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.

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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.

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Hump Day Writing Prompt #19: Chink in the Armor

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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Chink in the Armor

Hump Day Prompt #19Chink in the Armor

I just finished reading K.L. Going’s incredible book Fat Kid Rules the World. It’s one of my very favorites and it was fun to read it again for my MFA program.

There’s a part of the book that’s stuck with me since the first time I read it. The two main characters, Curt and Troy, are in a diner and Curt is trying to explain something to Troy that he feels wrong even talking about (he relates it to talking about God), but he tries anyway because Troy is so important to him. He asks Troy to watch two seemingly perfect people, a man and a woman who look like they stepped out of a magazine, eat.

It takes half an hour, but all of a sudden Troy sees the chink in the perfect armor. He sees how hard they’re trying and it’s like seeing the man behind the curtain. Punk rock, Curt tells him, is playing music in that space and Troy lives there.

So, I thought this week for our writing prompt, it might be fun to think about where that chink in the armor is for our characters. What is it that your protagonist (or another character, or all of your characters) tries too hard to hide? What is the chink in their armor? What is the thing that, if they could just play there, would make them punk rock?

This is a good exercise, I think, because it deepens our understanding of our characters. No hero should be entirely heroic and no villain should be entirely villainous. Those chinks let their humanity through.

My Turn

My protagonist is Rob Huntington. He’s smart and attractive and highly privileged–the heir to a Las Vegas casino. He’s a teenager, recently orphaned, who at the start of the story suddenly finds himself disconnected from this privileged life that he’s always led.

It took me a little bit to figure out what it is that Rob’s built an armor around–what he tries too hard at, that he wants the world to think is easy. I finally realized that he’s spent his whole life being compared to his larger-than-life, universally well-loved father. He knows, has always known, what his path is: he’ll finish his fancy boarding school (the same one his father attended) and go to Stanford (also like his father) and he’ll marry is best friend Mattie and someday, when his father retires (he never thinks of his father as dead until it happens), he’ll take over the Nott. But, he has to work hard to project to the world that he’s actually capable of any of that (except the being with Mattie part. That’s the only thing he’s certain of.)

He doesn’t think he’s smart enough. He doesn’t really believe that he’ll ever be able to fill his father’s shoes.

Those chinks in his armor–the flashes of the bullshit underneath–show in a couple of ways. He overcompensates and it comes across as arrogance.  And he hesitates when hesitating could mean the difference between life and death.

I’ll talk about my antagonist, too, because this exercise really helped me with him. Guy has built a whole suit of armor around himself, to hide the fact that he feels inadequate. He was raised by his uncle in the same place as Rob, under similar circumstances–but he doesn’t have what Rob has. It seems to him that Rob has everything handed to him on a silver platter and that those same things are always just outside Guy’s reach.

It’s Guy’s flashes of envy that are the chinks in that armor. He has the potential to be a good man, to have a good life, but he tears it apart because nothing is ever good enough. He tries too hard to be better than a boy who he has no reason to even feel competitive with in the first place. It’s Mattie who sees those chinks the clearest, mostly because she also sees the potential in him the clearest.

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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Writing Prompt #18: Gender Swap

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 Prompt #18Gender Swap

I just finished the first residency for my low-residency MFA program (at Sierra Nevada College, which was absolutely wonderful and I’ll write more about later.) One of the writing prompts I was given during the residency was to write a scene where I change the gender of my main character.

It was more eye-opening than I thought it would be, because it forced me to think about why I chose to write a male protagonist, and also how the gender of the characters matters to the story. And on a smaller, but also maybe deeper level, how my own gender biases show up in my writing.

I ended up rewriting a scene from my book, which I’ll share below. I swapped the genders of both of my protagonists and my main antagonist. In the original scene, the antagonist (Guy) tells the female protagonist (Mattie) to change clothes and her sort of submissive reaction to that is a flag to the male protagonist (Rob) that something has happened between the two of them. When I tried to just straight up change the genders and keep everything else the same, it didn’t work very well. A 27-year-old woman telling a 17-year-old boy to change his clothes isn’t the same as a 27-year-old man telling a 17-year-old girl to do the same thing.

The prompt this week is to write a scene that changes the gender of at least one of your characters.

My Turn

“Pretty sad that it took this to bring you home.”

Robin clenched her jaw, trying to bite back her anger. If Gail didn’t get out of her space, she was going to lose it. “Is there any way we can just do this some other time?”

