Hump Day Writing Prompt: Home Base

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Did you ever play tag when you were a kid?

Remember how there was always some spot that was home base? A tree. A bike. Someone’s mom.

If you got home, you were safe.

For today’s writing prompt, think about the concept of home–deeper and bigger than a house. (Although, where they live might also be their home base.)

If you really want to dig into your story, do this assignment for your hero AND your antagonist. Just think about where they’d run to, if they were being chased. It might be somewhere internal. A memory, maybe? It might be a person. It might be a physical place.

Write a paragraph or two describing your protagonist’s (and antagonist’s if you have time) safe place. Use all your senses.

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I’m working on a middle grade story right now called Wonder Roo. My narrator is a boy named Gideon. He’s telling the story of his neighbor, though–a quirky girl named Roona.

Roona’s home base is a thing. Her baby blanket. She believes that being wrapped in it during a house fire when she was a baby saved her life–and that when she wraps it around her neck, cape style, it turns her into Wonder Roo.

It’s a very plain blanket. Soft pink, lightweight cotton with an open weave and a satin binding. After twelve years of all kinds of use, it’s very worn. Her blanket is also her only real connection to her father, who she believes joined the Air Force soon after the fire when she was a baby. She hasn’t seen him since.

Here’s the scene where Roona first shows up in the story, with her blanket:

What caught my attention though, and yanked me right out of my sourness, was everything else about her. She wore cut-off jeans and a white t-shirt. Pretty standard stuff.

She had rainbow-striped socks pulled up to her knobby knees and roller skates that looked like blue and yellow running shoes strapped to her feet. And over her clothes, she wore a red swimsuit with a stripe running down each side. She had something tied around her neck, flapping in the hot, dry breeze as she skated in slow circles on her porch.

“What in the . . .” Despite myself, I was curious enough to open the car door and step my first foot in Ne-va-da.

“See, there’s a kid next door,” Dad said, rubbing my head as he passed me. “You’re going to be fine.”

This story doesn’t have a villain. The antagonist is Roona’s mother–more specifically her mental illness. Or the way she is now. Her home is an activity. Miranda Mulroney is a baker on a soul level. Roona believes that her emotions get baked into her cakes and pies and passed on to the people who eat them.

When things get hard for Miranda, she bakes. She stays up all night losing herself in her ability to turn out perfect cookies or scones. It’s the thing she turns to when nothing else makes sense.

Your turn, Ninja! Write your scene and come share it on Facebook if you want some feedback.

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Did you know that there’s an ebook full of all the Hump Day Writing Prompts from 2016? Every Patreon Patron gets a copy–even at the $1 level! Check out the $10 level for The 1000 Day MFA.

 

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Hump Day Writing Prompt: Use the Right Words

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In a 1895 essay called “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses,” Mark Twain listed as one of his rules that writers “use the right word, not its second cousin.”

More than 120 years later and “Use the right word, not its second cousin” is still excellent advice. (There’s a whole book of essays on writing by Mark Twain, by the way.)

We can so easily get caught up in choosing perfect words that we stop forward motion on our stories. I’m just going to come right out and say that if you have to pull out a thesaurus to find the word, you’re probably courting a second cousin.

And you don’t want to do that. I have a feeling it’s frowned upon even more now than it was at the end of the nineteenth century. In every possible interpretation.

Choosing the right word is also key in the showing vs. telling battle.

In the same essay, Twain writes, “When a person has a poor ear for music he will flat and sharp right along without knowing it. He keeps near the tune, but it is not the tune. When a person has a poor ear for words, the result is a literary flatting and sharping; you perceive what he is intending to say, but you also perceive that he doesn’t say it.”

Let’s work on tuning our ear for words today.

Write a scene where your protagonist is frustrated. Use your word choice to show the frustration without coming out and telling the reader how the main character is feeling.

Here’s an example from my work-in-progress, a middle grade story called Wonder Roo. 

Sometime during our endless drive through the state of Tennessee, I decided that I would never, not ever, forgive my parents for dragging me to live in some dirt town in rural Nevada.

