Category Archives: Writing Prompts

What if…?

Hello everyone and a special congratulations to teachers and students everywhere for concluding another school year!

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” – Fred Rogers

My family loves to play games. One which often results in lots of laughter whenever we play it is Imagine iff….

Writing Challenge

Your challenge for the next two weeks is to use the six Imagine iff… cards below to write a short story.

Instructions: There are three steps to this writing challenge. Steps 1 and 2 should be completed before reading Step 3. Together, Steps 1 and 2 should take between 5 and 15 minutes to complete.

thGNWQR3ZMSupplies for Steps 1 and 2: You will need a piece of paper and a writing implement.

Write down your answers as you read the questions. Do NOT read Step 3 until after you have completed Steps 1 and 2.

Step 1: Choose a person you know well or about whom you have strong opinions. He/She can be a friend, family member, or well-known person (contemporary or historical figure).

Step 2: Answer the following questions (from Imagine iff… cards) for the person selected. Write down your answers.

Question 1: Imagine iff… _____ were giving a big speech tomorrow. How would he/she attempt to calm his/her nerves?

    1. Picture everyone in the audience in underwear
    2. Meditate
    3. Nerves? What nerves?
    4. Focus on only one person in the audience
    5. Never look up and read straight from note cards
    6. Cram all night and sleep through the speech

monkey wrench & monkeyQuestion 2: Imagine iff… _____ were a tool. Which would he/she be?

  1. Monkey Wrench
  2. Shovel
  3. Vice
  4. Leaf Blower
  5. Orbital Sander
  6. Chainsaw

Question 3: Imagine iff… _____ were a section in a newspaper. Which would he/she be?

  1. Opinion
  2. Coupons
  3. Picture Page
  4. Stock Quotes
  5. Dear Abby
  6. Travel & Leisure

beach ball 3Question 4: Imagine iff… _____ were a ball. Which would he/she be?

  1. Magic 8-Ball
  2. Beach Ball
  3. Wrecking Ball
  4. Ball Bearing
  5. Medicine Ball
  6. New Year’s Ball

Question 5: Imagine iff… _____ were a type of painting. Which one would he/she be?

  1. Self Portrait
  2. Abstract
  3. Paint by Numbers
  4. Watercolor
  5. Face Paint
  6. Landscape

dust pan & broom 2Question 6: Imagine iff… _____ were something found in a closet. Which would he/she be?

  1. Bowling Pin
  2. Toys
  3. Dust Pan/Broom
  4. Umbrella
  5. Mouse Trap
  6. A Mess

Step 3: Write a short story. Question 1 is your conflict – your protagonist has to give an important speech tomorrow. The items from Questions 2-6 have to appear in your story. You may use the person you selected as your protagonist or create a new protagonist.

Happy writing!

Katie

Responses to Stress: Fight, Flight, or Freeze

Hello everyone! Happy Memorial Day!

“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” – Lou Holtz

Everyone reaches a moment in their life where they face a situation (physical, financial, emotional, relational, etc.) which feels too overwhelming to handle. There are three basic responses to these situations:thS1LJR4YA

  1. Fight – Work to resolve the problem
  2. Flight – Remove oneself from the situation
  3. Freeze – Avoid or ignore the issue

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to come up with a potentially crippling situation and write a short story about how the protagonist handles it. The issue can be internal (a health issue or mental disorder) or external (a difficult relationship, financial troubles, a sick loved one, etc.). You must have a goal for the protagonist to either succeed at or fail to achieve.

1. Beginning: Introduce your high stress situation and decide how your character will respond to it (fight, flight, or freeze).

Things for You to Consider as the Writer:

  • What is the protagonist’s attitude towards the situation?
  • Will that attitude change over time?

2. Middle: Come up with three ways that your protagonist will try to accomplish his/her goal and a minimum of one consequence for each action taken. I strongly recommend that the first two attempts fail or that they are only partially successful. The results of the first two attempts should add to your protagonist’s stress in some way. The protagonist’s third attempt should be your climax.

Tension 4Example Responses to Stressful Situations:

  • confiding in and/or depending on someone (e.g. God, family members, a friend, a therapist, etc.)
  • trying to manage stress through:
    • a healthy diet and/or exercise
    • impulse shopping
    • excessive eating
    • using a controlled substance (e.g. drugs, alcohol, etc.)
  • becoming depressed
  • responding irritably to people
  • making a major life change
  • etc.

3. Conclusion: Does your protagonist succeed or fail?

Happy writing!

Katie

Tension in Storytelling Is Essential

Hello everyone!

One important element to storytelling is tension. No one wants to read a bland story. Readers want the protagonist’s urgency to transport them from one event to the next. If something is not emotionally, financially, physically, politically, relationally, or spiritually important to the protagonist, why should the reader care?

