anime series that have done this exact exercise or at least had a fight scene shushed and have to be quiet (although I can’t for the life of me remember which one did).

Actually, it’s commonly used in the other direction, as well. Two characters calmly finishing their card game while surrounded by a violent brawl (and having to move around the fighters to lay down cards, etc.) is the same type of exercise. The technique is popular because it follows the old comedy rule of setting up expectations and breaking them.

So if you want to work on your comedy or characterization, this can be a fun exercise. I’m already snickering inside imagining the different situations. If you try it, share in the comments, won’t you? We could all use a good laugh!

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