The Concealed Carry Writing Prompt for Fashionistas

concealed carry writing prompt for fashionistas

That dynamite is not going to hide in that vest. Not without a pocket of holding.

Guns, knives, garrotes, guillotines – some weapons are more easily concealed than others. And unless you want to use the “Where was he hiding that?!” joke, it’s something you want to think about before writing the scene, and the concealed carry writing prompt for fashionistas will walk you through the basic considerations required.

Well, required for fiction. I have no actual experience *concealing a weapon.

Fashionistas & Concealed Carry:
The Writing Prompt with Something for Everyone

This is what math people might call a bidirectional writing prompt – the main steps can go either way. You can start with clothing and spot check your weaponry options, or you can start with your weapon of choice and design your clothing around it.

For the sake of the article, we’ll use the order below, but you can switch 1 & 2 if you prefer.

  1. Choose the character’s clothing.
  2. Consider the weapon options.
  3. Check whether the weapon can be believably concealed in the chosen clothing. (The “believably” part is important!)
  4. If it can’t be concealed believably, fix it. Or use the lack of concealment to the enemy’s advantage or in the protagonist’s strategy.
  5. Write the scene.

That’s the basics. Now, let’s talk a bit about the details.

Step 1: The Outfit

If you already have a character in a story, odds are you’ve picked at least one normal outfit or style for that character already. Something that reflects the character’s personality and lifestyle as well as the rest of your worldbuilding.

Assuming that the scene you’re writing involves your character’s normal clothing, then, you’re done with step 1.

But what if it doesn’t? What if your character is stuck in prison clothes, a new uniform, or a ballgown? Consider the scene and see whether an outfit change makes more sense than going with the same style.

Step 2: The Weapon

Like the outfit, if your character is a warrior of any kind, then he or she already has a weapon of choice. And if the character already has a normal weapon and a normal outfit, those two should go together although that doesn’t mean the weapon has to be concealed. After all, not all situations or stories require hiding weapons. A knight going into battle is going to carry weapons openly and within easy reach. If not already bared.

Even if your character does not normally conceal his/her weapon, however, we’re assuming that now it’s suddenly necessary. That means you have a couple of options:

  • the regular weapon being concealed in the regular outfit
  • the regular weapon being concealed in a new outfit
  • a new weapon being concealed in the regular outfit
  • a new weapon being concealed in a new outfit

Pretty obvious and little math-y, but these are ideas you have to consider. If the character carries a huge weapon that can’t be concealed, is he/she smart enough to adapt, or is the character going to try anyway.

Always consider the options in relation to your character and the situation. That’ll keep you on a better path.

Step 3: Check

If you’re like me, you may automatically do this in conjunction with step 2. That’s fine. For the sake of clarity, however, I’m going to pretend we picked an outfit and a weapon without considering whether the weapon can be hidden. Maybe, its the only weapon and outfit the character has, and now we have to figure out how to make it work (whatever).

Details to think about when trying to conceal a weapon on a character in a story:

  • Measurements (of the weapon, person, and clothing – if the weapon is taller than the person, it had better fold!)
  • Flexibility (Rigid weapons are going to be harder to hide, especially bigger ones.)
  • Reflectivity (If it’s shiny silver, it may show through thin fabric. If it’s dark, it might show through light fabric.)
  • Fabric weight (Both for drape and transparency)
  • Cut (Where the clothing is tight, where it is loose, and how it attaches to the body)
  • Safety (Is the wearer likely to get hurt hiding the weapon there – like sticking a sharp knife somewhere without first putting a sheath on it)
  • Movement (Will it noticeably affect how the character moves?)

These ideas should get you thinking in the right direction. Again, it doesn’t need to be 100% realistic unless that’s your usual writing style (and in that case, interview a cop or someone with actual experience concealing a weapon) – just real enough to make the scene seem believable.

Step 4: Adjust

If the weapon won’t work with the outfit, change one or the other. Keep the one most important to the scene or change both. Whatever works best (although, remember: the less you can change to make it work, the less your previous work is wasted. Not always the best solution, but sometimes, it is.).

