Tag Archives: Writing Prompts

Cause and Effect

Hello everyone!

Cause and effect are vital to consider when telling a story.  Events don’t just happen.  Something allows them to happen.  Take a look at history.

What caused World War II?  Well, Hitler coming to power was a big part of it.  But what allowed Hitler to gain power in the first place?  Several things.  One being that he was a good orator, and Germany was weak both politically and economically.  What led to Germany’s predicament?  The Treaty of Versailles was largely to blame – Germany got a debilitating deal after World War I.  Why was the Treaty of Versailles so skewed against Germany’s interests?  You can keep unwinding this thread as far as you want.

Cause and Effect (1)Just as historical events led to World War II, something that happened before the start of your story should account for the state of your character’s world at the beginning of the book.  Equally important is making sure that events that occur earlier in your book lead to later events.  If an event does not force something else to happen, you probably don’t need that event.

An easy way to know whether or not you have good cause and effect in your book is to phrase the events of your story in a continuous run-on sentence.  You should always say, “this happened because of this.”  Never say, “this happened and this happened.”  “Because” means that the action is moving.  “And” is a sign of rambling, and rambling leads to bored readers.  After you’ve created your run-on sentence, rewrite any sections of the book where you found yourself saying “and” instead of “because.”

Keep your story moving, and happy writing!

Katie

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Hello everyone!  Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day can be a complicated holiday.  Hopefully, your mother is as wonderful as mine.  But maybe, you don’t have the best relationship with your mother.  Or perhaps, your mother passed away.  Regardless of the situation, we all have a mother, and Mother’s Day can stir up some very strong emotions.

This writing challenge is personal, and will hopefully help you to release those emotions.  Choose the variation that best fits your relationship with your mother.

Mother - Possitive (16)Variation 1: Positive Relationship with Mother

  1. Write down all the good things about your mother.
  2. Write a poem about your mother or write her a letter telling her why she’s wonderful and/or what you appreciate about her.
  3. Send the letter or poem to your mother.

Mother - Difficult (7)Variation 2: Strained or Difficult Relationship with Mother

Write an honest poem or letter examining why the relationship is the way it is.  (Use this writing exercise as a way to get those feelings off your chest.)

*I would recommend not sending this poem or letter to your mother.

Deceased Mother (1)Variation 3: Mother Is No Longer Alive

  1. Write your mother the poem or letter you would give her if she were here.  (Use this writing exercise as a way to get your feelings about your mother out.)
  2. Symbolically send the poem or letter.  (This could be tying the message to a balloon and releasing it into the air, burning it, putting it in a memory box, etc.)

I hope you have an amazing Mother’s Day!

Happy Writing!

Katie

Sensational Settings

Hello everyone!

Have you ever read a story and had trouble visualizing where it took place? Did you ever skip a paragraph because it was just description and you didn’t care enough to read it? As a writer, you must walk the fine line between setting the scene for your reader and giving too much detail.

This three-part exercise is to help you learn what details about your setting are essential to share and how to seamlessly work them into your story.

Binoculars 3Part 1: Observation

  1. Go outside. Close your eyes. What do you feel? What do you hear? What do you smell?
  2. Now open your eyes. What do you see? Walk around. Is the terrain uneven or level? Touch a tree, the grass, the side of a building. What is the texture like?
  3. Now shout. Whisper. Speak at your normal volume. Sing. Does your voice echo or disappear?
  4. Write down your observations. Try to write a minimum of three for each sense.

Writing 5Part 2: Write a Scene

  • Write a short scene that takes place in the location you observed in Part 1. Use sensory details to describe the setting. Be careful to work the details into your story instead of dumping them on the reader in one or two description paragraphs. If someone wanted to read paragraphs about trees, they’d study forestry.

