Prompt Wednesday: Character Connection

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As you may know from reading this blog, one of my favorite source of writing prompts is the site, They Fight Crime. For those of you who don’t know, the site basically supplies you with two very diverse and unique characters to write about and then places them together with the closing phrase, “they fight crime!” This is all well and good, but sometimes I get to thinking — what would these characters do if they had an argument over breakfast? What if they get a flat tire and are forced to spend three consecutive hours together waiting for a tow truck? What are they like when they’re spending a weekend together?

Characters are, to me, the backbone of any story because they provide the connection between your story and your readers. Characters will either be a reader’s best friends or those boring people she tries to avoid in the hallway of her apartment. Ideally, you want a reader to feel close to your characters and to feel as though they know them. This means showing a realistic and relatable side to those characters every once in a while. Even if they’re the most interesting people in the world, they still need to eat and shop and take a break at the beach every now and again. Show your readers those hidden scenes and you’ll help cultivate a connection between those reading your book and those starring in it.

So, for today’s prompt, try taking a pair of characters from They Fight Crime and putting them into a normal, realistic situation. But make sure to retain their highly unique qualities when you write. To get you started, consider these characters:

  • He’s an underprivileged chivalrous shaman looking for ‘the Big One.’ She’s a pregnant hip-hop socialite looking for love in all the wrong places…they have a shopping day in downtown Chicago!
  • He’s a short-sighted coffee-fuelled boxer possessed of the uncanny powers of an insect. She’s a beautiful streetsmart barmaid who believes she is the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian queen…they eat breakfast!
  • He’s a bookish coffee-fuelled astronaut with a robot buddy named Sparky. She’s a foxy foul-mouthed soap star in the witness protection scheme…they wait for the plumber to show up!

Happy Wednesday & happy writing!

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan

Prompt Weds.: Ordinary & Wild

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Some of the most fun and interesting fiction I’ve read has come from the author Jasper Fforde. Fforde’s surreal plots and colorful scenery have captivated me in every one of his books. Something that I think Fforde does very well is to take the ordinary bits of our world and blow them out into wild and fascinating proportions. For instance, in his Thursday Next series, he talks very often about Thursday’s family life — she’s a wife and the mother of three children — but makes that wild and interesting. Next has an eccentric uncle who tinkers with literature-hopping devices, her son is often visited by his future self who works for the time travel agency, and she has a stalker who’s simply trying to catalog her life for a biography he’s writing. These extraordinary details make ordinary bits of the Thursday Next story pop off the page and engage the reader more effectively.

So, today’s prompts are taken from a creative writing site and from the fabulous They Fight Crime! website. The prompts from the former site are relatively normal and ordinary slice-of-life prompt ideas. The prompts from the latter site, however, are often wild and out-of-this-world. Try combining one of the ordinary prompts with one of the wild prompts and see what you come up with!

Prompt Set #1

  • Ordinary: After your character loses his job, he is home during the day. That’s how he discovers that his teenage son has a small marijuana plantation behind the garage. Your character confronts his son, who, instead of acting repentant, explains to your character exactly how much money he is making from the marijuana and tries to persuade your character to join in the business…
  • Wild: He’s a shy playboy paramedic who hangs with the wrong crowd. She’s a wealthy red-headed research scientist trying to make a difference in a man’s world. They fight crime!

Prompt Set #2

  • Ordinary: At a garage sale, your character buys an antique urn which she thinks will look nice decorating her bookcase. But when she gets home, she realizes there are someone’s ashes in it….
  • Wild: He’s a fast talking day-dreaming rock star searching for his wife’s true killer. She’s a plucky snooty college professor who hides her beauty behind a pair of thick-framed spectacles. They fight crime!

Combine some stereotypically boring stuff with some stereotypically interesting stuff and see what comes out in your latest writing piece. And most of all, have fun with it! Now, go write!

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan

Prompt Wednesday: Short Stories

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Often, when working my way through writing projects, I find the best question to ask is: what happens next? This may seem like common sense, but sometimes writers get wrapped up in formatting their dialogue correctly and placing commas in the right place to remember that a story needs to flow logically and in an entertaining fashion. Next time you get stuck, just ask yourself: what comes next? If I was reading this story, what would I want to come next? Then, write that!