Some weapons may not be concealable on someone’s person or in someone’s clothing or accessories, so be creative. Maybe, something in the setting needs to come into play.

Step 5: Write the Scene

As always, once the background work is done, it’s time to write. Write the scene, and if at any point, the concealed carry option seems unbelievable, think about the previous steps. You can use them to find the simplest part to change to make the scene work.

Ok. You’re ready to write a fashionable but deadly scene. I can’t wait to see the results.

*These instructions are intended for writing only. Please, do not use them as instructions for actually concealing anything.

A Writing Prompt for the Braindead

writing prompt for the braindead

I may even be an expert on this topic…

Talked to any teachers lately? I have, and I can tell you that they are simultaneously seriously overworked and seriously excited as the school year comes to a close. In honor of that hair’s edge of consciousness, here is a writing prompt for the braindead.

Designing a writing prompt for the braindead is like setting up a marathon for the seriously dehydrated and exhausted…

If you’re still trying to write even when lack of brain power is making it hard, way to go! That’s dedication, and that’s what you need to become a writer! Mad props!

On the other hand, it ain’t gonna be easy. You’re operating a supercomputer with too little electricity. Underwater.

That’s why this writing exercise is a little different from the usual prompts. It’s intended to minimize the use of brainpower and maximize the end result. Here’s how it works:

  1. Look at your book shelf or movie collection. Or both.
  2. Pick 3 of your favorites. They could be similar or not. Or pick 3 at random. It really doesn’t matter.
  3. Write a brief plot outline for each. If you do it on the same piece of paper (landscape perhaps), then they’re easy to compare. And analysis is generally easier than creativity for a tired brain. If you’re really tired, make the outlines extra general (Boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, and boy gets girl back. The end.)
  4. Pick one character from each. The main character from Movie 1, the sidekick from a book, and a love interest from Movie 2. However you want to do it.
  5. Make a new plot outline based on the 3 given. Mix and match based on the characters you chose.
  6. Write the story.

Step 6 is optional braindead-wise. You can always leave it for when you’re more conscious. Even if you do the first few steps, however, you’re still using your brain to explore plots and characterization.

And you might get an interesting story out of it. You’d be surprised. If you rename the characters and tweak them a little, once you start writing, the story can develop a life of its own. With a little editing (after the first draft’s done), you may not even be able to tell what stories you pulled from.

Plus, the first 5 steps have pretty minimal requirements brainpower-wise. With visual cues (the books and/or movies you look at), the memory area should be able to dredge up some details to pick and analyze. It’s like ordering out instead of cooking – sometimes, you’re tired enough it makes sense. You get to eat without expending too much more energy. And, of course, that’s the main idea behind a writing prompt for braindead people (metaphorically speaking).

Will it work? I don’t know. You tell me.

A Spring Writing Prompt in 3 Acts

spring writing prompt for spring daisyWell, 3 parts. It’s not a play or theatrical piece (or cohesive whole), so “acts” may be a bit of hyperbole. But don’t worry – it’s definitely a spring writing prompt for exercising different skills.

3 Takes on a Writing Prompt for Spring

Technically, these are 3 different writing exercises that relate to the idea of Spring. After much debate, I finally decided to put them in order from most obvious to least obvious (probably), and the difficultly level runs fairly parallel to that, as well.

Personification

I say this is pretty obvious because it’s the natural response, especially since Spring is all about growing things (mostly, anyway). And when we’re trying to use something as inspiration, a straightforward artistic approach is to write from that object or creature’s perspective. Especially in poetry.

Here’s the down-and-dirty method:

  1. Pick a part of Spring. A seed, a flower, a caterpillar, a sunny day, a rainstorm, etc.
  2. Make that thing or creature your main character. You can name it or not, but as a main character, it needs to have a perspective, motivation, and personality.
  3. Tell that character’s story of Spring. What does Spring mean to that character?

If you want to vary this one and take it to the next level, try to expand on what stories you tell from that perspective. You could even do a sort of Canterbury Tales of Spring from all different points of view.

Metaphor

Now, let’s go one shade deeper. Instead of transforming an aspect of Spring into a character, take an action or characteristic of Spring and use it as a metaphor or theme. Think extended metaphor or allegory.

