Category Archives: Writing Prompts

Let’s save the world!…Or not.

Hello everyone!

Have you ever planned to do something and then had those plans fall apart?  I have, and many amazing book characters have too.

Just yesterday, I planned to go on a day trip to Ligonier, PA to do some research for a chapter book series I want to write.  I was fine in the morning, started to feel unwell during the three-hour drive to Ligonier, and arrived just in time to throw up.  My traveling companion graciously agreed to turn right around and drove me home.

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to write a short story or scene(s) in which your protagonist planned to accomplish something (it could be saving the world or going to the grocery store), and the plan majorly failed.  Below are a few things to consider when writing your short story or scene(s):

  1. th0PT2DQ7ZWhy did the plan fail?
  2. Why was the plan important to the protagonist?
  3. How does the protagonist feel about and react to the failure?
  4. How do the other characters feel about and react to the failure?
  5. Can the protagonist save or fix the situation?  Does he/she act on his/her ability?  Why or why not?

Happy writing!

Katie

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Daily Inspirations

Hello everyone!

Have you ever noticed how everyday things can be the best inspiration?  I recently got two parakeets: first Orville, then Wilbur a week later.  Orville was lonely, so it seemed like the right decision to get him a brother.

It struck me that my interactions with my birds were a lot like the way I develop characters for a story.  I got Orville for companionship and planned to let our relationship develop based on his personality, but I got Wilber to fill a hole in Orville’s life.  (I had a function and name, all that was missing was the character.)

silhouette 1

Once Wilbur joined our family, Orville’s true personality came out.  The quiet bird who let me hold him, became a vocal hand-avoider.  As a result, I had to re-think the way I was training both birds.

 

Carrot 1

My parakeets have been so inspiring to me, that I’ve decided to turn them into characters for a picture book.  I have several ideas for the theme, but it could still change.

Your challenge for the next two weeks is to use something new or ordinary from your daily life as the foundation for a picture book, short story, or poem.

I’d love to know what your inspiration is and whether you will be writing a picture book, short story, or poem. If you’re comfortable sharing, please post in the comments below.

Happy writing!

Katie

Is It Worth the Cost?

Hello everyone!

“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater.  […]  Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.”
― Veronica Roth, Allegiant

thM7R5DEQIThink about your favorite book.  What does the protagonist want?  In the end, does he/she get it?  That question and answer give you the basic plot.

Now, here’s a deeper question: What does trying to achieve his/her goal cost the protagonist?  The answer to that question is what makes the story and/or character interesting.  In my opinion, the cost is essential to the protagonist’s growth.

untitledConsider The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Edmond wants to be a king, but by siding with the White Witch, he sacrifices his freedom, his family’s trust, and – without Aslan’s intervention – his life.

Now let’s think about The Hunger Games.  Katniss is willing to do anything to protect her sister.  When Katniss takes Prim’s place in the games, she sacrifices her own safety to achieve her goal.  Once Katniss is in the games, her goal becomes to survive.  Surviving the games costs her what little childhood innocence she has left, friendships, and her peace of mind.

By the end of the books, both Edmond and Katniss are changed.  Regardless of whether or not they succeeded, they have to live with the consequences of what they did.

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to:

  1. Choose a protagonist you have already created.
  2. Ask yourself what your character wants.
  3. Decide what he/she loses or willingly sacrifices while attempting to achieve his/her goal.
  4. Write the scene where your protagonist either chooses to pay the price or realizes what he/she will lose even if he/she is not willing to lose it.
  5. Does he/she feel like the cost was worth it?  (I do not think this necessarily needs to be included in a book, but I as the author like to know.)

In “The Four Crystals,” the novel I’m currently editing, having each character risk, lose, or willingly sacrifice something of value has raised the stakes and made the characters’ motivation stronger.  It’s also required a lot more editing than I ever imagined having to put into the novel.  (In-depth editing is the cost of writing a novel worthy of publication.)

Happy writing!

Katie

What’s in a Song?

Hello everyone!

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I love musicals, and Disney movies.  One of the reasons that I love them so much is because each song has a purpose: either to push the plot forward or give the audience some needed information.

