Thursday, January 21, 2010

New prompts

PhotobucketSome prompts for you. I encourage you to respond to these in the comments, your own journal (please link back!), or the privacy of your own imagination.

  1. "She's not a vampire, or a wolfperson, she's a _____"
  2. Print out one of your stories that didn't work. Cut it up into strips. Rearrange until it's something you can work with.
  3. See this proverb. Write something in which the events build upon one another and one small slip can/does cause the whole thing to tumble.
  4. At your next party of writers, play Exquisite Corpse. For stories, each player can write a line or paragraph; for novels, each player can write a chapter. 
  5. "Children rule the world these days."
  6. All that stands between us and total devastation is an old man and three paperclips.
  7. "Is that a bleedin' rainbow comin' out of your shoe?"
  8. "Scarlett O'Hara never had to deal with this."

Photo credit: Old typewriter by Petr Kratochvil

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Prompt 7: all fall down

Prompt 7: Write about a chore you must perform during an apocalypse.

PhotobucketMy father wasn't dead when we abandoned the house, but my brother and I thought of him as such. Dad wanted to be buried with Mother, so Toby and I took him to the basement, dug him a grave beside Mother's, and laid our father beside it. We told Dad that when he was ready, he'd have enough strength to flip himself into the hole, and he believed us, and we believed ourselves, because what else can you do?

Before we left, Toby and I protected him in a canvas tarpaulin and tied off his feet so the rats wouldn't get to him, or the cat, if the rats died of plague too. We gave him a long rubber tube to breathe through and the rest of grandfather's dandelion wine. We locked the cellar door against looters or . . . whatever. And we left.

Photo credit.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

tips: writer's block

When I was in grad school, we had to write a novel in 2 years and about 30 pages a month. There was no time for writer's block. So these are ideas we passed around to keep from flunking out.

- Retype your last page

- Create a playlist or Pandora channel of music that's suited to your story, genre, or character. Create several for different points in your story or book.

- Write anything for ten minutes. Don't edit. Just type. Look back over what you're written and find something to go with.

- Warm up each writing session with a fifteen minute freewriting session - something not related to your project. Prompts are good for this. It takes the pressure off and gets you in the writing mindframe.

- Have a work area and work there every day.

- Leave your work area and go somewhere else: outside, a coffee shop, the library, a diner. Bring headphones. 

- Use story mapping software like Freemind to see your ideas in one place.

- Think about why you're having a hard time writing something. Do you really want to write this? Does it not fit the story? If writing a certain character or scene is a chore, it may be a chore for your readers, too. (Did we really need all that Quidditch, JK?)

BTW: Did someone tell you that writing was about artistry and being inspired all the time? It's not. Ideas are easy, anyone can have ideas. Writing is the work of making something out of those ideas. If you're not working like it's 4 am and your paper is due at 9, you're not writing.

Prompt 6: uncanny valley

Prompt 6: Think about an inexplicable event in your life. Write an explanation.

My response to today's prompt was going to be about this time when I lost a pair of earrings -- one at a time -- and over a week I found one, two, and then three of the earrings. I was about seven and I truly believed that a ghost or gnome had taken my earrings into the netherworld and screwed up when bringing them back.

But I just can't bring it on home.  This happens sometimes: you get an opening and an ending but you don't know how to connect them. (See: all my novels.) Sometimes it helps to see your story in another context, so I'm posting the beginning. Maybe a little time and perspective will help.

Meanwhile, I encourage you to respond to this prompt in the comments, your own journal (please link back!), or the privacy of your own imagination.

Gravlax and Graeloor were arguing over the proper shelving configuration for disfigured Civil War mortar shells when a very familiar, very tiresome Collector cracked into their hall.

"Hallo, old son," the noisy blob with one leg said. He tipped his hat at the two ghoul archivists. Peruvian, mid-century, most likely stolen.

"We are not 'fellas,'" Gravlax said, taking it upon himself to be the speaker for this century.

Graeloor stamped the date on a stack of cards, grunting. It was an enormous stamp, bigger than his head; it contained the date of accession to the geologic nanosecond.

