Tag Archives: Prompts

One Day Writer’s Retreat for August

14 Sep

Yes, I’ll freely admit this retreat post is a bit late. My apologize, I’ve been finishing so many books I’m falling behind! At the end of August, one of my amazing writer friends hosted a few others at her house to practice our craft, share pieces and generally have a good time. And oh did we ever.

We started with some prompts. I’m not going to share what I wrote, but the prompts are below. They were progressive and built on each other nicely.

  1. Describe an altercation (7 minutes)
  2. Re-write the scene from another point of view (ie switch from 1st to 3rd of vice versa) (7 minutes)
  3. Re-write it from another perspective. Maybe another character or an inanimate object (7)

I really liked doing this exercise because it helped me dive into the characters. I started with a little girl on her first day of Kindergarten reluctant to leave home. By the end, her parents are divorced and her paternal grandmother was sneaking her father into the house to see her and take her shopping. It got intense.

We did some critiquing, which I always love. I shared the second half of a story I’m working on. There was a lot of good feedback which is going to be hard to work in, but will make the story a lot better. It’s the next piece I want to start shopping around and I need to bite the bullet and get down to it!

As always, there were little tidbits of advice that are great to share. The first is for my fellow historical writers out there. The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) is a comprehensive set of slang and English variations across the United States and across time. Yeah. Wow. It’s super expensive but looks awesome. We all started looking for used copies. Another tidbit for any 20s writers, my history-buff friend John shared with me that in that time period, people used last names with each other unless they were very close friends. Coworkers would have addressed each other as Mr. So-and-so and Mr. Whats-his-name instead of Billy and Tommy. Huh.

Some other writerly advice for any genre. When most people draft, they tend to include a lot of backstory. Which is almost (hopefully) immediately edited out. This back story should only exist to inform the characters of what’s happened, not the reader. If your character lives in a world where trees are a main source of food, then he should start chowing down on some bark without explaining it to the reader. If an alien shows up on tree-planet, then it might need to be explained

Most writers have heard the Stephen King quote, “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.” Try cutting all adverbs from a piece and reading it that way. If it doesn’t make sense, consider picking a stronger verb before you decide if the adverb should go back in.

That’s it for this month. I hope we can find some more gems to share with you all next time we meet.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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Writing Prompts: Character Development

10 Feb

It’s been a while since I’ve been to my prompt group. It was good to see everyone again and good to do some writing. I thought I’d share my prompts here for you to try for yourselves and give you a short look at what I wrote. The first two are a warm-up and the second two focused on developing a character through another character’s eyes. Happy writing!

The Prompts:
1. A soft ran (3 minutes)
2. A welcome interruption (4 minutes)
3. Two people meeting again for the first time after a long separation (7 minutes)
4. A person alone for the first time in ages (7 minutes)

My Answers

Prompt 1
The pitter patter of water on glass is almost deafening. There’s no such thing as a soft rain when the entire wall and ceiling above your bed is glass. I stare up into the grey sky, unfocusing in all ways a human can unfocus. This was romantic once when we’d lie here together, staring into the clouds and talking about little nothings. Keeping warm from the snowy ceiling above us in the winter. Letting the sun wake us up on lazy Saturday mornings.

Once before I’d liked the sound of rain on the glass. It was a reminder that I was dry but only because of a thin sheet of glass. A thin sheet that can shatter in a second. In a second called life when the car crashes into your leg but not before crushing through bone and tissue and life to your right.

The rain makes my leg ache as I swing it over the side of the bed and remember that it’s one rainstorm at a time; one day at a time; one breath at a time.

Prompt 2
Data entry could not be more mindless, tedious, boring, and awful. And I’m looking at a stack of it. The 100 most recent customer service surveys filled out by angry customers in the hope of winning at $50 gift card (side note, you’ll never win) and filled out in a hurry against the wall by the door with a pen running out of ink. Please withhold your jealousy. I’ve gone and gotten my morning coffee. I’ve done the recommended ergonomic stretches. I’ve even tried striking up a conversation with Tim, the quiet engineer that sits next to me, but there’s nothing else to do; it’s got to be done.

I pick up the first sheet and glance at the purple pen writing and frantic scribbles that are in the corner, willing the life of the pen to go on. I’m waiting for the universe to interrupt, waiting for something to distract me for another five minutes, but nothing does. I finally open up the tracking document and begin to enter data.