Not Nev-ah-da. Nev-a-da. (A-like-in-apple right in the middle.) Better learn to say it like a native, Dad said, or they’ll make you move to California.

Whatever. I didn’t want to be a native of Nev-a-da or Nev-ah-da or anywhere but Wildwood, New-Jer-sey.

“You’re pouting so hard, Josiah, I can hear it.” Dad tilted the rear view mirror so he saw me through it. I barely suppressed the urge to stick out my tongue.

“Will we be in Tennessee forever or what?” I asked.

He flicked on the blinker and slowed, swerving toward the shoulder. “Would you like to be?”

I scrunched in my seat, arms crossed over my chest. “No.”

“You’re sure? I bet we could find a circus around here somewhere who’d buy you cheap.”

“Dad!”

“So,” he lifted one shoulder like it didn’t matter to him one way or the other, “you want to keep going?”

“Yes.”

“Right-o, Boss.” He shot me a little salute and somehow turned things around so that continuing this long, long drive west in a SUV pulling a trailer full of our stuff was my idea.

My sister Harper leaned forward in her booster seat and said, “Hey, Josiah’s not the boss. I’m the boss!”

Mom made a little sound suspiciously like a laugh and I turned my scowl out the window and waited to get to Arkansas.

Your turn, Ninja! Write your scene and come share it on Facebook if you want some feedback.

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Did you know that there’s an ebook full of all the Hump Day Writing Prompts from 2016? Every Patreon Patron gets a copy–even at the $1 level! Check out the $10 level for The 1000 Day MFA.

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Hump Day Writing Prompt: Collecting Nouns

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I am on a major Ray Bradbury kick lately. I made a little mini-zine for Patreon patrons using my favorite Bradbury quote. Part of that quote is my 2017 motto. I just finished reading Zen in the Art of Writing for the third or fourth time (It’s so good. If you haven’t read it, remedy that right now, please.) AND I’m reading a short story from Bradbury Stories every day for 100 days (there are 100 stories.)

Also, I’m taking his advice and writing a short story every week this year.

Whew.

So, since I have Bradbury on the brain, I thought I’d share one of his brilliant ideas for coming up with story ideas.

Collect nouns. Bradbury kept a list of them, and if you read either (or both!) of the books above, you’ll see how that worked out for him. He talks a lot in Zen in the Art of Writing about how his nouns lead to some of the stories in Bradbury Stories.

Here’s what he has to say about it:

These lists were the provocations, finally, that caused my better stuff to surface. I was feeling my way toward something honest, hidden under the trapdoor on the top of my skull.

The lists ran something like this:

THE LAKE. THE NIGHT. THE CRICKETS. THE RAVINE. THE ATTIC. THE BASEMENT. THE TRAPDOOR. THE BABY. THE CROWD. THE NIGHT TRAIN. THE FOG HORN. THE SCYTHE. THE CARNIVAL. THE CAROUSEL. THE DWARF. THE MIRROR MAZE. THE SKELETON.

So, this week’s Hump Day Writing Prompt is to open your notebook to a fresh page and start your own collection of nouns. Start thinking about things that creeped you out when you were eight. Things that you come across at the weirdest times. What you got for Christmas last year.

I was at my county’s Democratic Committee meeting last night and found myself making a list of related nouns in my notebook: Energy, name tag, candidate, committeeman, sign, winner, loser, canvassing, campaign, clock, low-level official, constituents.

I have no idea if those will ever go anywhere, but having a nice, fat collection feels good.

Extra credit: Take one of your nouns and brainstorm on it. Open it up and see what comes out. I’ll use committeeman as an example. I like the word. It has a good mouth feel. And it sounds a little absurd, which makes it excellent, story-wise.

What is a committeeman: Very low-level local politician. He’s the one who gets an earful, because he’s barely one step above a citizen and he’s there.

What does a committeeman do: He votes in more important people. He tries to tell those people what his constituents (their constituents) want, but is usually unsuccessful. He tries to get people in his precinct registered to vote and then get them in the voting booth.

Would I want to write about a committeeman in the past, present, or future: Not past. Present would be interesting, since politics are so tense right now. Future might be interesting, too. What would a committeeman 100 years from now do? It would be an interesting way to think about the future of current ultra-divisive politics.