  1. Pick an action or characteristic of Spring. A seed fighting through its prison and bursting forth from the soil. Weeds and flowers struggling against each other for light and nutrients. And so on.
  2. Express that action in broad, figurative terms. Think big idea.
  3. Apply the big idea to an unrelated situation. People moving to a city, a child at school, a war, aliens, etc.
  4. Use the big idea to direct the plot. Plotting with post-its can be handy for this to make sure you stick to your big-idea arc. At least for the main points (like a framework).

This one can be as hard or as easy as you choose based on how close the metaphor is to the actual plot. Just remember that the further apart they are, the less likely the readers will get it (They might still enjoy it, but they may not realize it was a metaphor for a flower bud wilting in a vase.).

Mood

I’d call this one the advanced writing prompt simply because many people feel uncomfortable with mood and have less experience trying to write specifically to create atmosphere or reader reactions. It can be a challenge, and imagery and other literary devices go a long way in making it work.

This mood exercise is pretty straightforward, and if you read the 2 writing prompts above, the first step should feel vaguely familiar – a variation on a theme, if you will.

  1. Pick a scene or moment that epitomizes Spring. Something that makes you think of Spring or reminds you of it.
  2. Describe the energy or feeling of that scene.
  3. Pick another scene. It could be totally unrelated like a bustling city street, a sterile field, or a battle in space. Some people find writing mood easier with a lot of action, and others prefer the opposite. Pick one, and if you don’t like it, try the other.
  4. Write the scene you chose in step 3 using the feeling described in step 2. Try to give that scene the mood of Spring even if it doesn’t fit – or “shouldn’t” fit but actually does.

This one’s a little bit like the free verse writing prompt in that it may take several attempts before you get the affect you want. That’s fine. In fact, that’s good. Write more!

And there you have it. 3 writing prompts for Spring. So… ready for Summer yet? 😉

A Writing Activity for Music and Poetry

This exercise is great for demonstrating how so much of a song’s power and meaning come from how the music and lyrics work together (I may refer to lyrics as poetry and vice versa). Technically, it’s only a writing activity for music and poetry if you do both parts; however, even the first part alone is worth the doing. Both because of how well it demonstrates the point and because the results can be pretty funny.

The Power of Music and Poetry Combined

The Demonstration

Like any class, this starts out with a demonstration. This particular demonstration can then be used to inspire writing. Here’s how it works.

  1. Pick two songs with very different moods. Preferably songs that you know by heart (lyric and melody). They can have similar topics or not.
  2. Sing the first song’s lyrics to the melody of the second song. You don’t have to do the whole song, but try to make it through a verse and/or chorus at least.
  3. Reverse it. Use the first song’s melody with the second song’s lyrics.
  4. Evaluate the result. If you can stop laughing or shuddering with horror (depending).

It’s not easy to do, is it? When you know a song well, you don’t know the lyrics and melody separately – they go together. The way they fit together is what makes it that song.

Changing the melody or lyrics of the songs can change their moods and meanings completely. Even when the words are exactly the same, so much of what influences their meaning changes. Such as

  • Which words are emphasized (by holding them longer, larger intervals, etc.)
  • The emotion behind the words (Or the one implied by the music anyway – look up the lyrics for “You Are My Sunshine” if you want an example of words and music that don’t really match.)
  • Pauses (You would not believe how much the length and placement of pauses influences meaning!)

Those are really important in songs and in poetry.

A Writing Activity

This writing activity is a little like the poetry writing prompt for free verse – it involves writing the same meaning multiple times before arriving at the final wording. You can be writing a poem or song lyrics (honestly, the only real difference is the intent of the writer).

  1. Choose a topic.
  2. Brainstorm the characteristics of that subject that you want to emphasize. In other words, make a list.
  3. Pick a mood to try first.
  4. Write the poem for that mood. Word choice, meter, rhyme, and imagery are some of your best tools for influencing the mood of the poem.
  5. Set that poem aside.
  6. Pick a different mood. The bigger the difference, the better.
  7. Write a new poem for that mood. Use the same topic and characteristics you used for the other poem, but change the word choice, meter, rhyme scheme, etc. to change the mood.
  8. Compare the two.