Example of a well-set scene:

Stephany walked onto the front porch and looked across the street to where Mrs. McGuire was putting her flower beds to rest for winter. A gentle breeze chased dried leaves across the sidewalk and played with the stray wisps of hair that had escaped Stephany’s messy bun. She wrapped her hands around her mug and smiled. As she sipped her coffee, the delicious steam warmed her nose.

(The action begins in the next paragraph.)

In that paragraph, the reader has been given basic information about the neighborhood, time of year, and even a little about Mrs. McGuire and Stephany.  The reader can picture where he/she is and is ready for the action to begin.

Mood 3Part 3: Use the Setting to Enhance the Mood

  1. Choose a problem for a story.
  2. Write three crucial scenes in the location you observed. Use the details you share about the setting to help set the mood for each scene.
  • Beginning: introduce key characters and the baseline for their lives
  • Middle: the problem has been introduced and the protagonist is dealing with it
  • End: how it ends and how the characters have changed

Example:

Problem – The protagonist’s spouse is cheating on him/her.

Beginning – The protagonist doesn’t know his/her spouse is having an affair. The weather is good, and I only mention beautiful or pleasing things about the setting.

Middle – The protagonist knows about the affair and is trying to decide whether to ignore it or confront his/her spouse. I draw the reader’s attention to things that need fixing or to weeds in the yard or flower beds. The sky is cloudy.

End – The protagonist has just signed the divorce papers and is moving out of the house. It is cool and partly cloudy. The house is barely mentioned, and when it is, the stated features are either imperfect ones or ones that make the protagonist feel nostalgic. The focus is on the road, especially the point where trees block the protagonist’s view of it.

*Remember, this is an exercise. You do not need to write the entire story unless you want to.

Happy writing!

Katie

Character Interrogation

Hello everyone!

Have you ever mixed up the pieces from multiple games or multiple puzzles?  The result is a mess!  However, mixing up characters can be the key to getting out of a writing conundrum.

Naughty 1Occasionally, I will have a character who absolutely refuses to do what I want him/her to do.  No matter how hard I try, he/she will not do or say what I envisioned in a way that feels believable.  The reason is usually that he/she is underdeveloped.  In most cases, I am able to get to know the character better by asking and answering a series of questions.  In other cases, though, I am too focused on the story’s needs to be able to honestly answer the questions for the character.

Your writing prompt for the next two weeks is to learn about your characters by taking them out of their world.

1. Choose two characters from different pieces you’ve written and put them together in a scene that takes place outside both of their stories.

2. Choose one of the following situations to start the scene:

  • Put them in an interrogation room together. (One could interrogate the other or they could both be interrogating a third character.)
  • blind dateHave them go on a blind date. (Be sure to give some thought to the setting.)
  • Give them a task to accomplish. (It’s best if the task requires two people.)
  • Give them a problem to solve. (There must be consequences if they fail.)
  • Have the characters tell their stories to each other. (I did this with one of my villains from “The Four Crystals.”  Wow, the story was different from that point of view.)

3. Write the scene keeping both characters true to their personalities.

4. Read through the scene and note some of the following:

  • How did the two characters interact? (Were they friendly, civil, or hostile?  Could they work together?  Etc.)
  • Who took the lead?
  • Did either of them dominate the conversation?
  • emotions 1Did either character have a key mannerism or phrase?
  • What was each character’s primary goal in the scene (i.e. what was most important to each character)?
  • Did either character have a predominant emotion?
  • What did your characters do or say that surprised you? (For example, when I did this exercise, I discovered that one of my supporting characters was oblivious to her leader’s flaws.  Going into the exercise, I knew that she was a very loyal follower.  When she was talking to another character about her leader, I realized that she believed her leader to be infallible.)

Happy writing!

Katie

*I would like to thank sci-fi and fantasy author Olivia Berrier for sharing this writing exercise with me and for walking me through how to do it.

Much Ado about March

Hello everyone!

Dr. SeussDid you know that Dr. Seuss, Albert Einstein, Harry Houdini, Big Bird, and Barbie were all born in March?