This week, I snagged some more prompts from the creative writing site that I recently found. These prompts seem to beg the question, what happens next? So, read through these prompts and ask yourself how the story should progress — then write! Now that the weather seems to have cooled down, why not take a pad and pen outside and get some writing done? Try out these prompts on for size and come back next week for even more short story ideas:

  1. Your character has to tell his parents that he’s getting a divorce. He knows his parents will take his wife’s side, and he is right…
  2. At the airport, a stranger offers your character money to carry a mysterious package onto the plane. The stranger assures your character that it’s nothing illegal and points out that it has already been through the security check. Your character has serious doubts, but needs the money, and therefore agrees…
  3. Your character suspects her husband is having an affair and decides to spy on him. What she discovers is not what she was expecting…
  4. A man elbows your character in a crowd. After he is gone, she discovers her cell phone is too. She calls her own number, and the man answers. She explains that the cell phone has personal information on it and asks the man to send it back to her. He hangs up. Instead of going to the police, your character decides to take matters into her own hands…

Good luck writing!

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan

Prompt Wednesday: Longer Ideas

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For the past weeks, the prompt posts here at the blog have been filled with short, snappy ideas to get your mind working. While it’s true, as I said last week, that quick prompts can get your brain going, some writers might need more of a developed idea to go on. I know that sometimes when I sit down to write, the first thing I do is list bullet points of what I want to include in the story. I jot down characters I want to include and main ideas that I want to hit upon while I write.

The creative writing site I’ve been referencing lately offers some prompts that are lengthier and add more depth to a writing prompt, just as those bullet points might. In this batch of posts you have ideas for stories about scandal, danger, drunkenness, and anxiety. A wide array of plot ideas lie in these prompts, so give them a try! Choose one of the prompts here and see where it leads you. Begin by jotting down those bullet points and then start writing!

Here are this week’s prompts:

  1. A babysitter is snooping around her employer’s house and finds a disturbing photograph…
  2. At a Chinese restaurant, your character opens his fortune cookie and reads the following message: “Your life is in danger. Say nothing to anyone. You must leave the city immediately and never return. Repeat: say nothing.”…
  3. Your character’s boss invites her and her husband to dinner. Your character wants to make a good impression, but her husband has a tendency to drink too much and say exactly what’s on his mind…
  4. It’s your character’s first day at a new school. He or she wants to get a fresh start, develop a new identity. But in his or her homeroom, your character encounters a kid he or she knows from summer camp…

I hope these help you write some interesting stories!

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan

Prompt Wednesday: Word Association

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Sometimes all you need to get writing is a single idea. Maybe you see something interesting on television that sparks your imagination and that spins out into a full-fledged piece of writing. What if someone handed you a post-it note with one word written on it and told you to write a story based on that word? How would you approach that prompt? You’d probably see what first came to mind when you thought of that word. Using associations that you have in your own mind from your memories and experiences, you’d probably be able to write something suitable and it all came from just one word. When you draw on your own experiences, what you write will be unique and interesting to your readers.

For the past few weeks I’ve been using quick word groupings from a creative writing site that offers quick short story ideas for writers. Take a look at this week’s prompts and see what comes to mind.  Think about each word and what experiences you’ve had with that person or object. Then try your hand at writing a story involving those words. You don’t have to write a non-fiction or autobiographical piece, but remember that drawing from your own experiences make a story your own. Here are this week’s prompts:

  • An annoying boss, a bikini, and a fake illness.
  • The first day of school, a love note, and a recipe with a significant mistake.
  • A horoscope, makeup, and a missing tooth.
  • A campfire, a scream, and a small lie that gets bigger and bigger.

Good luck and happy Wednesday writing!

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan

 

Prompt Wednesday: Quick Ideas

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Last week, I talked about “jumper cable” ideas that are just quick snippets of things you might want to use in a short story of yours. It is my belief that you can take a series of three items/people/situations and write a story based on those items. I once did National Novel Writing Month based simply on a dream I’d had. Now, was it a good novel? No, it’s dreadful. But I was also sixteen years old and didn’t take the time to edit, proofread, or revise the novel.

Given the nature of short stories, I think simple ideas are where you should begin. Short stories have always been difficult for me because they have a space limit and a word limit. A novel can be as long as it needs to be for you to tell the story, but a short story can’t be as long as a novel. So, start with something simple and try your hand at a three or four page short story. I hope that these prompt ideas, from a creative writing site that I recently found, can get your brain working.

  1. A broken wristwatch, peppermints, and a hug that goes too far.
  2. Aerobics, a secret diary, and something unpleasant under the bed.
  3. An ex-boyfriend, a pair of binoculars, and a good-luck charm.

I hope these prompts get your brain juices flowing. Stay cool & best of luck writing!

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan

Prompt Wednesday: Jumper Cables

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Sometimes our minds get lethargic and have trouble coming up with new ideas to write about. This is just a part of nature and everyday life and is bound to happen. In the same way that your car’s lethargic engine can be boosted back to full capacity, your brain can often be jump-started with new ideas. Now, before you go rushing to the garage or tool shed for your set of jumper cables, look no further than this prompt post. If you’re a fiction writer who’s looking for something new and fresh to jumpstart her mind, you’ve come to the right place. This afternoon, I found a website providing quick and easy short story ideas to get your mind juices flowing and your typing fingers jumping across those keyboards. This week’s short ideas include these options:

  • A stolen ring, fear of spiders, and a sinister stranger.
  • A taxi, an old enemy, and Valentine’s Day.
  • Identical twins, a party invitation, and a locked closet.