That’s it. It’s great practice for learning techniques to create different moods with your poetry and especially for making sure that the mood enhances the meaning. For instance, that you didn’t get caught up in a meter that doesn’t fit what you were trying to write (easy to do). Or started rhyming too much or too little. Maybe you need to defy that rhyme or take away alliteration instead of adding it.

It all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.

If you don’t feel like you mastered it immediately (who masters anything immediately?), do it again. And again. And again.

How many times will it take? I don’t know – you tell me.

6 Word Short Story Writing Prompt Challenge

6 word short story writing prompt challenge does not use once upon a time

Um…no. You just wasted 4 words.

Can you express a story in 6 words? Or less? If you’ve practiced and mastered writing 50 word short stories like “They Call Him the Philosopher,” you might be ready for the 6 word short story writing prompt challenge.

An Advanced Writing Prompt:
The Challenge of the Six Word Short Story

Pregaming the 6 Word Short Story

*cough* I mean, “prepping for,” not “pregaming.” *cough*

If you’re not quite ready for the 6 word short story (for example, if you’re like me, and writing short stories isn’t your best skill), then, here are a few thoughts for how to pregame. *cough* prep.

  1. Spice Up Your Writing is good for reviewing imagery techniques.
  2. How to Put Your Readers in the Mood might help because mood is all about manipulating emotions, and emotions are a big part of communicating in fewer words.
  3. Poetry Writing Prompt for Free Verse is good practice for expressing meaning figuratively instead of literally.
  4. Four Articles About How to Write a Good Short Story gives you 4 articles with tips for writing good short stories (articles by other people, by the way – not me, the person who’s not so fabulous at writing short stories)
  5. 50 Word Short Stories: Another Way to Challenge Yourself helps you scale down if you’re used to writing longer stories. If you’re used to writing, say, novels, you can start with regular short stories. Then, cut it down to 100 words, 50 words, and so on. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.

Read up and practice all of these, and you’ll (theoretically) have all the skills you need for the big game.

The 6 Word Short Story

Are you ready to rumble????

Hey! That’s almost a 5 word short story! You know, because we have so many connotations with the phrase that it implies some sort of a match! (I told you I’m not very good at this…)

Seriously, though, if you’re ready to challenge yourself by writing six word short stories, here is the best advice I can give you:

Think abstract painting – imagery and association are everything.

You basically want to say as much as you can with the fewest number of words. To do that, you have to imply the story instead of stating it explicitly. You have to raise questions in the readers mind, but you also have to make the implications strong enough that they don’t question the existence of the story. They have to be certain that something happened even if they’re not sure exactly what or how. (Here’s one of the most famous 6 word stories ever along with its history to give you an idea.)

So… um… how, exactly, are we supposed to do that?

What Good 6 Word Short Stories Do (or Don’t Do)

Now, having admitted how average-to-poor I am at writing these, you may not be interested in any tips I have (Really. Why are you still reading?). But just because I can’t do something well, doesn’t mean I can’t recognize good 6 word short stories. Or can’t break down what they have in common.

  • Avoid filler words, especially articles and prepositions. Even though articles are usually important (prepositions, too), here, they take up too much room and do too little.
  • Don’t use complete sentences. You ain’t got time for that. Or space.
  • Correct punctuation is optional. Yes, it’s opposite day. You’re going to ignore most of the rules in “Top 5 Grammar Rules Not to Break.” The fact is that sometimes, correct punctuation will help you join the thoughts of your fragment(s), but if you’re not writing in complete sentences, correct punctuation isn’t always possible.
  • Try different iterations. It’s 6 words. If you can’t write at least 10 drafts to try out different ways to express your idea or situation, you’re just being lazy. Seriously, people.
  • Pick powerful moments. Brushing your teeth in 6 words or less isn’t much of a story. It needs to be an emotional, high-stakes moment.
  • Practice with “A Writing Prompt for the Worst Time of Your Life,” but instead of starting after that worst time, summarize it. Try to express how it felt, how it affected you, in 6 words. It’s not gonna be easy, but if you manage it, you’ll have mastered the 6 word short story writing prompt challenge.