Below are five functions that come to mind when I think of a song from a musical:

  1. table 2Setting the Stage: The song gives the background for the story or for a key part of the plot. (Examples: A Rumor in St. Petersburg from Anastasia, Alexander Hamilton from Hamilton, Façade from Jekyll and Hyde)

 

  1. time 8Passage of Time: I have mostly seen this done so that the audience can see a character’s childhood, but it can be used in other ways. (Examples: I Know It’s Today from Shrek The Musical, Lovely Ladies from Les Misérables, The Plagues from The Prince of Egypt)

 

  1. thQ5KBFDS2Exposition: The song explains something. (Examples: Tightrope from The Greatest Showman, Something Bad from Wicked, I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here from Annie)

 

  1. th73J0AYXLDesire: Expresses what the protagonist wants. (Examples: Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid, Santa Fe from Newsies, Much More from The Fantastics)

 

  1. Romance 1Love Song: There are many varieties of long songs.  Often a love song is a duet, but sometimes it is just one character expressing his/her love for another character.  It can also be the song in which two characters fall in love or finally realize that they are in love. (Examples: Can You Feel the Love Tonight from The Lion King, Jimmy from Thoroughly Modern Millie, I See the Light from Tangled)

Writing Challenge:

Choose a story that connects with you.  Now, try to write a song for one of the scenes or one of the characters.  Make sure that the song has a purpose, it cannot just sound pretty.

If you feel confident in your song writing abilities, increase the difficulty level by writing the song with a specific target audience in mind.  For example, the language Lin-Manuel Miranda used in Hamilton is very different from the language he used in Moana.  The reason is that Hamilton was written for an adult audience while Moana was marketed to children and their families.

Happy writing (and singing)!

Katie

What’s in a Name?

Hello everyone!

Developing a new character can be tricky.  Apart from asking questions to learn more about who a character is, I can’t say that I have a standard way in which I create one.

pencil sketch 7Sometimes, characters come to me with a look, personality, and name.  All I have to do is insert them into a story.  Other times, I’ll be writing a story and realize that I have a “role” that needs to be filled in order for the story to succeed.  When this happens, I usually have the personality and maybe even the backstory of the character in mind.  I just have to choose a name and look for the character.

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to create a character based off of a random name.

  1. Go to an online name generator. (If you want, you may specify gender, but let the computer decide everything else.)
  2. Create a character for the name you are given: backstory, personality, home life, family relationships, profession, the culture in which he/she lives, his/her role in society, his/her beliefs (religious, political, etc.), and anything else you can think of.

When you’re done, ask yourself whether or not your new character could fit into a story you’re already writing or if he/she is the inspiration you needed for a new story.

Happy writing!

Katie

*Special thanks to my friend, Taylor Bresslin, for having me do this character creating exercise at one of our writers’ group’s meetings.

Childhood Favorites

Hello everyone!

Ernie Gets LostReading was a huge part of my childhood.  Some of my best memories are of my parents reading to me.  When I was six and got lost at Disney Land, I knew what to do because of a Sesame Street picture book that my mom had read to me.

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to create a new story based off of your favorite picture book from childhood.  Do one of the following:

  1. Re-write the picture book as a story for adults.
  2. Take the moral or theme of the picture book, and write a different children’s story with the same moral or theme.
  3. Why was that picture book your favorite?  Identify element that made the book special for you.  Then, write a story that contains that element, but otherwise is unrelated to that picture book.

Happy writing!

Katie

Word of the Day

Hello everyone!

I love words!  Word choice is crucial to my enjoyment of a song, movie, or book.  The perfect words and references make the experience rapturous while poorly chosen ones make it painful.

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to build a story using one or more words as your foundation.

  1. Go to merriamwebster.com and write a story using the word of the day.  The word of the day can be used in your story or be the theme of your story.
  2. For something even more challenging, go to merriamwebster.com 5-7 days in a row and use all 5-7 words in your story.  Make sure there’s a plot!

revising 1*Remember, this is a writing exercise.  If you like the story and the words don’t work, cut them during the revision phase.  (Considering I’ve never edited something just once, I should probably say “phases.”)

Happy writing!

Katie