Any situation or task, however boring or mundane, can become stressful and increase the tension of your story if the conditions are right.

Tension 5Have you ever been in a car with someone who was mad at you or walked into a room where someone was crying? Awkward! How about doing your taxes, mailing them in two days before they’re due, and then realizing that you did them incorrectly? (Yeah, that one might be somewhat autobiographical, and I still have the second set of Certified Mail receipts to prove it.)

Writing Challenge

Choose one or more of the activities below and write a tense scene. If it has potential, try developing the story beyond just that scene. In order to achieve the desired level of tension, you will have to do some character development.

Mundane Activities:

  1. Eating cereal
  2. Getting the mail
  3. Grocery shopping
  4. Going to the dentist (Okay, this is an easy one.)
  5. Returning a phone call

Happy writing!

Katie

Fractured Fairy Tales

Hello everyone!

“Tale as old as time. Tune as old as song.” – Beauty and the Beast

Many of us grew up hearing fairy tales told the same way. There may have been some slight variation from one retelling to the other – for example, in the original Cinderella story the ball lasted for three nights instead of just one – but the essence and elements of the fairy tales always stayed the same.

More recently, I have noticed authors altering our beloved tales by deviating from the traditional outcome, moral, characters’ roles, etc.

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to choose a fairy tale and rewrite it in an original way.

Below are a few examples for how to “fracture” your fairy tale:

  1. Put it in a different time period.
  2. Switch the characters’ roles.
  3. Switch the characters’ genders.
  4. Cut or combine characters.
  5. Change the plot.
  6. Change the ending.
  7. Create a backstory explaining why the hero or villain is doing what he/she does.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. Your imagination is the only limit to your fracturing abilities.

Below are a few picture book examples of fractured fairy tales:

Prince Cinders by Babette Cole

Falling for Rupunzel by Leah Wilcox; illustrated by Lydia Monks

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! by Jon Scieszka; illustrated by Lane Smith

Little Red Writing by Joan Holub; illustrated by Melissa Sweet

This prompt was inspired by an acting project Brenda Eppley, one of my theater professors, assigned while I was earning my Associates in Performing Arts at Harrisburg Area Community College. My group’s story was Aladdin. We fractured the fairy tale by setting it in Chicago, making the Sultan the head of the Mafia, Jafar a dirty cop, and Aladdin a con artist. We further fractured it by making the Genie and Jasmine siblings. Jasmine wanted to take over the Mafia after her father, but he thought that his daughter should be innocent of the family’s illegal activity. The Genie, on the other hand, was the Don’s chosen successor, but he wanted to be free from his Mafia ties.

Happy writing!

Katie

Truer Love

Hello everyone and happy Easter!

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 (NIV)

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to write a story involving a minimum of two characters who have some sort of love relationship. Remember, love does not have to be romantic.

A few potential character pairings are:

  1. Two friends
  2. A parent and child
  3. Siblings
  4. A romantic couple

Something to consider: Both characters do not need to have the same depth of feeling.

Sometimes in relationships, one person feels more strongly for the other and/or invests more in the relationship. One of the characters could be ambivalent or even hostile towards the other’s love.

Important: You must have a strong plot.

Having a good relationship dynamic is not the same thing as having a good story. Choose a conflict or issue which your protagonist must resolve. His/Her relationship with the other character can be the conflict, but your story will probably be more interesting if the conflict is something else. Use the relationship to add pressure or to interfere with the resolution of the conflict.

As an additional challenge, do not use the word “love” in your story. Focus on showing the reader the relationship between the two characters through their actions, body language, facial expressions, and the way they talk to each other.

Happy writing!

Katie

Alternate Reality

Hello everyone! Happy April Fools’ Day!

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to create alternate story lines (think the musical If…Then or the end of the movie La La Land).

Tell a story where the protagonist has to make a life altering decision. Your character’s choice will put him/her on one of two distinct paths. Have the protagonist choose one option and write about what happens. Then, go back to the point of decision. Have him/her make the alternate choice and write about what happens. Be sure that each option has consequences. Some can be positive and some negative.

Happy writing!

Katie

Spring into March Madness

Hello everyone!

It’s that time of year again: March Madness. The time where TV sets are usurped by the basketball lovers in the household and sports bars are filled with fans who were beaten to the remote.

In honor of March Madness, choose one of the writing challenges below:

  1. Write a short story about an adult who is trying to watch his/her team play, but is continually being thwarted. This could be a comedic or tragic story depending on how you present it.
  2. Choose an age group and create some basketball themed brainteasers (logic problems, riddles, etc.) for that age group.
  3. Write an article about the history of March Madness or explaining what March Madness is and how brackets work. Choose a sports magazine and try to write your article within the parameters of that magazine (word count, style, etc.).

Happy writing “and may the odds be ever in [your team’s] favor” (Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games)!

Katie