"Look," said Collector #3592304 -- Gravlax recognized him by the bit of clumpy hair behind his ear. "I wasn't here, right?"

"But you are here."

Graeloor grunted.

"But I won't be in thirty seconds," the disreputable creature said.

"How will we know that?"

Collector #3592304 slapped a filthy handkerchief onto the desk. Gravlax recoiled, in case it moved or attacked or spilled something on the books. Graeloor sniffed it; he hadn't had his lunch break this century.

"You don't know where you got this," Collector #3592304 said," and you can't catalogue it."

"Certainly not," Gravlax said, "until you fill out an accession card --"

The terrible Collector disappeared with a crack of energy, leaving a hazy cloud of ozone and the odor alcohol.

"Well," said Gravlax. "That was fetid."

Thump went the stamp.

Photo credit.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Prompt 5: radio gaga

Prompt 5: gifts of love
PhotobucketSometimes finding a prompt is as convenient as flipping on the radio and staring out into the middle distance. This story came to me while staring cross-eyed at the wall and listening to not this song, but it's from the same play, and I can't find "Gifts of Love."

Harry married her, sure. But is that any reason to stay with her?

Imagine him, a fifty-six year old man, running away to join the circus that he's watching on tv. The gays are getting liberated, so Walter Kronkite says. There's old dogs in that group in the crowd in front of the nightclub in California, it's not just for the young fellows. Harry could go. . . .

They'd laugh at him down at the bank. Old Slaughter gone sissy, let's get him a dress to go with his favorite pair of nylons. He'd seen that goddamn bank over thirty years from a booth in Nell's Grocery to a fifty-branch, tri-state conglom.

Imogene would laugh at him. Harry's stomach rolled the beer and popcorn over. Where would she go if he left her? Her sister's, maybe; it could be good for her, to get away from a miserable alcoholic who stayed up watching the late night news with a bottle in his fist. Why not?

They had no children, he'd never made much of his career. He was the office fool, not one who brought in accounts but who was always good for a laugh; he never really fit in with the boys. Imogene had always said she didn't need furs or diamonds, but a woman ought to have a pretty thing to dress up her life. She preferred to paint and decorate and be-curtain their little bungalow to death, to fill it with things he sorter liked to look at, come to think.

Imogene liked listening to him talk, or at least she let on like she did. He liked to talk, but not many people seemed to want to hear him. Did Imogene really like to listen? He never asked.

It just didn't make any sense.

Photo credit.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Writing prompt responses is useful because -

- Writing something every day keeps your momentum; if you're stuck on your main project, a short prompt response is better than nothing.

- A prompt can encourage you to explore a new voice, genre, character, or style.

- Prompts can help you build confidence as a writer.

- Prompts encourage experimentation, which can help you find what you really want to do with your writing.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Prompt 4: where'd that go?

Sometimes your story starts in one place, such as:

Photobucket Prompt 4: While on a camping trip, a little boy strays from his family and happens upon a carnival in the middle of nowhere.*

And then it ends up somewhere totally different:

After the war, Frankie returned to the States with useful life skills, like how to pitch a tent in the wilderness, how to cook squirrel over an open fire, and how to shoplift books and small bottles from the druggist. Frankie was a homeless vet.

He started in New York, because it was the place to be, but one frozen day in October and he turned tail west because long-haired people were going that way and he'd heard you could find a place to stay if you were willing to work on a farm. Frankie wanted work. He longed for mindless hard labor that produced something worthwhile in the end.

It wasn't the bodies that bothered him on those long drives in trucker's cabs, though he saw them in the trees beyond the highway. He knew those ghouls would follow him for the rest of his life and he deserved every watchful gaze from the beyond. The thrum of the highway lulled him, he enjoyed having no responsibilities, no end of the journey to anticipate. Particularly pleasant was the hum of the diesel engine, though in the dreamy half-sleep of highway hypnosis, he felt the bumpy, shocks-deprived seat of a transport convoy beneath him. Sometimes he startled awake, but he hid that well beneath his cap and parka.