That’s all I got, but it’s a starting point. And if you manage to do all of these while keeping in mind the implication you’re going for, you have a good chance of writing a good 6 word short story. Heck, if you manage the last one, you’ll have a great six word short story.

So whaddya think? Got any tips for other writers trying to write 6 word short stories? What works best for you?

A One-track Mind Writing Prompt Challenge

A_One-track_Mind writing prompt challenge

Around and around they go…

Yes, the phrase “a one-track mind” often has connotations of X-rated content; however, all it really means is that person is fixated on a specific topic. It could be a video game that a person loves, a show someone watches all the time, a favorite author, a significant other, politics, world news, dieting, a pet – anything a person could obsess over. So what is a one-track mind writing prompt challenge?

A One-track Mind Writing Prompt Challenge

Technically, I guess, there are two writing prompt challenges for the one-track mind: general characterization and an argument.

A One-track Mind as General Characterization

Using a one-track mind mentality as general characterization is an old trick to automatically make a character a little quirky and add comic relief. I bet if I named a couple of obsessions, you could think of characters that have them as character quirks (Obsessions: advances in technology, a specific celebrity, travel, or fashion – If you think of a character, name the character and quirk in the comments.).

The first steps to this writing prompt aren’t as much of a challenge:

  1. Pick a character.
  2. Pick a fixation. It could go with the character and the character’s occupation (like a mechanic obsessed with cars), or it could be a contrast to the character and occupation (like a mechanic obsessed with ballet).
  3. Establish ground rules for the level of obsession and how well the character can control the urge to go on a tangent about the fixation.

You can do that, right?

Keeping it consistent is where the challenge comes in. If you’ve established that the character always brings the conversation back to a specific topic, then, can there be exceptions? What if you have a scene where you can’t afford to lose the momentum by including that tangent?

That’s why the third step is so important. Setting up solid rules and following them from the beginning can give you a major advantage as far as consistency of character behavior. And if you run into a spot where you need to move forward but it would mean breaking a rule, consider outside interference (“Oh my God, Joe – you can look at the car after we save the world!”).

A One-track Mind in an Argument

Whether the character usually has a one-track mind or not, he or she can still get locked into a single track in a specific situation. I see this as a huge balloon blown up in a room: there may be other, more important items scattered around it, but you can’t see them because the balloon is so overwhelming. Once the balloon is popped, however, you realize that it was just air – no substance.

When a character gets stuck on a specific fact or idea, it’s like that idea is taking up so many brain cells that the person can’t process things right in front of him or her. The balloon is blocking them from sight.

This usually inspires an argument from the characters who can see around the balloon. And if those characters need to get around the one-track mind to move forward, well, that could be a problem. Arguments like this tend to go around in circles because the one-track mind isn’t really registering or accepting opposing arguments.

Figuring how to deflate that balloon is a challenge, and doing so while trying to hold down the frustration from the circular arguments is even harder. In fact, it may be impossible for your characters. And exposing that difficulty adds realism.

Want to give it a try? Here’s one way to practice.

  1. Pick a set of characters. Or create new ones.
  2. Select a goal they’re trying to accomplish that a single person could stop or stall.
  3. Choose the opponent (the person with the one-track mind – it could be one of the group or someone outside of it).
  4. Find a fixation.
  5. List ways each protagonist would try to overcome the fixation.
  6. Think of how each character would react to that circular conversation.
  7. Decide what (if anything) would actually make the fixated person change tracks.
  8. Write the scene using the parts picked in steps 1-7. You may not get to use all of the options you thought of for 5, especially depending on 6. Also, if the characters wouldn’t think of the answer to 7, then you probably can’t use it.

Whoa, that’s a long list. And a bit nit-picky. You can use it as a starting point or take the idea of the confrontation and do it your own way. If this exact method doesn’t work for your writing style, I wouldn’t want you to get stuck on it – a one-track mind writing prompt challenge is fine, but not a one-track mind that keeps you from writing the best story you can!