“Everything’s always about you, isn’t it, Robin? It always has been.”

“Come on. I just found out like twelve hours ago that I’m an orphan. I can’t deal with you right now.”

Robin started to walk away, back toward the ballroom and all of the mourners who seemed intent on passing a few ounces of their pain and grief onto her. She already felt like a pack mule, staggering under the weight of all of the I’m-so-sorries and your-dad-was-such-a-good-mans.

At the last minute, she diverted, headed toward a familiar hallway instead. Down to the end, then a left, then a right, then down a half-flight of stairs, and finally out a heavy door into the shimmering, dry heat.

She inhaled the hot air and looked at the little pool. It was lined with thousands of tiny tiles in a dozen shades of blue that had always looked like jewels to her when she and Matt were little kids.

Her father kept this pool pristine—officially for the staff, but everyone knew that it was Matt and Robin’s pool. She kicked off her tennis shoes and stood on the first step. The water was bathwater warm.

Her lungs hurt, like she was storing up every tear that wouldn’t fall there and they were full to bursting. She pressed the heel of her palm against the center of her chest, trying to ease the pressure.

It didn’t work.

The door behind her opened, and she said, “I get it Gail, okay? I’m sorry, I’ll go back. I just need a minute.”

She turned to look at the Gail, and suddenly Matt was there. Finally, he was there. She tried to breathe, but her face crumbled and the pain in her chest burst.

He kicked off his own shoes on his way to her and stepped down into the water, even though he was wearing jeans and they got wet to the middle of his calves.

Matt wrapped his arms around her and finally she cried for her father.

***

“Remember when this pool was our favorite place?” Robin said.

“Of course I do.”

“Our lagoon.” Robin sat on the edge of the pool and kicked one foot up, splashing.

Before Matt could answer, the door behind them opened again. No soft swoosh this time. It slammed open and Robin turned around just in time to see Gail throw her hands up as it bounced against the wall and came back to nearly catch her in the face.

“Philip’s looking for you,” she said, when she’d recovered. “You aren’t supposed to be here.”

“I know.” Guilt brought Robin to her feet. All of those people, desperate to tell someone how sorry and sad they were. It was her job to be there for them. “I’ll come back in a minute.”

“Philip wants you now.”

“I know,” Robin said again, trying to keep her battered emotions in check.

“She’ll be there.” Matt stood up, away from the pool. “Relax, Gail.”

Gail’s eyes widened and she pulled back, like he’d physically lashed out at her instead of just lobbing a mild rebuke at her. “You should go change.”

“You mean I shouldn’t go into Jack’s memorial soaking wet?”

She winced and Robin felt a little sorry for her. That feeling dissolved when Gail turned back to her and said, “And you look like you pulled on whatever you found in the bottom of your laundry basket. Pull yourself together.”

“Go to hell, Gail. Really.” Robin bent to pull her shoes onto her still damp feet.

“You can’t talk to me that way.”

Robin straightened. She hadn’t seen Gail in two years. Not once. She’d gotten prettier and nastier. “Yes. I can.”

“No, you can’t.”

“Fuck you.”

Matt choked back a laugh and said, “Robin.”

She shook her head and pushed past the both of them, back into the casino.

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 Prompt #17: What’s For Breakfast?

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’s for Breakfast?

Hump Day Writing Post #17What's For Breakfast (1)

Sometimes it’s the little things that make the difference when you’re writing about a character. The things that might not seem important on their own, but that open your character up to the reader.

Think about this for me. How intimate and sort of exciting is it to know what your significant other likes to eat for breakfast? Not what they’d order in a restaurant. Not what they will eat if someone else is serving them. I’m talking about what they’d eat at home, when they can choose anything.

Is it a cold Poptart? A bowl of oatmeal with maple syrup? Scrambled eggs and sourdough toast? Leftovers from dinner?

Today, take a few minutes and think about what your hero eats for breakfast. Who do they eat it with? How do they eat it? When do they eat it? Is there some food they have to have in the morning that they’d leave the house for if they woke up and found they were out of it?

My Turn

My work-in-progress is a Robin Hood retelling set in modern day Las Vegas. My hero is Rob Huntington, whose father owns a small casino on the Strip and who grow up as Las Vegas royalty. After his mother died when Rob was six, he and his father lived on the Casino grounds.

Even though Rob has access to just about every breakfast food known to man–he could eat at a buffet every morning if he wanted to–his favorite breakfast, growing up, was eating with his best friend Mattie at the cabin next door. Most of the time they ate cold cereal at her kitchen table. He has a sweet tooth and she doesn’t, so he spoons sugar over his Cheerios.