Simply choose one of these options and write a story including all of the elements listed. Or, mix and match the options and see what you come up with. Either way, this is your chance to use some virtual jumper cables and do some writing! Take advantage of this lovely summer evening and get writing!

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan

Prompt Wednesday: Losing Your Temper

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Apologies are in order for the lack of prompt posts on these past few Wednesdays. This week, though, we turn back to the One Minute Writer blog that I’ve used in the past for prompt posts. As a refresher, the aim of the One Minute Writer blog is to give you a prompt that will get you writing for at least one minute a day. Of course, if you write for at least one minute you might write some more. For today, I chose a prompt that was featured on the blog in the middle of last week.

Prompt: When you “lose your temper” where is the best place to find it?

This prompt may seem to be worded in a silly way, but when I read it I thought it was rather clever. I think the prompt can be interpreted any way you like, but I see it as asking what you do to relieve that angry feeling or what you turn to as a solace when someone makes you lose your cool.

When I’m feeling angry, the first thing I usually do is plug in my headphones and crank up some music that makes me feel good. Sometimes I crank up angry music, though, which also makes me feel better. Reading makes me cool down because it means that I’m disappearing into another world and thinking about things other than whatever was making me angry. So, I suppose that I would “find my temper” in the consoling strains of a guitar note in a Springsteen song, or in the fabled pages of a great work of fiction.

For this prompt, take a quiet moment to yourself and do some self-reflecting. Write a short journal entry or something similar in response to this prompt and maybe it will help you the next time you lose your temper  over something. Where do you “find your temper” when you’ve lost it?

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan

Prompt Wednesday: Time Travel

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Editor’s Note: This post has been written by Tonya Peterson, an English major at Lewis University. Tonya is interning with the Jet Fuel Review this semester and will be contributing blog posts periodically.

If you were born in another era, who would you be? 

Creating a character and setting for a story can be challenging. For this week’s writing prompt I am suggesting you create an alter ego in another time and see where that character takes you.  Take yourself out of this century and transport yourself (i.e. your character) into another time. Where would you transport yourself?

I have oftentimes thought about time travel back to Victorian England or maybe Medieval Europe.  Who would you be — landed bourgeoisies or laboring in the slums and sweatshops during the Industrial England? If you are going to create this time, place and character, are you going to be authentic to the era or create an alternate plain of existence?

I am a huge fan of historical fiction and have plans on expanding my writing to include stories of that genre. I often struggle with getting started and where to progress from a certain point until was until I came across a guideline of sorts to walk me through the process. Now if you like what you created then historical novelist Elizabeth Crook includes an excellent article on her website about the “Seven Rules for Writing Historical Fiction”:

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Prompt Wednesday: Imitation Poems

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Editor’s Note: This post has been written by Tonya Peterson, an English major at Lewis University. Tonya is interning with the Jet Fuel Review this semester and will be contributing blog posts periodically.

“Imitation, conscious imitation, is one of the great methods, perhaps the method of learning to write. The ancients, the Elizabethans, knew this, profited by it, and were not disturbed. As a son of Ben [Jonson], Herrick more than once rewrote Jonson, who, in turn, drew heavily on the classics. And so on.”—Theodore Roethke, “How to Write Like Somebody Else”

As a creative writer, I have found myself facing the dreadful writer’s block syndrome. I was dumbfounded by how I was going to create unique and interesting works for my writing portfolio until my son came home with a middle school poem exercise. He was tasked with an assignment to re-write a nursery rhyme. I immediately recalled the imitation exercises that I did in my writing workshops at Lewis University and he and I knocked that assignment out in no time. That prompted me to start flipping through some poetry books to find a poem to emulate.

Imitation or copying has a connotation that implies something bad. However, as a writer, I needed to remember that my inspiration to write has often times come from other writer’s works.  It is not copying an author when you cite their work, so think of imitation as the most direct route to mastering a skill. You just follow the master step by step and you’re bound to get it. Is that not how we learn to do pretty much everything in life?  It is not just found in writing either. In actuality there is a long tradition of this in the arts. Go to a museum and you’re likely to find a student tracing someone else’s moves.

Imitation is a means by which we can take past traditions into account and build upon, develop, and change the past tradition all the while finding our contribution to the fine arts. It is a method that will help hone the craft of creation. By imitating the writing styles of the greats, one can feel the process of putting the words on the paper and will eventually learn to branch out into their own creative and unique style.

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