 

3 Types of Appeals as Writing Prompts

What on earth is an appeal? Isn’t that something you do when a trial goes the wrong way? (Kind of, but no). The 3 types of appeals I’m talking about are rhetorical techniques. If you’re unfamiliar with the term rhetoric, think of it as the art of persuasion whether in speech or writing. To use these appeals as writing prompts (or even recognize them when they’re used against you), you need to know what they are and how they’re used.

The 3 Types of Appeals

 1. Logical Appeal

This is the one that gets the most marketing. It’s the one they focus on in schools: using facts and logical processes to guide the audience to the desired conclusion. To make them think that you’re right.

stock data logical appeal as writing prompts

See “data.”

Remember when your English or history teacher made you “support your answer”? You know, using statistics or quotes or evidence from the passage? That’s what this is all about. You use facts to back up every move of your reasoning, and because facts have to back up every move, you can’t skip anything (no matter how obvious).

Think of the argument you’re making as an arch made out of wooden blocks. If you skip a block (and leave a block-sized hole where it would be), then there’s nothing there to hold up the next block, sending the arch tumbling down.

That’s the benefit and the danger of using a logical appeal – if you do it right, it’s a very strong argument, but missing a single step or angle can ruin the whole thing.

2. Emotional Appeal

Really, these are pretty self-explanatory. In this case, instead of using logic, you try to rouse someone’s emotions. You want to make them feel that you’re right.

You do this by using strong adjectives and painting an picture to rouse the audience’s empathy. Art is almost always an emotional appeal. (That’s kind of the point of art…) We buy paintings that make us feel something in response, we listen to music that tugs on our heartstrings, and we read books with characters that we feel for.

emotional appeal as writing prompts puss in boots shrek 2

Pls!!

It’s also one of the best ways to get your way – every child or pet knows this (think the term puppy dog eyes). Other than those commercials for donating to starving or sick children (that go right for the heart), Puss in Boots from Shrek 2 is probably the best example of using an emotional appeal to affect someone’s behavior. He’s goood.

3. Character Appeal

I think of this one as a combination of the other two, but technically, it’s an appeal that relies on ethics or credibility. It’s making someone believe that you know what you’re talking about.

This is an important distinction. If you’re only using a character appeal, then they’re not agreeing because your argument makes sense to them. They’re agreeing because they’ve decided to believe in you.

doctor character appeal as writing prompts

Ah, the lab coat and stethoscope. Works every time.

Think of going to a doctor, accountant, or lawyer. They’re going to give you some advice, and if you don’t know anything about the subject, then you’re not going to decide based on the advice as much as you’re going to decide based on whether you trust them to know what they’re doing.

Using the 3 Types of Appeals as Writing Prompts

So… let’s go back to Puss in Boots. He uses an emotional appeal (+20 cuteness) to get Shrek to take him along and later does the same to take the guards off-guard (oh, the irony). Both of those actions affected the plot, effectively making the emotional appeal a plot device – that’s how we apply them to writing.

Whether the character is a hero, a con artist, a concerned party, or anything in between, he or she might need to convince someone of something. It could even be a key turning point in the plot.

How many times have you read a book where a character has to persuade someone to help? Or give him/her something? Or let them go where they can’t go?

So here’s the writing prompt.

  1. Pick a scene where a character or group of characters has to persuade someone to do or allow something.
  2. Match the characters to the type of appeal they would be most likely to use. Would Spock use an emotional appeal? Would Spock know how to use an emotional appeal? Only as a last-ditch effort when told to (people can use multiple types of appeals either separately or together) or if his using it out-of-character was a major part of the plot.
  3. Decide which appeal is most likely to work on the target. If old Mr. Treg doesn’t trust doctors, is telling him that you’re a doctor going to help? Would a purely emotional appeal work on Spock? Would a purely logical appeal work on Candide?
  4. Write the scene. You’ll have to decide which character goes first. Remember: succeeding on the first try is suspect. The harder the persuasion is, the higher the stakes and suspense.

This is a great exercise to use with an existing story or existing characters. You can use repeated persuasion attempts to show a character’s progress (or lack of progress) in learning to persuade people. You can use ridiculous persuasion attempts for humor or to show dramatic differences in the character’s values (Think Sheldon.).

