Ninja Writers Academy: Found Poetry

Ninja Writers Academy: Found Poetry. Come join us for The Hidden Words Assignment. Share your work on Facebook and come by Sunday for Office Hours!

Ninja Writer Academy is a weekly series. Every Saturday morning, I post a lesson here. You can do the work, then come share it on our Facebook group. I’ll be on Facebook on Sunday for Office Hours for an hour so we can discuss the lesson, or anything else writing related. If you’d like to join the Academy and get an email on Saturday with a link to the lesson, plus notification when Office Hours start, Click Here.

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The Hidden Words Assignment

Ninja Writers Academy-The Hidden Words Assignment

I’m not a poet, at all, but there is one type of poetry that I think is not only fun to create and never fails to impress me, but is also a great way to really look at the words of other writers.

Found poetry is essentially looking at a page of someone else’s work and picking out words or phrases to make a poem. Wikipedia calls it the literary version of collage.

This week, I’d love for you to open a book to a random page and see if you can turn what you find there into your own work of art.

Here are the rules:

  1. Turn to a random page of the book closest to you.
  2. You can use words or phrases from that page only to make your poem.
  3. The words have to be in the same order they appear on the page. (In other words, you can pick a word from line one and a word from line ten, but they can’t be next to each other unless you haven’t used any words from lines two through nine.)

What I love about this assignment is that it gives you the opportunity to really look deeply at a small piece of writing. What words did the author choose? Why? How can they mean something different from what the author intended? How is your poem different from the page it came from?

My Turn

I just happened to get Tabitha King’s book Caretakers in the mail today and it was sitting on my desk as I wrote this post, so that’s the book I chose. The random page was 96.

Here’s what I came up with:

Wicked Gets to Heaven

How’s the terrible, honest man,

broken by grunts of pleasure?

Reduced to a pile of bones,

scoured and rinsed in the lake.

Brave to take on the bugs,

cross-legged on the grass,

she laughed.

Somehow, something

wicked gets to heaven.

My poem took a pretty dark turn. That page in the book was a conversation between people eating fish they’d just caught for breakfast at a campground. It wasn’t a particularly menacing scene, but when I look at the words I pulled out, I can see that there is an intensity behind it that I might not have noticed before.

Your Turn

Here’s your homework this weekend, Ninja!

Are you in this week? Leave a comment here and let me know. Ninja Writers are ALL about the big A word: Accountability. Post here that you’re going to be part of the Academy this week, then do it, Ninja.

Spend sometime working on a piece of found poetry. Use the rules in this post and HAVE FUN!

Come by Facebook and share your work today. I’ll be there tomorrow at noon PST for office hours.

Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, and spread the word about the Ninja Academy.

If you haven’t joined the Academy yet, you can click here to do that. It’s totally free–when you sign up, I’ll send you a link every week to the Academy post and an invitation to my Sunday office hours.

If you want some extra accountability for your Academy work, check out the Ninja Writers Kick-in-the-Butt Crew. It’ll help you get it done.

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Ninja Writers Book Club: Week 5

Ninja Writers Book Club #5: Here's what we're reading this week.

Every Tuesday is Book Club day at the Ninja Writers Facebook group.  Ninjas post about the books that they’re reading or a book that has inspired them or that they loved. It’s so much fun, and I always end up with a list of books that I can’t wait to read. I thought it might be fun to actually link to those books here on the blog every week. Click any of the covers to be taken to its Amazon page.

Here are the books from this week’s Ninja Writers Book Club Tuesday. If you’re looking for something to read this week, here’s a great place to start!

(These are affiliate links. If you buy using one of them, a few pennies will go toward supporting Ninja Writers. Thank you so much!

Non-Fiction

Young Adult

SFF + F

Historical

Horror

Mystery + Suspense

Romance

Literary

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Hump Day Prompt #4: What Are They So Afraid Of?

Hump Day Prompt #4: What Are They So Afraid Of? This week we're exploring your hero and antagonist's big fears and how they intertwine.

Every Wednesday, I post a writing prompt here. You write about it, if it tickles your creativity bone, and then come share what you wrote on Facebook to get some feedback and see what the other Ninjas have come up with. My goal with these prompts will to be to make them something that can move your current work-in-progress forward.