So, what’s my idea? A story about a committeeman in the future, with a focus on the fall out of utterly divisive politics. Maybe my committeeman finds himself caught in a feud between next door neighbors–one on the right, one on the left.

Your turn, Ninja! Start your collection of nouns today. And if you’re feeling energetic, stretch one out into a short story idea.

Come on over and share some of your nouns with us on Facebook.

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Did you know that there’s an ebook full of all the Hump Day Writing Prompts from 2016? Every Patreon Patron gets a copy–even at the $1 level!

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Hump Day Writing Prompt: Third Act Twist

Hump Day Writing Prompt: Third Act Twist

I went to see the movie Inferno last night. (It was very good, by the way. A nail biter.) It inspired this week’s writing prompt.

Let’s think about our third act twists.

Not the one you’ve used. Not the one you think you’re going to use. Think about the possibilities. Come up with a list of at least three third act twists that you could use in your work-in-progress. Go crazy!

My Turn

During NaNoWriMo I’m working on a book called Milk about a girl in the 1980s who realizes she’s babysitting a kid who she’s seen on the back of a milk carton.

Here are my three possible third act twists:

    1. When she can’t convince anyone of the truth, Tessa kidnaps Augie from his kidnapper-mother and takes him on the city bus to his real mother.
    2. Tessa’s wrong. Augie wasn’t kidnapped after all. His real mother gave him to the woman who is raising him in an effort to save him from an abusive situation, then reported him kidnapped.
    3. Tessa goes to find Augie’s birth mother and finds a situation that no child should be in. Including the baby girl she finds there.

Your Turn

Are you writing this week’s prompt? 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!

Don’t forget to click here and get signed up for December 2016’s free plotting workshop. That’s going to be so much fun!

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. Send a link to it to one writer friend.

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Hump Day Writing Prompt: Resistance

Hump Day Writing Prompt-Resistance

We’re studying Steven Pressfield’s classic book The War of Art in the Ninja Writers Book Club this month. (If you’d like to join the book club, sign up here.)

I thought it would be fun to tie that into this week’s Hump Day Writing Prompt.

Here’s what Pressfield says about Resistance (which he always capitalizes): “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”

That really resonated with me, because I’ve actually done a pretty good job with not letting Resistance veer me off my path, at least as far as my work goes. (There are many ways that Resistance shows itself.)

I’ve actively avoided being a classroom teacher, even though I think I’d be good at it, I would enjoy the work, and over the last twenty or so years, the money would have certainly come in handy.

I’m scared because some part of me recognizes that being a teacher is my RESISTANCE, all caps. I’ve convinced myself that if I become a teacher, it’s the same as giving up on being a writer. Being a teacher is my plan B and I won’t even look it straight on.

I’ve held off that Resistance by spending years six credits away from a degree that would lead directly to the classroom. I’ve held it off by turning down offers to join programs that would let me work while I was getting accredited.

My husband? He’s done the same work since he was 21 years old. He’s so entrenched in his Resistance that he can’t even imagine doing anything but this work that he doesn’t even like. He’s an artist at heart, but can’t even let himself think about being artistic.

We’re going to talk more in our Facebook group about our personal Resistances and what Resistance looks like for us.

Today, I want you to think about how Resistance affects your story’s hero.

It was easiest for me to think first about the life inside. What does your hero really want, in their heart of hearts? If nothing stood in their way, where would their life path lead?

Then think about their actual life. How far is it from where they wish they were (or maybe even from where they are afraid to wish they were)?

What lies in the space between?

My Turn

My NaNoWriMo story is called Milk. It’s about a 14-year-old girl named Tessa who lives in Los Angeles in 1984 and realizes that she’s babysitting a kid who was kidnapped.

This exercise was interesting to me, because it’s hard to imagine an eighth grade with Resistance. I really had to think about this one.

Tessa has always been perfect. A good student. A good girl. Her parents divorce was sudden. Her father’s 24-year-old mistress got pregnant and Tessa’s whole life imploded. Her dad moved from Denver to LA. Her mom took her and moved to Chicago. She’s on her way to spend the summer in California and she feels pulled apart like a wishbone.