He’s been gone for a while, nearly two years, but Mattie still knows that he takes sugar in his coffee or tea. He’s grieving after the death of his father, they both are, so he draws comfort from the fact that Mattie knows him well enough to know these little things about him. She fixes him a cup of tea the first night he’s home, in the middle of the night when ghosts won’t let him sleep, and he notices that she doesn’t have to ask before she spoons in the exact right amount of sugar and keeps her’s black like she always has.

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 Post #16: The Kiss

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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The Kiss

Hump Day Prom

Reading Truman Capote’s novella ruined the movie version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s for me. (If you ever want to read a truly perfect story, pick up this one.) Even though the book is a thousand times better than the movie, the film version still has one of my most favorite Hollywood kisses of all time. Everything about the end shot of the film is just right–the rain, the silly wet cat, Audrey Hepburn’s face, Moonriver playing in the background, and that kiss.

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Hump Day Prompt #15: Meltdown

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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Meltdown

Hump Day Prompt #14Meltdown

I found a list of “power words” online, closed my eyes, and randomly picked one for today’s prompt. Here’s what we got, Ninjas:

Meltdown.

Fun, right?

Write something to do with your current work-in-progress, using the word meltdown as inspiration.

Maybe you could write one of your characters having a meltdown.

Or your characters might have to deal with the meltdown of a relationship.

What about a meltdown of their physical health or the health of someone they care about?

Just have fun with this one.

My Turn

My WIP is a Robin Hood re-telling set in modern Las Vegas. What came to me when I thought about this prompt was my Sheriff of Nottingham character, Philip Mark. Philip is the business partner of my protagonist’s father, John. Philip wants what he wants so badly, so single mindedly, that he’s become a full on villain to get it. He couldn’t have John, not the way he wanted to, so he’s determined to have all of John’s casino. His legacy.

And Rob constantly thwarts him. Philip expects Rob to be easy to deal with. He’s a pampered, aristocratic kid after all who has had far, far more than he deserves just handed to him by virtue of his birth. The anger and frustration he felt over his conflicted feelings about John transfers into a dangerous level of animosity toward Rob.

Here’s a scene here Rob sees, for the first time, how deeply disturbed Philip is. Philip has just told Rob’s best friend Mattie (my Maid Marion character) and her father that they have to leave their bungalow at the casino.

“You can’t do this,” Rob said. “My dad wouldn’t want you to do this.”

Philip stopped walking. He turned slowly back to face Rob. When he spoke, his voice was low. “Do you think that you know better than I do what your father would want me to do?”

Rob took a half-step back from the fevered look in Philip’s pale eyes. “What?”

“I said, ‘do you think that you know better than I do what your father would want me to do?'”

Right. Rob heard him the first time. The second time didn’t help. “Frank and Mattie have lived here for more than ten years.”

Philip looked from Rob to Frank. “You have until the end of the week.”

“No.” Rob stood up. “No, this isn’t right. They don’t have to leave.”

Philip put his hands on the back of a dining room chair, his knuckles went white. “They have until the end of the goddamned week.”

“The will says they can stay, as long as one of them is working here. Even that doesn’t sound like my dad, if you ask me, but it’s what the attorney read.” Rob went to stand with Mattie, who had an arm around Frank. Looked like she was the only thing holding the old man up.

Before he reached her, the chair Philip had been holding flew past Mattie. She ducked, pulling Frank down with her, and the chair landed like an explosion against the kitchen counter. The coffee pot broke and spilled coffee down the cupboards onto the floor, and the canisters of flour and sugar fell over.

Worse than the mess and destruction, Philip let loose a wordless scream that made Mattie actually cover her ears with her hands. Rob couldn’t find his own voice. He moved to Mattie, pushed her away from the counter, further from Philip.

The front door opened and Guy came in, first barreling through like he was headed to a fight, then coming to a skidding stop when Philip screamed again and reached for another chair. The chair was in the air when Guy reached his uncle. As soon as he took it away, Philip’s temper tantrum deflated. He actually looked to Rob like a balloon losing it’s air.

Philip looked confused first, his mouth opened and closed like a fish’s and he looked from Guy to Rob and back again. Then his leathery, too-deeply tanned skin flushed from under his tie, over his neck, right up over his face. His mouth hardened into a flat line before he said through his teeth, “You have a week.”

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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