He weighed about a hundred and ten pounds in that voluminous polyester by the time he reached Colorado.

In a café outside Denver, an angel stood over Frankie's table and asked if he had found Jesus.

'I didn't know I was supposed to be looking.'

The girl sat beside him, all long, curly hair and jangly optimism.

'Are you a lost soul too?' she asked.

Frankie didn't know what she considered a "lost soul" to be, nor did he particularly want to be included in any group that she considered herself a part of. But he was lost, cold, and hungry, and this girl seemed to be offering something. When he signed up for the Army, the sent him to hell; wherever this little girl was driving him to down the dark country road, he would survive one more day until something better came along.

*Prompt source: The Writer's Book of Matches, by the staff of Fresh Boiled Peanuts, Writer's Digest Books, Cincinnati, OH, 2005.
Photo credit

a few new prompts

PhotobucketI finally got the fire going, so I can write up some Prompts For You All.*

*I come by this term through marriage, as it were - my SIL is from Texas. Words are lovely and useful things and it's perfectly serviceable to adopt words from wherever one finds them. Voice, after all, is an acquired skill.

I encourage you to respond one or more of these prompts in the comments, on your own journal (but please leave a link in the comments!), or the privacy of your imagination.

1. "Your baking is always so . . . interesting."

2. The things you overhear in a mad scientist's lab.

3. An old woman dies and leaves a generous fortune to her cat. Everyone wants a piece, except one person.

4. You never noticed a particular detail in a family heirloom before.

5. What does the apprentice (or familiar) do when the witch or wizard says "oops"?

Photo credit: Old typewriter by Petr Kratochvil

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Prompt 3: oh by the way...

Prompt 3: Two friends meet after 20 years apart. One admits to having killed someone.* 

As always, I encourage you to respond to the prompt in the comments, your own journal
(but please link back so we can share in your genius!), or the privacy of your imagination.
PhotobucketTo see Frankie again in her class, of all places, shook Martha to the core. He was just Frank now, with a longer face; he'd grown himself a hooked nose and broad shoulders. She missed his long hair and silently counted all the hidden tattoos under his collared shirt and black jeans.

Oakdale stretched out behind her like a forest path long grown over, though Martha still spent one or two Christmases in her lonely apartment at two am, feeling grit under her fingernails and hearing Daddy's bootfalls in the hall. The smell of alcohol made her nauseous. If, standing at the lectern, she were foolish enough to call up that state of mind, Frankie would feel like an oasis, a safe island in a sea of indifferent freshman faces. Even now, a hundred years later.

At the end of session, Frankie waited until the cloud of students waiting to talk to her dissipated, until it was just she and him, Frankie and Martha, transposed from the Qwikstop parking lot to the university lecture hall.

"'Ello, Professor Turner."

"Frank Gellert." She didn't know what else to say. "You got taller."

"You cut your hair." He looked her over. She pulled in her stomach.

"I guess I did. . . . Did you have a question about the lecture?"

"I wanted to thank you, Martha. You saved my life. If it wasn't for you, I would have gone to prison. The army was good for me, it straightened me out. Thank you."

Martha turned her gaze to her sheaf of folders and papers. She wasn't that girl anymore, she wasn't working on roller skates at the In-N-Out, she didn't live in a town where the worst men at home rose to the most powerful level of town government.

"It wasn't your fault Trina Addams was in the car that night of the big snowstorm, Frankie. You're lucky Councilmen Addams' heart gave out before it went to trial."

Martha wasn't a candy striper any longer, and hospitals locked up their digitalis. Sometimes when she caught a late night movie, the detective still mentions that the sweet drug is undetectable in soda pop.

Frankie ducked his head. "Yeah. Sure am. You take care now."

Frankie didn't show up to another lecture, though Martha saw him around campus. When it came time to defend his thesis, she sat on his defense committee approved him without question. There's just some things you do for the people who really, really know you.