But suddently… yeah, there’s nothing. Back to purple pen misery.

Prompt 3
“Hey cousin!” Mary is waving from the driver’s window of her silver SUV. I’m staring blankly at this woman who I used to know so well and having trouble reconciling her with the grungy older cousin I knew in my youth. I walk over to the car slowly but she makes no move to get out.

“Grace will start wailing if I get out of the car. Hop in! We’re on our way to grab lunch.”

I walk to the driver’s side and hop in. My duffel bag is a little too big to fit on the floor so I hug my knees to my chest. I thought the smell of bus would permeate off of me like an old woman’s perfume but the even stronger scent of diapers and spilled milk masks me.

Mary reaches over the center console and wraps her arms around me as well as she can’t with a seat belt on. “I’m so glad you came to visit. I promise this will be a great little vacation for you. It will be so great to catch up. Gosh, I haven’t seen you since you were in middle school! And now you’re half-way through high school, this is crazy.” Mary gives my shoulder a squeeze and puts the SUV into drive.

I’m about to smile and admit to myself that this really could be fun. I’m optimistically thinking that two weeks with my cousin and her family in Georgia is the break I need to give myself space from my mother and her most recent obsessions (yoga and natural hair treatments) and see what’s been going on with the rest of the family. I’m about to be happy.

There’s a whining behind me and I turn around to see the source of the diapers and spoiled milk. Grace is 18 months old and huge. You’d think she’s three if she didn’t have a baby face and she takes up more of her booster seat than any child should. I smile and reach a hand back to greet her.

“Hi, Grace. I guess I’m your cousin once removed.” I’m thinking that somehow in her 18 months she learned how to shake hands or at least will reach out and touch mine. Instead, her face screws up in a mix of confusion and horror. She opens her mouth and instead of cute little toddler words, a white film comes out. Not a lot, but enough to get on my hand. Grace immediately starts bawling.

Mary turns around and sees my hand, held in the abyss, unable to do anything about it. “Oh gosh, I’m so sorry about that! She does that a lot. I’m sure there are some napkins somewhere around here.” She starts fumbling in the console but comes up with only an old magazine on parenting. “Here, this might help.”

I’m helpless, holding a parenting magazine and baby barf and aware I’m about to get a rude lesson in babysitting and about now I think I’d rather treat my roots with almond oil and wood shavings while doing a down dog pose.

Prompt 4
She closed the door behind her and the giggles, the friends, the late night crying over some social event, the make-up and the frat boys all went with her and for the first time in four weeks, I have the room to myself. Now, two weeks might not seem long to you but to someone who grew up in a quiet house with conservative parents and no pets, four weeks with a newly liberated newly Greek roommate was a long, long time. So long that it forces you to remember what quiet sounds like. The library, unfortunately, has been closed due to water damage and a spider infestation. The quietest place I can find is a coffee shop but it’s a twenty-minute walk and there’s been a deluge of rain the past week.

But this weekend is the pledge retreat in Ohio. Which means Kristen is gone for over 48 hours. All of her friends are going so they won’t be barging in here dying to tell her something and all of the boys know it’s pledge retreat weekend so they won’t knock at three am to see if she’s ‘still up.’

I’m so overwhelmed with possibilities that I’m not sure where to start. I’ll vacuum on Sunday and this will be my first opportunity to remove my things from Kristen’s desk (still not sure how she got my ruler and 3-hole punch). But these things only take me a few minutes. I have 47 hours and 50 minutes left to go.

I can take a nap. But I’m not tired; I really want to turn on some music and for once, I get to pick the music. None of that top 40 stuff that Kristen’s friend Mary insists on; I’m able to put on some nice mellow soft rock. It’s nice to have some noise around. I pull up my Facebook page, trolling for something to distract me.

Hi.

It’s my lab partner, Kaitlyn. We’ve become decently good friends over the past month. As good of friends as you can become in 30 days.

Hi

Is your roommate gone?

Yes! Finally.

Awesome. What are you doing to celebrate this weekend?

I’m not sure.

Want to watch a movie?

Sure

I’ve got Catching Fire. I can be there in 10 minutes.

Make it 15.

Cool, see ya.

 

It was nice while it lasted, but silence could only be sustained for so long.

 

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!