NaNoWriMo Prompts for Settings

While writing my YA mystery, I noticed that my characters seemed to hold a lot of conversations in vehicles. Since the book is set in a rural county in Ohio, driving is an integral part of the lives of my characters. But I didn’t want to bore my readers. So I changed one scene from a conversation in a SUV to the two characters talking while hurrying to the SUV and then just the final lines while they were in the vehicle. A small change, but I knew I needed to provide more variety in my settings. If your characters need to find some fresh locations, take a look at these NaNoWriMo prompts for settings.

Let me know if one of these photos inspire you!

NaNoWriMo Prompts for Characters

If you need NaNoWriMo prompts for characters, look no further! If I need a character who has more than a walk-on part, I also need a face I can see clearly to go with this character. If your creative spark has dimmed to a cinder and you need a few more characters, check out the gallery of portraits from Pixabay. You may rekindle your inspiration!

I love the expression on this little guy’s face.
I find this face intriguing. He could fill in for Gandalf.

For more prompts for characters, click here. Where do you find inspiration for characters?

NaNoWriMo Prompts for Plot

My previous post was to encourage you to let your imagination soar during NaNoWriMo. My prompts for the month will help you with this task. First I have NaNoWriMo prompts for plot. Below are suggestions to bring propulsion to your plot if you find it bogging down.

  • Your main character makes a new friend.
  • Your main character makes a new enemy.
  • The antagonist makes a new friend or enemy.
  • Your main character loses something critical.
  • Your main character finds something unexpected, either helpful or harmful.
  • A friend reveals an unexpected trait. (This can be tricky because you want to surprise your reader, not shock them.)
  • Your main character discovers a new virtue or flaw. (This is especially believable if you write YA.)
  • Your main character does something he thinks is good but it turns out to be bad and vice versa.
  • The antagonist does something he thinks will hurt someone and it turns out to be good for that character.

Since I write mysteries, I’ll list some prompts to help you if you find difficulties with your mystery plot.

  • Your main character loses an important clue.
  • The first main suspect becomes a victim of a crime.
  • Your main character begins to suspect a friend or relative of the crime.
  • A friend or relative of your main character comes under a threat.
  • Officials make an arrest, and your main character thinks they have the wrong person.
  • If your main character has an ally, the two characters fight and go their separate ways, at least for a while.
  • A key witness changes her story.
  • People in authority pressure your main character to drop the investigation. Or to solve it quickly.
  • Your main character is injured. (Be careful with this one. If your main character is too seriously hurt, the focus of the story shifts to the injury and slows the pace. I read a mystery where the main character suffered so much from a concussion throughout the book that pretty soon I had a headache.)
  • A chase of some kind, to rescue someone or gain a clue.
  • Your main character tails someone, which can turn into a chase.

For more NaNoWriMo prompts, click here. What suggestions do you have for kick-starting a stalling plot?

Need Help Brainstorming for NaNoWriMo?

My prompt this week is to prompt you to share your ideas if you need help brainstorming for NaNoWriMo. I’m not doing NaNoWriMo because November is a terrible month for me to expect to write 50,000 words. But I do love to brainstorm with other writers. So if you’re writing and find yourself hitting a wall between you and your imagination, drop your problem in the comments and I’ll do my best to come up with some ways to tear down that wall. And other readers can offer their brainstorming ideas too. Creativity sparks more creativity!

Last year, I also offered photos in case you needed some visual prompts. Click here to find the prompts for NaNoWriMo.

Collaborative Mystery: the Complete Saga

I had a lot of fun working on this collaborative mystery with author M. Liz Boyle. Creative people make my creativity spark in unexpected ways. Click here to see all the prompts for the collaborative mystery. And thanks, Liz, for the ending. We had a family emergency, so I didn’t know if I had the brain power to craft a sensible ending. Or even a non-sensible one. I was very fortunate that you wrapped up the story, and I especially liked your last line! So now sit back and enjoy the collaborative mystery: the complete saga.


I couldn’t have found a better day for a shoot. The October sky was that brilliant blue you only get in the fall when all the humidity has seeped away. The sun shone clear, and the air had an apple-crisp tang to it. The cheery landscape was the perfect contrast to the derelict vehicles scattered around the abandoned junkyard. I bent to my viewfinder and focused on the ancient convertible, so green that it could pass as a weird plant species that you only–what’s that?