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What are they so afraid of?

This week we’re going to get to know both our heroes and our antagonists a little deeper.

I want you to think about each of them and focus on what they are the most afraid of.

The thing that scares them is also the thing that runs the highest risk of breaking them. And remember this: your antagonist is the hero of their own story. The thing they are afraid of is important to them, and knowing what that is will help you to write a deeper and more robust character.

So ask yourself not only about what scares your hero and antagonist, but how those fears interact with each other. How they drive these two characters as they live these parallel, intertwining lives. How does the hero’s fear drive his rival? How does the rival’s fear direct the way he responds to the hero?

My Turn

My current work-in-progress is a Robin Hood retelling set in modern day Las Vegas.

My hero is Rob Huntington (who is the Robin Hood character) and his main rival is Guy Gisborne. They grew up together, although Guy is a decade older, and they are in love with the same girl.

Rob’s biggest fear is not living up to the huge legacy his father left when he died. He has always feared he wouldn’t be able to fill his father’s shoes, but he’s only seventeen when his dad dies and that fear is intensified. Rob is motivated by love. He wants the people who loved his father–so basically the whole city, but in particular the people who worked in the casino his father owned–to love him. His fear is that they’ll figure out he will never be like his father and that they will hate him.

Guy’s fear is that he really isn’t as good as Rob. That no matter how hard he works, he will always be the kid who was left on his uncle’s doorstep. He’ll always be a charity case. He’ll never deserve the girl he’s fallen in love with. He’ll never deserve anything. His fear makes him hate Rob, who he believes has had everything Guy has ever wanted just handed to him. It keeps him from making good choices, because he can’t see how working hard and being patient will ever work for him.

Your Turn

Are you writing a prompt this week? Leave a comment and let me know!

Come on over to the Ninja Writers Facebook group and share your work. Get some feedback, leave some feedback–get involved in the community. I can’t wait to read what you come up with!

Also, if you’d like to get a PDF of this post and every Hump Day Writing Prompt, head here and sign up for the Ninja Writers Binder Club. Every month I send out a newsletter that includes those links.

Help spread the Ninja Writer word! Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

 

 

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“Worse Than War” by Naomi Johnston

Ninja Writers Reads: "Worse Than War" by Naomi Johnston. Come read this clever, heartbreaking short story by Naomi Johnston.

(Editor’s note: When I read Naomi’s story, it took my breath away. It is so clever and so sad. I know you’re going to love it as much as I do. Let’s show her some love and share the link to her story far and wide! Also, comment below to give her some feedback.  –S.)

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To Whom it May Concern:

My name is Naomi Johnston, though I often use the pseudonym of Mara Allan. The reason? Pure, bitter irony. In the Bible, in the Book of Ruth, Naomi (meaning pleasantness) changed her name to Mara (meaning bitterness) after her husband and two sons passed away. When I decided, once and for all, that writing was for me, I knew that I had to reflect the core event that triggered it all.

That event is the story I have attached for your reading pleasure.

This story does not have a happy ending. The boy doesn’t get the girl. Life doesn’t go on, at least not willingly.

Despite how the story starts, it is all true. This isn’t a fictional story. It was my life. Read all the way until the end. You’ll understand then.

The start of my writing career would spring up from the ashes that this tale, but until many years after the end.

I now invite you into my life, when I still believed in faith, trust, and pixie dust. Enjoy, or don’t, so long as you pull something from the ashes, just as I did.

~Naomi Michaela Johnston

A.K.A.

Mara Faith Allan

PS: When you’re done, I suggest you read the first part again, though play a small game with the proper names. Omission, substitution, and rearrangement were all factors in creating those names. They aren’t random. Nothing ever is.

“Worse Than War”

by Naomi Johnston

They were losing the war.

The people of Danitta were falling one by one to the invaders from the land of Cercan.

At first, the Danittans held their own, even going so far as to drive the Cercanians back until victory was within their sight. Then, tragedy struck. The Danittans were ambushed by hiding Cercanians, cutting the army off from much-needed supplies before they were slaughtered like cattle.

After that, things only got worse, an ever-downward spiral of deterioration. The Cercanians went so far as to raze the land they conquered, leaving nothing but death and decay in their wake.

