Category Archives: Prompt

Prompt: No Returns Policy

This is inspired by my own dismal failure this week.

A character, any character, is excited to buy something. They go through the whole process ecstatic for the result, fantasizing about what it’ll be like when it finally gets there.

And then it does. And it is nothing like how they expected.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing, and how do they react?

-The Novice Wordsmith

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Basket Weaving for Fun: The Prose and Cons

In many of my posts before, I’ve mentioned character depth and development. Just pick one, there’s likely to be something about it. It’s something I’m constantly writing about it, mostly because there are so many aspects and facets to cover and help bring life to a character that is at first two dimensional.

Among their unforgettable facets, is what they pursue as a hobby. Consider that. Even the most alien of creatures has a hobby, don’t they? Unless they’re a robot with no emotional sensation, there’s bound to be something they want to spend their down time doing.

Whether it’s making art out of an unusual medium (bottle caps, broken claw shavings, old aluminum cans), or just having something to do idly (crochet, collections, coloring), or maybe it requires a lot of focus, getting their mind off of whatever their day held (musical instruments, DIY projects, leather crafting). Come up with your own, to fit the universe, or explore those that already exist.

Characters who go through retirement are twice as likely to have hobbies, just to keep them busy. Maybe they volunteer somewhere, or they’ve taken up pottery, or knife making, or magic. Or, one of my favorites that sneaked over into my life, putting together flower arrangements.

As with every other minor detail, hobbies have a place to come up along the story line. It’s a small mention, usually. Maybe their downtime is being encroached upon by a new responsibility and they’re reflecting on what they’ll lose the ability to do. Their cousin or father could say a word or two in the direction of what they’ve been doing when they aren’t busy with more pressing matters.

There exists the chance of overpowering the story line if you give too much time and energy to explaining what they’re doing, unless it fits with the way it’s going. Maybe a chapter or scene filled with thought and wonder, while their hands move about with a needle or they push off from a balance bar in a complicated dance move.

But let’s tuck away the idea of how to put it into a story first and look instead at how well they do. The usual start is a slow one, steady, bad. “Sucking at something is the first step to becoming sorta good at it,” are the lovely words of Jake from Adventure Time, and I have to agree. However, there are others who manage to pick something up and are more than halfway decent at it on the first try. (Those people tend get a lot of hate, though, because how dare they be so great so quickly?!)

Think of it as if it were your hobby, in a way. Writing was simply a hobby for me when I was a kid, and I had an off again on again relationship with it for several years before it punched on hard and became more than simply a time-pass. It’s become a cultivated interest.

Watercolor and drawing haven’t had quite the same click with me. I’ve been wanting to be more prolific with them, but it doesn’t come as easily as writing. Painting was a great escape and outlet for me after the passing of my mother, however, and it’s always a wonder to see how colors play together, and to make my own art that I’m proud of.

Our main characters are an extension of life, and they live immortal in written or typed word. Whatever they find enjoyable when there’s nothing else imminent says a lot about them, as it would for us as the authors.

The meticulous and detail-oriented would find refuge in the ship-in-a-bottle. Free-spirits gravitate toward dance or paint or sculpting. Rule-driven may lose hours in the physical, such as running or martial arts. Creativity can abound in any of these, not simply limited to the arts, though there tends to be more room for it there.

I shouldn’t forget that video games are a hobby, too… Seeing as I tend to spend a lot of time doing them myself, and here’s something for every type of person there. An aversion to them, or a pull, still has something to say about the character.

Whatever it is that’s said, muttered, whispered, screamed or giggled, explore it, find it, away from the novel or the story you’re working on if you have to. Dedicate a small scene for it, all its own, independent of anything else, just to see how it fits, to see what they do and how they do it. Feel out the smaller parts of a bigger picture.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Guest Post: Push Yourself, Because Nobody Else (Usually) Will

It’s easy to write when you have a good idea and a good head of steam. The words just flow. You fall into the easy sense of your own writing bath, and it’s warm and comfy.

One of the things I love doing to Wordsmith is to give her a prompt for the day. It’s a game we play; a challenge to her writing limits by putting in something that she wouldn’t have thought of herself.

What she doesn’t know is that I’m giving her these things based on being inspired by her writing. (Well, she knows now.) Or based on things I’ve seen during my travels. Or just being ornery.

The idea is that by doing this, I’m facilitating her writing chops by having her rise to meet any assignment I give her. She doesn’t have to do it right away, she doesn’t have to succeed; it’s like serving a tennis ball over the (Inter)net. “Here, see if you can hit this.”

Sometimes she lobs it back with casual grace. Other times she smashes it back and I can’t help but return it with a similar piece of my own. And other times she chases it down but can’t quite wrap her head around the concept. So I know where her writing strengths and weaknesses are.

At one point in my life, I had someone doing that for me. “Write a scene without using any metaphors.” ‘Write a short story and use 6 out of these 10 words.’ “Describe an object without using the sense of sight.” “Write a scene about X, but don’t use ANY of these words.”

The first choices we make as writers is what defines our writing flow. But if we keep choosing that choice — the same stock characters over and over, the same situations over and over, we run the risk of getting too comfy with our writing — writing the same thing over and over. I’m sure you’ve seen it in some of your favorite authors. It should never be like that.

