Writing Prompts

I have a stack of books and booklets with writing prompts in. I love them – always have. It’s great to mull on an idea, have a scene sparked off by just a line or image. A good writing prompt can lead to a great story. In a way, it’s always why I sometimes like themed competitions or submissions. Writing to a prompt or theme really gives me a chance to exercise my writing muscles.

Problem is, sometimes the story ends up being a little…long. Which in some cases is fine. But I used to be able to write shorter short stories quite a lot, and I need to try that more, need to try to pin it down.

So, here’s the plan. Now and then, I am going to pick out a prompt, and post it here as a small extract. They might contain characters from current WIPs, or even ‘lore’ relating to those worlds. We’ll see. And if a prompt intrigues you, too, please feel free to use it and let me know how you got on. Once I’ve got a few posted, I’ll  add a page to list them all. And please remember, these will be unedited, rough pieces, but I always welcome constructive criticism! Every post will be prefaced by PROMPT #. Let’s see how this goes. Like my own mini-writing challenge!

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Damn Fine Story – Chuck Wendig [Books]

damn fine storyI love books about writing. I love reading about the craft, seeing different ways of doing the same thing, taking notes so I can look back over them later. Stephen King’s On Writing is probably the most well known, with good reason. It should have pride of place on any writer’s bookshelf. But so should Chuck Wendig’s Damn Fine Story.

There’s a definite wit and charm to this,  with asides and jokes guaranteed to make you smile. Concepts are explained easily, with examples mainly from film, including Die Hard, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Hunger Games. The book isn’t a massive tome detailing the technical aspects of writing. It’s fairly small (my copy is 226 pages), but goes more into the actual storytelling side, as indicated by the title and subtitle.

The ideas explored in the book focus on plot and character, examining how a writer can make things more exciting for the reader, less boring, while also giving them time to breathe between scenes. Wendig is honest with the reader, outlining exactly what we, as writers, need to keep in mind as we work on a project. And the tips inside aren’t just relevant to prose, but to scripts, comics, and any other story-driven medium one can think of.

If I find myself struggling with my WIP, I’m definitely going to refer to this book. It’s a great collection of advice, written in a friendly, easy-going style, and I’d highly suggest anyone interested in writing picks this up. It will, without a doubt, help next time you’re struck by the dreaded Writer’s Block.

You can find out more about Chuck Wendig at Terrible Minds.

Are there any particular books about writing you enjoy, you’ve liked, that you’ve referred to over and over again?

Taking Inspiration

Over Easter weekend I went to Margate to visit my brother and his girlfriend with my dad. Basically, it’s a journey directly east across the country, mainly on the motorways. On the way there I fell asleep before we left Cardiff, and woke up near Reading. On the way back, I fell asleep for about an hour. Most of the rest of the time was spent reading; there’s not a lot to really look at on that journey.

cardiff to margate.png

We arrived on Good Friday. Went out in Margate in the evening and by Saturday I realized I desperately needed a notebook. Not that I was planning on doing some serious writing, just something to jot things down in. Despite having countless notebooks at home, I’d forgotten to throw one in my bag when we left. (The perils of packing while hungover last minute because of a decision to go for ‘one or two’ drinks the night before)

Luckily for me, we were going on a day trip to Canterbury. There were two things I wanted that I thought I would easily be able to get hold of; a nice notebook, and a copy of Canterbury Tales.

As it turned out, I was wrong.

I didn’t get either in Canterbury, though I did fall in love with the place. It’s a beautiful city with a lot of history behind it, and it was just a shame we couldn’t spend more time there to look into the museums or the cathedral. But I did pick up a couple of books at an awesome charity bookshop, had lunch in a lovely pub, and got really, really freaked out by something I saw there.

By the way, I don’t like dolls. Or dummies. They scare me. And what I saw involved dolls, and it was…strange. Very strange. I won’t go into too much detail here but it has now inspired a short story.

So as soon as we got back to Margate and stopped at Tesco, I grabbed myself a cheap notebook. Nothing fancy, just something I could jot down ideas in.

This notebook is now going to live n whatever bag I am carrying with me at the time. Because whether it’s Margate or just going out for a day trip, ideas can strike anywhere and at any time. It’s one of the first rules as a writer and one I’ve let myself down on, a lot. Always carry a notebook and pen. Always.

Lesson learnt. Because, really, you never know when you’ll see something that creeps you out enough to make you think it might just make a good horror story to creep out other people, too.