So basically, it’s a tool for exploring characterization and finding new approaches for resolving plot conflicts. And since persuasion is a big part of everyday life, it helps add realism, too.

Pretty appealing, right?

Cultural Traditions + Technology = Interesting Trends: A Writing Prompt for Worldbuilding

writing prompt for worldbuilding woman hijab cultural traditions + technology = interesting trendsI live in an area where there’s a good amount of cultural diversity, so when I go out, I see people from many different ethnic backgrounds, nationalities, religions, etc. Maybe because I grew up outside a small town where such diversity wasn’t (isn’t) common, or maybe because I’m a writer (and tend to notice different details than many people), but I’ve started noticing interesting side effects when cultural traditions meet and merge with technology. Simply put, cultural traditions + technology = interesting trends.

Here’s an example:

Cultural Tradition: Women wearing hijab or other cultural head-dresses that cover their entire heads except for their faces

Technology: Cellular phones, especially smart phones

Interesting Trends: Using the hijab to hold their cell phones, thereby giving them free use of their hands with no extra technology or effort

Is it just me, or is that a brilliant idea? You’re wearing it already, so why not make it useful? It’s a logical response. And common! I’ve seen a variety of women in different parts of the city doing the same thing. It’s an interesting trend that has resulted from the overlap of a cultural tradition and technology.

So (you know what I’m going to ask), how can we use that in our writing?

A Writing Prompt for Worldbuilding with Traditions & Technology

Since you know all about the importance of traditions in worldbuilding, being a clever writer, you’ve already been brainstorming traditions for your world. Now, it’s time to apply the technology – and not only ways to complicate the plot with technology.

Here’s one method of attack for this, but, remember the formula: cultural traditions + technology = interesting trends.

  1. Brainstorm cultural traditions. It could be clothing, behaviors, rules, etc. The more options and the bigger variety, the better.
  2. Brainstorm technology. Don’t forget: technology doesn’t have to mean computer or electronics-related. Sailing ships are a level of technology. Swords, plows, cotton gins, and long bows are all different examples of technology. Heck, a stone was once advanced technology! So don’t limit yourself.
  3. Compare your lists and brainstorm ways they could intermingle. Is there a way to make the tradition an advantage for using the technology? Or vice versa? Does the current fashion in your world work really well for carrying / cleaning / concealing / climbing something?
  4. Adjust as needed. You might need to modify the tradition or technology to make them work better together, but looking at them together can give you ideas for how they can build on each other.

That’s not saying it’ll be easy, and it may not be as clearcut as the example I gave. Still, if the exercise makes the different pieces of your worldbuilding interact more, that makes them more realistic (good enough for me).

It can also…

  • add character quirks (Who said that everyone has to use this combination? It could be something only one person figured out – or maybe only one person sees it, and it becomes a trend.)
  • make your world more unique (Build it, and readers will come. Build it, interweave the parts in new and interesting ways, and they’ll come in droves – and rave about it to their friends. [That’s how fandoms are born.])
  • send your plot in less predictable directions (If your plot is driven by something that is more unique, it will be more unique in turn. If the plot ends up boring or clichéd even with this, then, check what’s driving your plot. Odds are, you went off course somewhere.)

So, say that you don’t manage to think of a clearly symbiotic relationship where the technology utilizes a tradition (although it could be as simple as a handy place to put your glasses). Try it in reverse (usually much easier). If nothing else, see how the two could work together.

What do you have to lose?

Poetry Writing Prompt for Free Verse

Plank Page Pen Cup ready for Poetry Writing Prompt for Free Verse

Have tea. Will write.

This poetry writing prompt for free verse is really a tactic for overcoming free verse writing block. It’s particularly handy for people who are writing poetry on a schedule for the first time (the ones used to writing poetry only if the muse takes them), for those new to poetry and trying to dip their toes into free verse, and for any time when your brain just doesn’t want to write poetry.