Yet, despite all the destruction, death, and mayhem, the capital of Danitta, at the very heart of the country, was full of hope, happiness, and peace.

They held numerous parties, festivals, and games, determined to celebrate until their last moments were up, before the Cercanians took over. The Danittans even managed to sneak a few high ranking members of the Nanomian government back and forth over the border to participate in such festivities.

Now, the people of Nanomia had barely survived a Cercanian attack a few years prior, so when they learned that their sister country had been attacked, the Nanomians did anything and everything they could to help. This included sneaking over tea for parties, food for soldiers, and toys for children.

The children were frightened, of course. Their homes were disappearing, the possibility of seeing another tomorrow was growing ever smaller, and they were no longer sure who was friendly and who wasn’t. Nevertheless, they didn’t show any signs of weakness. With brave hearts, the children played and laughed and squealed with joy.

It wasn’t something the Cercanians were expecting, eventually slowing down in their attack.

But they didn’t stop.

They didn’t stop until the whole of Danitta was dead.

Yet, just weeks before the death of the country was complete, the Danittan government handed over their most prized possession to the Nanomians, trusting them with its care. The Nanomians, stubborn in their ways, traded back an item that was similar, though not as great in importance. The Danittans, flattered, swore that they would carry it with them to the final grave.

None of them knew how soon that truly was.

* * * * *

Amy shut her phone, tears sliding down her cheeks. The phone call had resounded deep within her, reminding her of the bullet that had barely missed her just three years ago.

Her thoughts drifted to the toddler down the hall, probably sucking on his thumb in his sleep like he always did, slowly but surely creating the dreaded buckteeth.

They then traversed downstairs, where her husband was probably asleep on the couch, a western movie playing softly on the TV in front of him.

Lastly, they went to the little girl in the room just next to hers, who was cuddling with her doll and dreaming of nothing but happy thoughts.

Amy didn’t want to share what she just learned, but she knew she must.

I gotta tell her.

She pushed herself off the bed, passing through the doorframe and into the dark hall. Matt’s door was shut at the end, but the girl’s room to the left was cracked like always. The doorknob was constantly jamming open, which suited their orange tabby just fine. It meant he could always be in at least one bedroom for the night.

Amy quickly went towards her son’s room, though only to turn the hallway light on before retracing her steps to her daughter’s room. Amy could hear her stirring, the light slowly dragging her back into reality.

With a ragged sigh, Amy pushed open the door.

“Naomi? Sweetie, are you awake?” Amy called out softly, praying that the girl stayed asleep. It would be so much better for her that way.

“Mommy?” came the groggy voice, and Amy saw two blue eyes peering back at her from under the covers on the other side of the room. “What’s wrong?”

Amy winced. Her trembling voice had obviously given her away. Gulping, she crossed the room swiftly at sat on the edge of the bed, laying one shaking hand on her daughter’s head.

“Naomi, Danielle passed away a few minutes ago.” Amy’s heart dropped out of her as she felt the girl stiffen before her, curling tighter around the doll.

Images of the two girls passed before Amy’s eyes. The tea parties, the playdates, the constant smiles on both their faces. Even though one was in a wheelchair. And completely bald.

She remembered just a few weeks ago that Naomi had asked to give Danielle a Madeline doll. Her reasoning was simple but powerful. It was the same reason Naomi had that doll herself.

“Now she has a doll with the same scar we do! Though Madeline got hers because of her appendix, not her kidney.” The girl had stated matter-of-factly.

But Danielle, sweet Danielle, had given Naomi a Danielle doll, to remember her by, so that Naomi would always have a piece of her.

Amy wished that Naomi had more than just a doll, that she had the whole person instead.

She curled around her daughter, holding her close as the girl wept for the one friend who understood her and what she had gone through.

Amy couldn’t help but think of the bitter irony of it all. When she was young, she had lost her friend Paige to cancer. Naomi, however, lost her best friend to the very same cancer that she had defeated just a few short years earlier.

Silent tears rolled down her cheek, splashing onto the wavy brown hair of her daughter, thanking the Lord above that she still had her, while also cursing him for taking away so much happiness.

And so they laid there, Mother, Daughter, Doll, locked in a silent embrace, crying until the sun rose over the gray town in northern Indiana.

(Editor’s Note: Remember the PS . . .)