She’s not perfect anymore. She’s weird. A Freak. She can’t throw away her milk cartons anymore, because she can’t make herself throw away the lost and stolen kids printed on them. So she starts to collect those kids like baseball cards.

In Denver, Tessa is an athlete. She dreams of being in the Olympics, which are happening in LA the summer she’s there. Her mom is caught up in some weird second adolescence and Tessa doesn’t have a team in Chicago. The lack of a team only makes her feel more lie a freak. She doesn’t want to visit her dad. She doesn’t want to be in Chicago, either.

No one asks, anyway.

Her pouting is her resistance. It keeps her from pursing her sport in Chicago. It keeps her from letting her dad buy her love with the Olympics when she gets to LA. If she lets it, her anger and bitterness will steal her athletic dreams.

Whew. That was hard!

Your Turn

 

Are you writing this week’s prompt? 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. Send a link to it to one writer friend.

 

 

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Hump Day Writing Prompt: The Power in a Name

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I grew up without a nickname. At the time, it seemed like a tragedy to me.

Not only did I not have a nickname, I had this weird first name at a time when all I really wanted was to be just like everyone else. I was in elementary school in the 1970s and all I wanted was to be named Jennifer, called Jenny.

My best friend was named Belerma, and while she had a nickname–we called her Bele–we both struggled with having strange names. We actually lamented the fact that we couldn’t get personalized hairbrushes or pencils at the mall.

So, from the first grade I called her Katie and she called me Nicky. Even though we’ve both come to terms with our names, we still use those utterly made up names.

I think the name a person calls you has power though. So, my characters almost always have a couple of them.

For today’s Hump Day Writing Post, I’d like you to think about the name of your main character and whether or not there are any nicknames that the other characters in your book call them. What kind of power is there in those nicknames? How do the names make them feel?

My Turn

I’m writing a Robin Hood retelling set in modern day Las Vegas. My main character is Robert Huntington.

The only person who calls him Robert is the antagonist, his father’s business partner who never calls anyone at all by a nickname. Because no one else uses his proper name, it feels stiff, almost distancing. As if the man is keeping Rob, and everyone, at arms length.

The first person he comes in contact with in the story is an employee who calls him Mr. Huntington–his father’s name. It’s hard to take that, when his father has just died. He starts to ask him to call him Rob, but he can’t make himself do that. Even though Mr. Huntington is far more formal than Robert, there is an affection in it. He’s called Rob Mr. Huntington since he was six years old, and even though he uses the formal name, he is affectionate with Rob. There is a sense that he would do anything for Rob.

His best friend calls him Robin, which was the name his mother (who died when he was six) called him. He likes that. It grounds him. Sometimes his friend’s father calls him Robin, too.

He thinks of himself as Rob, and most everyone calls him that. His father called him Rob, most of the time. They hadn’t been close for a few years.

Your Turn

Are you writing this week’s prompt? 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. Send a link to it to one writer friend.

And, if you really want to jump into Ninja Writers with both feet, join the 31 Days to Being a Ninja Writer challenge! Just click the picture.

 

 

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Hump Day Writing Prompt: A Resting Place

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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A Resting Place

Stories are all about pacing. The up and the down.  And pacing is one of the hardest things to learn.

So, I thought that today we’d use the Hump Day Prompt to explore the concept of pacing a little.

Your protagonist needs to have ups and downs throughout the story. If you have all ups, the story is boring. If you have all downs, it’s too unrelenting for the reader.

Today I’d like you to think about a scene where your hero has been struggling, they’ve been fighting and maybe losing, definitely not getting what they want. And then think about a win you can give them, right in that moment when things seem so hard, so difficult, that they’re struggling to hold on.

My Turn

My story The Undergrounders is a Robin Hood retelling. This scene happens at the end of the first sequence. Rob, my hero, is mourning the death of his father. He’s surrounded by mourners. All he wants is to see his best friend–who is his love interest as the story goes on. The first time Rob sees Mattie in this book is a breath for him (not just of fresh air. Of any air.) It’s rest from sadness for the reader, too.