Both Coca-Cola and the rubber band were invented in March.

Uranus was discovered in March, and the first spacewalk happened in March.

St. Patrick's Day 3From a holiday standpoint, March hosts St. Patrick’s Day, Purim, and sometimes Easter.

And best of all, March is the month in which spring returns to the northern hemisphere.

March is a pretty exciting month.

You’re writing challenge for the next two weeks is to take one or more March related people, things, or events and write a story.

Happy writing!

Katie

How do your characters grieve?

Hello everyone!

My grandmother recently passed away, and one thing that really stood out to me in the aftermath of her death was how differently everyone in my family grieved the loss.

I’ve learned that there’s no right way to grieve.  The grieving process varies from person to person based on a number of factors including, but not limited to, personality, the relationship between the deceased and the surviving person, and the circumstances surrounding the death.

grief 2Some people want to pack everything up and move on.  Other people need time to look at photos and objects that belonged to the deceased.  Some people talk about the loss, while others joke about ironic parts of the situation.  Some people cry buckets, and others don’t shed a tear.  Some people focus all their energy on taking care of others’ needs, and other people curl up in bed or in front of the TV.  Some people want to do something to honor the deceased’s memory, and others don’t want to think about the loss.  Working through grief is incredibly individualized, and everyone grieves at their own pace.

Your writing prompt for the next two weeks is to write a scene in which your protagonist loses someone close to him/her and/or to write a series of scenes covering the week after the death.  Below are some things to consider when writing.

  1. What was the protagonist’s relationship with the deceased?
  2. How does the protagonist handle his/her grief?
  3. Was anything left undone or unsaid between the protagonist and the deceased?
  4. What else is happening in the protagonist’s life (e.g. finals, an upcoming move, layoffs at work, etc.)?
  5. How are other people with whom the protagonist comes in contact grieving the loss?
  6. Make sure some sort of conflict arises as a result of the death.  It could be as simple as two people’s grieving styles conflict (e.g. one needs to clean up and move on and the other needs time to process the death).  It could also be that a longstanding feud or slowly building irritation comes to a head or that deceased had a secret that now comes to light.

Happy writing!

Katie

IMG_2279P.S.

I would like to dedicate this post to my grandmother, Margaretha Betz.  Thanks for everything, Oma.  I love and miss you.

Character Flaws

Hello everyone!

dogEver read a book or watched a TV show or movie where a character was just too sweet, or too good, or too, well for lack of a better word, perfect?  Those characters are boring to read about and watch because they aren’t relatable and don’t have room for growth.

I have found three activities to be especially helpful when assigning a flaw to a character:

  1. I go to the core of who a character is by identifying his/her deepest desire, strongest belief, and biggest fear.  I then select a flaw that fits that type of person.
  2. I look at a character’s strength(s) and then ask myself, “What is the negative side of this strength?”  For example, a compassionate character could be overly sensitive.
  3. I delve into the character’s past and look for any event that could count as traumatic.  I then assign a flaw that developed in response to that trauma.  For example, a character who was robbed might be paranoid or have trouble trusting.

If you’re looking for more ways to give your characters a much needed flaw, I recommend that you read Now Novel’s article “Character flaws: Creating lovable imperfections.”  It covers three different types of (perceived) flaws: physical, emotional, and ideological.  It also talks about how those flaws could repel and attract different characters and how a flaw could cause a character’s feelings about another character to change, for better or worse, during the course of the story.

For a great writing exercise for finding a character’s flaw, read Gail Carson Levine’s blog post “Nobody’s Perfect.”  She uses the fairy tale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” to demonstrate how to do the exercise and has three writing prompts at the end of the post.

The Negative Trait ThesaurusFor an extensive list of personality flaws, check out “123 Ideas For Character Flaws” by Writers Write or get a copy of The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.

Happy writing!

Katie