 

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You can keep up with Naomi and read more of her work at Deviant Art.

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If you have a story you’d like to share with Ninja Writer Reads, click here for submission guidelines.

If you’d like a printable PDF version of every Ninja Writer Reads story, make sure to sign up for the Writer Binder Club.

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Ninja Writers Academy: Writing Natural Dialogue

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Ninja Writer Academy is a weekly series. Every Saturday morning, I post a lesson here. You can do the work, then come share it on our Facebook group. I’ll be on Facebook on Sunday for Office Hours for an hour so we can discuss the lesson, or anything else writing related. If you’d like to join the Academy and get an email on Saturday with a link to the lesson, plus notification when Office Hours start, Click Here.

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This week we’re going to work on a pretty straight-forward academic aspect of writing.

Dialogue.

Specifically, we’re going to talk about writing natural dialogue. You want your dialogue to make the reader feel like they’re eavesdropping, or even having a conversation with the characters. The dialogue, if it’s natural, will put the reader right into the story.

The Way We Speak Assignment

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Ninja Writers Book Club: Week 4

Ninja Writers Book Club Week 4: Here's what the Ninjas are reading this week!

Every Tuesday is Book Club day at the Ninja Writers Facebook group.  Ninjas post about the books that they’re reading or a book that has inspired them or that they loved. It’s so much fun, and I always end up with a list of books that I can’t wait to read. I thought it might be fun to actually link to those books here on the blog every week. Click any of the covers to be taken to its Amazon page.

Here are the books from this week’s Ninja Writers Book Club Tuesday.

(These are affiliate links. If you buy using one of them, a few pennies will go toward supporting Ninja Writers. Thank you so much!

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Non-Fiction

Young Adult

Romance

Historical

SF + F

Humor

Literary + Classics

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Hump Day Prompt #3: What is Your Antagonist’s Vanity?

Hump Day Prompt #3: How is Your Antagonist Vain- (1)

Every Wednesday, I post a writing prompt here. You write about it, if it tickles your creativity bone, and then come share what you wrote on Facebook to get some feedback and see what the other Ninjas have come up with. My goal with these prompts will to be to make them something that can move your current work-in-progress forward.

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How is Your Antagonist Vain?

Let’s think about our antagonists this week.

An antagonist can be a full on villain. Think Voldemort. Or more of a rival. Think Draco Malfoy.

Either way, your antagonist is working at odds to your protagonist–and think about this: they are the hero of their own story.

They’ve been broken, somehow, and as a result they are behaving in a way that is less than heroic as far as your protagonist is concerned.

So, let’s dig a little deeper into your antagonist. Making that character fuller, more well-rounded, will make your story better. Nothing is worse than a purely evil, one-dimensional villain.

Here’s what I want you to do: think about your antagonist’s main vanity. Write about it. How does that vanity affect their part in your story? How does your hero trigger that vanity? How does that vanity help your antagonist and how does it hurt them?

My Turn

My work-in-progress is a Robin Hood retelling set in modern day Las Vegas. One of the main settings is a casino called the Nottingham, or the Nott, that is owned by my hero, Rob’s, father.

I have a couple of antagonists to choose from, but for this exercise I’m going to focus on Guy Gisborne. Guy is about ten years older than Rob. He’s the nephew of the co-owner of the Nott and was given his position far too early. He struggles to command respect at work, and really in any facet of his life. While Rob has been away at boarding school, Guy has become obsessed with Rob’s best friend Mattie, a girl he doesn’t stand a chance of winning over.

Guy’s vanity is his belief that he deserves more than what his lot in life has handed him. He has a generous uncle who raised him and has elevated his position–but it doesn’t feel real, because it isn’t. He didn’t earn his job. He doesn’t have anything that wasn’t given to him out of pity and charity. His vanity manifests itself in an almost pathological jealousy of Rob. It drives him crazy that Rob has a name that means something in Las Vegas. That Mattie loves Rob so easily makes Guy bitter and dangerous. Guy actually wants to be more than he is, on every level. He wants to deserve the things he wants in life. He wants to be the kind of man that Mattie could actually fall for without tricks. His vanity keeps him from being patient enough to get to where he might go in his life without resorting to being underhanded.