How can his father be gone? It’s like trying to wrap his head around the idea of the sun deciding one day that it was done . Yesterday he was still angry that his father didn’t want him to come home for the summer. Again. Angry enough to ignore his emails. Yesterday feels like a thousand years ago now.

The world has changed since then.

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

A hand slips into his and Mattie is there.

She presses against his right side, her forehead against his shoulder. She doesn’t say she’s sorry. She doesn’t have to say anything. He keeps her hand and wraps his arm around her waist, pulling her closer.

Her hair smells like apples. She’s cut it since the last time he’s seen her– short in the back, with long layers that fall forward and cover her face as she presses her cheek against his chest.

She holds onto his t-shirt at the small of his back, her fingers digging into his skin. She whispers something and it takes a minute for him to work out what she’s saying.

You’re home. You’re home now. It’s okay.

Tears finally fall, releasing the mask of pain.

Your Turn

Are you writing this week’s prompt? 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. Send a link to it to one writer friend.

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Hump Day Writing Prompt: Showing Spirit

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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Showing Spirit

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This week let’s do a little simultaneous work on our heroes and our antagonists.

Here’s something to keep in mind: your antagonist is the hero of their own story. And maybe your hero is the antagonist of that story.

So this week, take some time to consider a scene between your story’s hero and antagonist where they are both heroes of their own story. An argument or fight or clash between the two of them, where their individual stories come to a crossroads.

Make sure the stakes for both are high.

My Turn

My work-in-progress is a Robin Hood retelling, so this scene is between my hero, Rob, and my antagonist, Guy. The third arm of their love triangle, Mattie, is involved as well–but this scene is really about the two of them fighting for position.

“This is my house,” Rob said, even though it wasn’t true.

“No. It’s not.”

“Of course it is,” Mattie said. “Or if it isn’t, it should be.”

“Locksley is mine.” Guy stood in front of the door, ready for a fight. Rob felt it in his blood—adrenaline coursing. Everything inside of him begged for that fight.

He took Mattie by the elbow and moved her back, away from him and from Guy, who came down the stairs toward them. He seemed entirely calm until he reached the bottom, and then he made a guttural noise and launched himself at Rob. The momentum pushed them both backward until Rob was pressed against the sun-heated side of Frank’s car.

“What’s wrong with you? Stop it!” Mattie reached between them just as Guy swung. Rob barely managed to push her out of the way before he felt the impact of the blow.

Another left-handed uppercut. Guy’s go-to. It caught Rob on the shoulder instead of the jaw, though. Guy pulled back to try again and Rob leaned back against the car, giving himself leverage to bring up a foot and drive it into a hard, bony knee.

Guy went down and Rob followed, pinning him to the ground. Guy fought, bucking under Rob to try to dislodge him. Something in Rob roared forward, leaping like a dog straining against a chain at the chance to fight. He couldn’t let go with either arm without giving Guy the leverage he needed to get the upper hand.

As soon as the burst of violent intention came, it dissipated. Rob looked up at Mattie, who had tears streaming down her face, then back down at Guy.

“Stop it.” When Guy bucked again, Rob let go of one of his arms long enough to slap him across the face, once, hard. “Why do you have to be such an asshole?”

The slap did the trick. Guy went slack. Rob looked at him through a breath or two, then started to get up. As soon as he had his feet under him and was baring his own weight, Guy pushed him with both hands and sent him sprawling.

“Enough!” Mattie put herself between Guy and Rob again. “What’s wrong with you?”

“What are you even doing here, Guy?” Rob asked when they were both on their feet. Guy fought like he was protecting his home.

“Jack left this place to Philip. And Philip gave it to me.”

“What are you talking about?” Rob looked around, desperately trying to bring up something. Some memory. Anything that would verify to himself that Locksley was his to fight for. “The will was just read an hour ago. How long have you been here?”

“Your father left it to rot. I’m the one who’s brought it back to life.” He reached a hand toward Mattie. “I was going to show you. Soon.”

“Guy.” Mattie took a step closer to Guy, but stopped when Rob shot her a look. “You had to know this place wasn’t yours. Not really.”