Free Verse Writing Prompt

It’s pretty simple. All it really takes is a topic and some imagery. Here’s how it works:

  1. Pick a topic. What scene, moment, activity, career, person, etc. do you want to write about?
  2. Write a sentence or 2 describing it. Pick out the core traits or features you want to emphasize. This is still in the brainstorming section – it’s not necessarily a poem yet.
  3. List metaphors, similes, or other imagery that capture that impression, the essence of the subject. You’re looking for a more abstract, less literal way to describe one or more of the traits listed in step 2. Something that captures the idea or feeling of that trait but is also open to interpretation – it could mean something else.
  4. Take your favorite metaphor and write the first few lines of your poem.
  5. Keep going and try to match the mood/ambience of the first lines. If you get stuck, take the idea you’re working on and go back to step 2.
  6. Repeat as needed. Until it feels finished – you’ve painted enough of a picture to capture the motion, the moment.

Then, let it go. You’re finished.

Well, you probably need to pick a title, and after a while, that ends up the hardest part. Should I be literal and pick a name that summarizes the poem? Should I pick something that relates to the poem but that most people won’t get how it relates from reading the poem – or that has a relationship to the poem that is also open to interpretation? Should I take the easy out and call it “Untitled” or use the first line?

Ugh.

Worry about that later. Like someday when I do a naming writing prompt. When I have it all figured out (*loud guffaw*). For now, have some fun! Use this poetry writing prompt for free verse and write something interesting, entrancing, or tragic. Make the reader feel. Then, you can worry about the naming.

A Writing Prompt for Exploring New Possibilities

exploring possibilities different doors

All the doors.

The beginning of a new year seems like a good time for a writing prompt for exploring new possibilities. That’s what a new year is about, right? Exploring new possibilities, trying new paths, getting a second chance – it’s a time when our point-of-view changes changes from what is to what could be.

In other words, it’s a time of year when everyone thinks like a writer. However briefly.

That’s what makes this the perfect time of year for this writing prompt. Most people are already looking for potential, and that is the hardest part of this brainstorming exercise – getting in the right mindset. Once you do that, the rest is relatively simple.

Here’s the process:

  1. Open your mind to explore possibilities and resist getting locked into a single answer.
  2. Pick or write an opening line. Here are a few that you can choose from.
    • As usual, no one else noticed the way the fluorescent lights seemed to shimmer and shake.
    • The coffee would have made better paint thinner than it did a drink.
    • Even after the doctor labeled her as legally blind, she could still shoot a hole through a chicken’s eye across a barnyard.
    • He knew over 15 ways to kill a man with a pen.
  3. Write a story that starts with that line. Or you can brainstorm it if you want to focus on thinking of possibilities rather than exploring each one.
  4. Write a different story that starts with the same line.
  5. Write another one. And keep writing them – write or brainstorm at least 5 totally different stories that start with the same line.

Yeah, it’s kind of excessive (especially if you write or finish every single one), but you could also learn a lot from the process. It’s kind of like the quick change improv gameit helps you discover different ways the story can develop. After all, the first line needs to have something to do with each story even if they have nothing else in common (The promises you make to your readers start from the first line.).

That means you have to examine the information given by that line and think of different directions you can go with it. These questions are only a few of the options.

  • What will be emphasized?
  • Whose point of view is the line written in? Does it match the rest of the story?
  • Is the first line serious or humorous? Will the next line going to agree with or oppose the first one?
    • Even after the doctor labeled her as legally blind, she could still shoot a hole through a chicken’s eye across a barnyard. Granted, it wasn’t always the chicken she was aiming for. Or one in her barnyard.
  • What kind of mood or tone is being set up? Mix it up.
    • He knew over 15 ways to kill a man with a pen. Ray stared down at the sword in his hand. It felt a lot heavier than a pen.
    • He knew over 15 ways to kill a man with a pen. And according to his business page on facebook, he could maim someone with a post-it note. Rolling her eyes, Claire clicked the back button and crossed out another name on her list of potentials. (Even this much could go in multiple directions – is it a list of potential dates or potential assassins? The first line could be a red herring – or you could make the reader think it was and then reveal otherwise.)

Any of the questions you normally ask when writing can help you find and explore different possibilities. Remember: it’s not the inspiration that makes the story unique so much as the execution.

Questions? Comments? Entertaining stories you wrote while doing this writing prompt and exploring new possibilities? (Pretty please?)