Where Rob’s driving force is a deep need to work hard to prove that he deserves to be loved, Guy’s is an opposing need to prove that he shouldn’t have to work hard for the same thing.

Your Turn

Are you writing a prompt this week? Leave a comment and let me know!

Come on over to the Ninja Writers Facebook group and share your work. Get some feedback, leave some feedback–get involved in the community. I can’t wait to read what you come up with!

Also, if you’d like to get a PDF of this post and every Hump Day Writing Prompt, head here and sign up for the Ninja Writers Binder Club. Every month I send out a newsletter that includes those links.

Help spread the Ninja Writer word! Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

 

 

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Ninja Writers Academy: Scene vs. Exposition

Ninja Writers Academy: Scene vs. Exposition. The Unpacking Assignment will help you understand the importance of putting your reader right into the story with your hero.

Ninja Writer Academy is a weekly series. Every Saturday morning, I post a lesson here. You can do the work, then come share it on our Facebook group. I’ll be on Facebook on Sunday for Office Hours for an hour so we can discuss the lesson, or anything else writing related. If you’d like to join the Academy and get an email on Saturday with a link to the lesson, plus notification when Office Hours start, Click Here.

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This week’s assignment is designed to teach you the difference between scene and exposition.

Scene is SHOWING. It’s putting the reader into the story.

Exposition is TELLING the reader that something happened, without putting them into the story.

Scene is spending an amazing, life-changing weekend in Mexico where you are swept off your feet by a Latin lover, have an epiphany about what you want to do for the rest of your life, and maybe win the lottery while you’re there.

Exposition is watching someone’s slideshow of pictures from their weekend in Mexico.

Scenes have dialogue (interior or exterior) and action and they move the story forward on multiple levels.

Exposition has telling.

Scene is the difference between telling your reader that your character is in love, and your reader falling in love right along with them.

Chuck Wendig has a fantastic, somewhat NSFW, essay about exposition and what to do about it.

The Unpacking Assignment

Ninja Writers Academy: Scene vs. Exposition. The Unpacking Assignment will help you understand the importance of putting your reader right into the story with your hero.

So this week, I want you to look through your work in progress and find a bit of exposition. A sentence or paragraph where you told your readers that something happened.

And then I want you to open it up into a scene.

My Turn

My work-in-progress is a Robin Hood retelling set in modern day Las Vegas. Last week I told you about my hero, Rob’s, safe place. This scene happens there.

Here’s how this could have been exposition:

Rob went to the pool he’d spent his childhood swimming in with Mattie to get some space from the crush of mourners. When she showed up, he could finally breathe again. He could finally start his own mourning.

Here’s my draft of the way I wrote that as a scene:

He took two flights of stairs, two more hallways, and finally went through a set of glass double doors. He inhaled as the fresh desert air hit his face, gasping in a hard, deep breath like he wasn’t sure when he’d get another one.

A small swimming pool shimmered in front of him, lit so that its million tiny blue tiles looked like jewels. His father kept it perfectly maintained for employees, but when Rob was growing up it was mostly only him and Mattie that used it.

He kicked off his Nikes and reached down to pull off his socks and roll up his jeans. Maybe he’d go home and change before he went back into the ballroom. Dressing properly might make it easier to face the people in Ballroom A.

Before he could sit down and put his feet into the water, a wave of guilt washed over him. All those people waiting to tell him how sorry they were that his father was gone—and he couldn’t face them.

This time he didn’t bother trying to hold back the hard bubble that burst in his chest, although he still only felt pain instead of tears.

How could his father be gone? It was like trying to wrap his head around the idea of the sun deciding one day that it was done shining.

The door behind him opened with a soft whoosh and a burst of refrigerated air. Rob kept his back turned, trying to pull it together before he had to face another mourner. “I’m sorry, I—“

A hand slipped into his and Mattie was there.

She pressed against his right side, her forehead against his shoulder. She didn’t say she was sorry. She didn’t have to say anything. He kept her hand and wrapped his arm around her waist, pulling her closer.

Her hair smelled like apples. She’d cut it since the last time he’d seen her– short in the back, with long layers that fell forward and covered her face as she pressed her cheek against his chest.

Tears finally fell, releasing the mask of pain. Mattie wrapped her free arm around him and he finally cried for his father.