The best authors craft up a world, a self-contained character with a life independent of any of his or her predecessors, every time. You should never have ‘previous novel’s protagonist copy with their name and hair changed.’ as the main character twice in a row.

Change it up. Dare to be different. Dare to push yourself to craft something unique from the story before. Every year I do the NaNoWriMo I deliberately switch genres from the previous year, just so I separate myself from the last elements of the last novel with a whole year, if not more.

Mash two genres together that don’t normally go together. “Ballet Drama” and “Western”? Or maybe three– “Mystery” and “Survival” and “Historical Piece”?

If your first instinct is ‘you can’t, then you aren’t pushing hard enough. Try to come up with an idea to make the plot work. I mean, heck. The Japanese anime writers do it all the time…. check out Hetalia: Axis Powers, for example, where someone mashed up World Politics with Anthropomorphism.

(Yeah, I know. I said, ‘What? How did they ever think of that?’ too.)

When you find the right motivation, and the right idea, the push will become a pull. And suddenly you’ll be expanding your writing universe in a wholly unexpected direction…

Good luck…

Prompt: Seabound

An elderly (wo)man lives in a city that’s submerged in the sea, which is one of several hundred all around the world. Tell the tale through his/her voice of why the population started to go underwater, and what made it work so well. Was there a disaster that caused it to happen, and who resisted it? Don’t forget to mention if anyone passed away or became a case study in what should or should not be done underwater, as well as how long ago it happened, and if it’s permanent.

– The Novice Wordsmith

Prompt: Double Dare

I want to point out first that the intention isn’t to say that you need to do both, just that there’s two here when normally there’s only one! Though that’s not to say you can’t if you want to!

New Year’s focused: Write a story where each of the notable events of 2014, big and small, make an appearance somehow. You could be walking through town, a favorite hero could be talking to a friend or co-worker, or it could be a reflective piece. The goal is to highlight your previous year and look back at everything you did and that happened.

Non-New Year’s focused: Figure out something you would never do, and then write someone ( a character on your roster or someone else completely random and new) doing that. Do they like it? How much different is their experience from how you would encounter it?

Happy writing and, of course, happy 2015!

-The Novice Wordsmith

Prompt: In the Spirit of the Holiday

Giving presents on Christmas is taboo, and it always has been. No one knows where it came from or how it got there, but they respect it as an unspoken rule. Everyone, that is, except you.

Write about what happens when you give a friend or family member a gift, and the resulting backlash from it.

Merry Christmas, you rebels!

-The Novice Wordsmith

Prompt: In Review

In spectacularly predictable fashion, this prompt is dedicated to looking back at the past year. Also unsurprisingly,  this is one of my favorite things to do, to see how much I’ve changed and any improvements or if maybe things didn’t go so well.

Hit pause and step back, look at things now. How many new characters did you introduce this year? Did you kill anyone off for good? Relationships have come and gone, and plotlines come in just the same, but what was the most exciting, surprising part of this year that opened up to you in your writing?

Your writing in general, has it gotten better? Have you published something or started publishing, or maybe you’ve gotten a following on your self-publishing, on Amazon or Wattpad?

Look over your shoulder at the past year, regard it, and pick out what you liked and didn’t like about it. Everything you finished and some things you let hang, what  you tried to accomplish and couldn’t manage, or never got to. All of the different stories you wrote, the challenges you took on, and what you found to be your best work of the year.

A year is a long time, but it can feel like it goes by so quick, and either way, so much can happen in all that time.

When you’re done looking backward, look ahead. Figure out what new goals to set for yourself this year. How far do you want to push yourself? What needs improvement? What needs to be toned down? Most of all, where do you see yourself in a year in terms of your writing?

Next week’s prompt won’t be as predictable, but I hope you enjoy this one anyway!

-The Novice Wordsmith

Prompt: Lazy or Busy?

Quick prompt for you in between all of my stuff today!

Pick a character and run with it: Are they the kind that would do all the cooking on Thanksgiving, or would they completely opt out? Furthermore, are they more lazy, or do they have to have something to do? For those who aren’t in the US, focus more on a day where food is the key, whether it be a birthday or a different holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving and happy Thursday/Friday to everyone!

-The Novice Wordsmith

Dare/Prompt: Inked Up

One of the fun things I always forget about that I can add for characters adds to a more alternative look. Tattoos, piercings, dyed hair.

Simple as they are, they can help round the character out, while giving something fun or exciting to look at from another character’s standpoint. Some, who aren’t as enamored with these sorts of things, may not think of them so much. Others may not have many characters without them.

Putting marks on a character that’s well established already is only tricky if you pass it off as them having it for long enough that it coincides with other works you’ve written.  Giving them new ink or piercings, or glasses, or any other small, little things that help aid the appearance, however, can do a lot to sway them in one direction or another, personality wise, or establish their attitude or dynamic better, in some ways.

The prompt/dare is this: Look back on all of your characters and really think about which ones have what. Consider if these things dictate the character, or the other way around. If you don’t have characters with a tattoo, or someone who likes to dye their hair, or has piercings that aren’t in their ears, make one, with the conscious decision on whether the personal affects help define the character, or the other way around.

Don’t be afraid to go overboard, go with what feels right for the character. Write what’s right, essentially. 😉

– The Novice Wordsmith