“Jack left it to Philip.”

“Does that even make sense to you?” Rob asked. “My dad’s only been dead for twenty-four hours. Did he know you were living here?”

“You don’t deserve Locksley. You don’t deserve–” Guy shifted his gaze to Mattie, then launched himself at Rob again.

Rob was ready, even desperate for it, but Guy’s next shot was interrupted by Mattie when she stepped in front of him.

Your Turn

Are you writing this week’s prompt? 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. Send a link to it to one writer friend.

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Hump Day Writing Prompt: Shake it Up

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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Hump Day Writing Prompt

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about my work-in-progress’s point of view.

Right now it’s written in third person limited, alternating between my hero and his best friend.

My MFA adviser thinks the story might be better served with an omniscient point of view. That scares me a little. Omniscient is very hard to do well. If you don’t do it well, it can distance the reader too much from the story. It can come across as just head hopping.

But, working on an MFA is all about experimenting, so I’m working on revising part of my story to omniscient present tense (from third person past tense) to see how it works and if I’m capable of doing it well.

And guess what! I’m sharing the pain with you. Aren’t you excited?

For this week’s hump day prompt, take a scene from your book and try revising it to a different point of view or tense or both.

My Turn

Here are the first few paragraphs of my story in third person past tense.

Moving through the Nottingham Casino was like navigating the lines of his own palm. Robert Huntington knew every foot of gaudy carpeting, every machine, every table, and more than half of the people working that day, even though he’d been away for two years.

The Nott was home, even now. Even after all. He’d never live here again, but it would always be —

A tug on his hand pulled him out of his thoughts. “Robin.”

He tightened his fingers around hers and said, “I’m here.”

Matilda Fitzwalter brushed white-blonde hair from her freckled cheeks. She chewed at her bottom lip like she always did when she was nervous. “Are you having second thoughts?”

“Too late for that now, Mattie.” He leaned down and kissed the lip she’d bit, then kept walking, taking her with him. This was not the time for doubt. The decision had been made and the only way through, now, was forward.

A security guard stood near one of the blackjack tables. He didn’t look at them and Rob made himself keep his eyes straight ahead as well, but he saw a slight lift of the guard’s chin as they passed.

As they walked, a young woman with long brown hair and bright blue eyes sat at the empty table, directly in front of the dealer.

Alice was smaller than Mattie and in another life, she might have looked even younger. But, hard living had aged her and Rob didn’t think she ran a risk of being carded as she started to play.

They’d chosen her because she didn’t stand out. She was pretty in a way that would have been beautiful given other circumstances. She was just used up enough to make herself invisible, unless she turned on the charm. Unless she tried to catch someone’s eye, no one would remember her being there. That was the whole point.

Rob looked over his shoulder and saw her smile up at the dealer as two men sat to her left. The man to her right did a double take and smiled back at Alice, even though she wasn’t looking at him.

“Now?” Mattie asked.

Suddenly, he wanted to take back his reassurances and get her out of there. Take her away with him, back to the Underground. He looked down at their hands, his dark and hers light. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to open his and let hers go.

She did it for him, pulling her hand out of his. She didn’t move until he finally said, “Now.”

Before she could turn away, he reached for her and took her face in his hands. Her soft brown eyes looked up at him, searching. “We can do this,” she whispered.

“I know.” There was no room for doubt now. Doubt would only make them stumble, and a stumble would mean failure. And failure would mean prison. If they were lucky.

They had one chance to get this right and he’d ruin it if he couldn’t let Mattie go. He bent his head. She lifted on her toes and pressed into his kiss, then stepped back and slapped him across the face. Hard.

He opened his mouth. Nothing came out. Her eyes went to the camera he knew was behind him, on the ceiling. Trained on them, probably. Almost certainly.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

She walked away without turning back.

After she got onto the elevator that would take her upstairs to the Nott’s executive offices, he turned back to the blackjack table and the dealer, in particular.

And, here’s the same scene from an omniscient present tense point of view.

Robert Huntington moves through the Nottingham Casino and it’s like tracing the lines of his own palm. He knows every foot of gaudy carpeting, every machine, every table, and more than half of the people working that day, even though he’s been away for two years.