Your Turn

Here’s your homework this weekend, Ninja!

Are you in this week? Leave a comment here and let me know. Ninja Writers are ALL about the big A word: Accountability. Post here that you’re going to be part of the Academy this week, then do it, Ninja.

Spend sometime today turning one bit of exposition in your work-in-progress into a scene.

Come by Facebook and share your work today. I’ll be there tomorrow at noon PST for office hours.

Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, and spread the word about the Ninja Academy.

If you haven’t joined the Academy yet, you can click here to do that. It’s totally free–when you sign up, I’ll send you a link every week to the Academy post and an invitation to my Sunday office hours.

 

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Ninja Writers Book Club: Week 3

Ninja Writers Book Club: Week 3. Here's what the Ninjas are reading this week!

Every Tuesday is Book Club day at the Ninja Writers Facebook group.  Ninjas post about the books that they’re reading or a book that has inspired them or that they loved. It’s so much fun, and I always end up with a list of books that I can’t wait to read. I thought it might be fun to actually link to those books here on the blog every week. Click any of the covers to be taken to its Amazon page.

Here are the books from this week’s Ninja Writers Book Club Tuesday.

(These are affiliate links. If you buy using one of them, a few pennies will go toward supporting Ninja Writers. Thank you so much!)

Non-Fiction

Young Adult

Suspense

Romance

Speculative

Graphic Novels

Literary + Classics

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Hump Day Prompt #3: What Ignites Your Hero?

Hump Day Prompt #3: What Ignites Your Hero? This week we're doing some freewriting about what your hero is passionate about. What drives them?

Every Wednesday, I post a writing prompt here. You write about it, if it tickles your creativity bone, and then come share what you wrote on Facebook to get some feedback and see what the other Ninjas have come up with. My goal with these prompts will to be to make them something that can move your current work-in-progress forward.

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What Ignites Your Hero?

Let’s do some freewriting today, Ninjas.

I want you to spend some time thinking about what turns your hero on. I’m not just talking about sexually here (although, feel free to go there.) What drives your main character? What lights them up on the inside and makes them someone interesting enough to read about?

Use these questions to guide your writing.

What does your hero lust for?

What are they willing to break their moral code for?

Who could break their heart?

Are they willing to put themselves at risk for something?

What is the one thing that could make them give up everything?

My Turn

My work-in-progress is a Robin Hood retelling set in modern day Las Vegas.

On the surface, this is an easy prompt for me. Rob’s best friend is the love of his life. Mattie has been his soul mate for as long as he can remember. He hasn’t seen her in nearly two years. They were fifteen the last time he left for boarding school. The difference between fifteen and seventeen is significant and the shift in their feelings for each other is intense and something they have to come to terms with, but they have always known that they belonged together. It has always been Rob and Mattie.

Rob’s moral code has never been tested. His life has always been privileged and easy. He’s never not known where he was headed. So, it’s a surprise to him to find that a group of homeless strangers who are as different from him as it’s possible to be are the people who help him realize that his moral code is actually steel-strong, and that they are the ones he’s willing to break it for. He longs for the acceptance and love of these people, that need drives him. He finds that he has to do what ever he can to protect them.

Rob has lost everything, except for Mattie. His heart is already broken by his father’s death and by the loss of the life that he’d never even considered that he might not lead. But it turns out that while he grieves his father and the loss of his legacy, what he builds on his own after they are gone make him far more vulnerable. He would put himself at risk for Mattie, and he would put himself at risk for this new life and new family that he’s suddenly found himself in the middle of.

Rob is absolutely driven by the need to be loved. His mother died when he was a little boy. His father was a powerful and sometimes distant man who never stopped grieving his dead wife, and he is dead now, too. It’s important to him, on a deep level, not to fail once he starts on his new path. He especially doesn’t want to fail the people who are depending on him. He needs to prove to himself that he is worthy.

Your Turn

Come on over to the Ninja Writers Facebook group and share your work. Get some feedback, leave some feedback–get involved in the community. I can’t wait to read what you come up with!

Also, if you’d like to get a PDF of this post and every Hump Day Writing Prompt, head here and sign up for the Ninja Writers Binder Club. Every month I send out a newsletter that includes those links.

Help spread the Ninja Writer word! Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

 

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