Prompt credit: Summarized from The Writer's Book of Matches, by the staff of Fresh Boiled Peanuts, Writer's Digest Books, Cincinnati, OH, 2005. Photo credit.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

a missile from your librarian...

Dear romance novel swappers - if your book is cracked to the 'heaving bosoms' part, you can keep it. Really. We know you really really. Really. love that book. (long time.)

To the kids who stole the backpack from the homeless man who sits and studies every day and doesn't cause any problems - fuck you. I hope when you're sixty you have to spend the winter in the woods behind the convenience store too.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I liked the 'in another place' prompt because I could place someone where I thought they really belonged. Elyse is my cousin, who's a latter day hippie, a counselor struggling to find a paying position, and a Dead head. I just feel like she'd be happier in another decade, when a bachelor's degree in psychology actually meant something, and crusty 20 year olds could follow the Dead in ripped jeans for a year. When it was still safe to hitchhike to a campground with your boyfriend in some dude's VW bus. I think she'd have freedom to have a lot more experiences if she wasn't tied to some crap job and $50,000 in student loans, and then she'd use those experiences to do something really wonderful, like start a women's shelter. 

Anyway. What is freewriting? It's just what it sounds like - put fingers to keys and make words come out. I'm doing this blog for a lot of reasons, but what I get out of it is a reason to write something new every week. I'm working on a novel and I have a job, but that's just *work*. It gets stifling, boring. I'm hoping you people will give me more to want to write for.

Prompt 2: in another place...

Prompt 2: Put someone you know in another time and/or place.

"Pick up your shoes," Mother said, "don't you care about your appearance?" The house was clapboard, the town runny in spring. Elyse entered America in 1956 and half of Honeysuckledale, Pennsylvania didn't have a radio. To visit a friend's, it was faster to walk across a field than to drive. Prom dresses came from Sears & Roebuck. By the grace of a too clever mind in between the two braids that ran down her head and over her ears, Elyse was granted the privilege of college.

Elyse returned to Muhlenberg College her senior year newly anointed with peace, love, music, and mud on all her favorite flares. She asked her grandma to teach her how to crochet and macramé and made herself an autumn-colored wardrobe. She ironed her hair. She met Michael. And then Anna, Raquel, Georges, Sacha, Professor DeLeo ("Call me Tim"), and the magic mushroom.

At 56, Elyse still lunches with Anna, she's still married to Michael, she heard some poor girl finally pressed charges against Professor DeLeo, she's taught someone to macramé, and has landed in a cabin in California to hide out until the Republicans go away. She's not done taking on the world, but prefers to take it one small chunk at a time.

I welcome you to respond to this prompt in the comments, your own journal, or the privacy of your imagination.

*Prompt source: Uni English prof. Photo credit here

Prompt 1: that time you fucked up

Prompt the first: Write about a time when you were in a bit of trouble, a time when you found yourself in the midst of a royally fucked up situation.*

I left the office; the alcoholic was called in. And soon turned out.

Drink exposed her pain and evaporated her awareness.

Her gin-vile, breathy plea: "What did I do to you?"

I encourage you to answer the prompt in the comments. If you respond on your own blog, please post a link here.

*Prompt source.


Welcome to the blog. If you're here, you're participating. I commit to write at least one prompt response a week. You, the reader, are welcome to respond in the comments, your own blog, your personal ink-and-paper journals, or in your own head. I want no layabouts here! If you're reading, you're thinking. I'm not a trained monkey, after all, but I do take requests. Email them to or post them in the comments.

What's a scrivener? "Bartleby the Scrivener" is the only accessible short story Melville ever wrote. Go read it. It's subversive.

What's a collider?
We write, we collide. We talk about our writing and ideas crash together and creativity happens. It's like chemistry that way. Also it's a technicy thing Homer Simpson could blow up.

Who are you?
I'm Your Scrivener and a librarian living with my parents outside a major East Coast city. I'm constantly looking for a better job. I'm a nightcrawler, I'm gay, I crochet, I read anything halfway amusing, I watch a lot of movies from Netflix. My driving motivation is to escape boredom.