The Nott is home, even now. Even after all. He’ll never live here again, but it will always be his home.

A tug on his hand pulls him out of his thoughts. “Robin.”

He tightens his fingers around hers and says, “I’m here.”

Matilda Fitzwalter brushes white-blonde hair from her freckled cheeks. She chews at her bottom lip. “Are you having second thoughts?”

“Not even a little bit.” He leans down and kisses that lip and then keeps walking.

A security guard stands near one of the blackjack tables. He doesn’t look at them and Rob makes himself keep his eyes straight ahead as well, but he sees a slight lift of the guard’s chin as they pass.

A silent, barely noticeable, encouragement.

As they walk past, a young woman with long brown hair and bright blue eyes sits at an empty table, directly in front of the dealer. She is smaller than Mattie and in another life, she might have looked even younger. Hard living has aged her.

Alice is pretty in a way that would have been beautiful given other circumstances. A hollowed out kind of pretty that doesn’t demand to be looked at, which suits the day fine.

Rob looks over his shoulder and sees her smile up at the dealer as two men sit to her left. The man to her right does a double take and smiles back at Alice, even though she doesn’t look at him.

“Now?” Mattie asks.

He has a primal urge to get her out of there. He looks down at their hands, his dark and hers light. He isn’t sure he’ll be able to open his and let hers go.

She does it for him, pulling her hand out of his. She doesn’t move, though, until he says, “Now.”

Before she can turn away, he reaches for her and takes her face in his hands. Her soft brown eyes look up at him, searching.

“We can do this,” she whispers.

She believes that, too, bone deep. She believes it with more conviction than Rob can muster.

“I know,” he says, anyway.

He isn’t as sure as she is and she can tell. She shifts her weight from one foot to the other and her eyes go to the camera on the ceiling behind him. Trained on them, probably. Almost certainly. She imagines the security guard sitting in the surveillance room, watching as Rob bends his head and covers her mouth with his.

She lifts onto her toes and presses into his kiss, then steps back. She slaps him across the face. Hard.

Mattie turns from Rob and presses the button for the elevator. When it doesn’t open immediately, she presses it again, her finger jabbing at it until she hears a ding and the doors finally slip open.

Her palm stings and she can still feel Rob’s kiss.

She’d feel a lot better if he wasn’t nervous, but that’s probably too much to ask. She looks at him and he watches her until the elevator doors close.

Your Turn

Are you writing this week’s prompt? 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. Send a link to it to one writer friend.

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Hump Day Writing Prompt: Your Story’s Soundtrack

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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Hump Day Writing Prompt-Your Story's Soundtrack

So a funny thing happened at my MFA residency.

I shared a room with a super sweet girl from New Jersey. It was fun having a roommate and living in a dorm room–I didn’t have that experience when I was young. But, it was also slightly strange to work in a quiet environment, but not alone.

So I listened to music, with headphones.

Until that week, I’d never (I mean ever, in my life) written with music on. I didn’t think I could. I thought it would distract me to much. I’ve tried just having music on in the room when I was trying to work and it made me crazy.

Turns out, I was wrong. I still don’t like music on just in the room (I tried again when I got home), but music with headphones is different or some reason, It gives me this weird bubble feeling, like it’s just me, my story, and the music. The rest of the world falls away. Pretty cool.

I thought it would be fun today for us to spend some time thinking about soundtracks for our works-in-progress. Even if you don’t listen to music when you write. Think about a few songs that might inspire your story. If the world fell away to just you and your story and some music, what would that music be?

My Turn

Here’s my soundtrack:

With or Without You: U2
Smells Like Teen Spirit: Nirvana
Fix You: Coldplay
Dissident: Pearl Jam
Try: Pink
Mockingbird: Eminem
Just Like Heaven: The Cure
Slide: Goo Goo Dolls
Ring of Fire: Johnny Cash
Bring on the Dancing Horses: Echo and the Bunnymen
Take me to Church: Hozier

Your Turn

Are you writing this week’s prompt? 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. Send a link to it to one writer friend.

Continue Reading