I straightened and stared at the far side of the car. No. It couldn’t be. I took a step closer for a better look.

As soon as I stepped closer, I wished I hadn’t. There’s a person in there, no mistaking it. Is she – dead? I scan my surroundings, and not feeling any more endangered with getting a closer look than gawking from back here, I tiptoe to the window. A young lady, breathing, thank the heavens. Wait, isn’t that Geralyn Moss, the would’ve been valedictorian who disappeared last March? And no, I’m not a creeper to recognize her. Her picture has been on every billboard for three counties. For six months. What valedictorian stages her own disappearance? Or who set her up? And what do I do now? Wake her up? Call the cops? My phone rings. Loudly. I scramble to silence it, but the girl, Geralyn, stirs in her sleep and her eyes fly open.

Geralyn leaps from the rust heap of a truck and bolts uphill, dodging wrecks.
“Wait! I won’t hurt you!” I call after her.
She doesn’t even slow her speed.
I start to run after her when I glance in the truck. On the floor is a photo.Torn in half. With a handwritten note. I pick it up.

I grab the photo and note, stuff them in my jacket and look back toward her retreating figure. It must be the photojournalist in me, or maybe the father in me, imagining Geralyn’s parents when they are reunited with their daughter. I run after her, continuously calling her name, letting her know I just want to help. The girl has obviously been living on meager rations of food, and she soon runs out of energy, allowing me to catch up. I find her ducking between a dead tree and another rusty clunker car. “Did somebody hurt you? Your parents, everyone, they’ve been looking for you,” I say between breaths. She shivers.
“You shouldn’t have found me. They could get us all now.” Her eyes are wide.
“Who could get who now?” I want to turn on my voice recorder, take pictures, really interview her, but I’m afraid she’ll bolt again, so I take the casual, concerned adult approach.
“I saw you take the note. It explains as much as I know.” Huh? I retrieve the note from my pocket, taking a discreet glance at the torn picture at the same time. Looks like a break-up. Hormonal teenagers. I hold up the note and read. Oh this is not what I expected.

Written over and over in spidery cursive are three words: “Alive and dead”.
I say, “Who are these people in th photo?”
Jamming her hands in the pocket of her dirty sweat jacket, Geralyn says, “I don’t know. I just know they sent me that note and photo, then kidnapped me from school. I escaped from the car before they could take me anywhere. I’ve been hiding out ever since.”
“Why didn’t you go to the police?’
She pulls a long strand of dark hair from her cheek. “I didn’t want to endanger my family.”
“But why would–”
The woods darken. The fog burned off in the morning has rolled back in.
“Come with me.” I say. “The cops can protect you and you family.”
“No. They can’t. How can–”
Leaves rustle. Geralyn leaps to her feet and takes off.
I spin in the direction of the leaves crunching under footsteps. A figure emerges from the fog.

“Dad!” I recognize my sixteen-year-old son’s voice.
I spin toward him and nearly collapse, my heart beat thumping in my head. “Don’t scare me like that again. Run after her!” I point toward Geralyn’s direction of escape.
“What? Who? Are you still taking pictures out here?” He asks questions like he’s still three.
“That missing valedictorian girl, Geralyn. She’s here!” We start to run together.
“You saw her?! What’s she doing? Is she okay?” Again with his nonstop questions.
A new voice stops us in our tracks faster than when Scamp catches the scent of a squirrel. “The real question is, what are YOU doing?” We slowly turn on our heels and see a hairy guy who could take on a bouncer. I gulp and nudge Tyler behind me. The bouncer guy walks toward us, obviously aware that his presence is all he needs to scare us into his control.
“Two choices,” his voice booms. “You can follow her and I take you all captive, or you can stay here and I take you all captive. Plus your wife,” his gaze penetrates me. “502 East Oak Street, correct?”
What is going on? I glance back at Tyler and I inhale sharply when I see what he’s about to do.

The bouncer guy pulls a gun from the pocket of his coat and motions with it. “Move.”
Tyler freezes, and I step between him and Bouncer Guy. “So we have no choice?” I say.
Grinning, he reveals crooked teeth. “None at all.”
I gulp. “I guess we’ll–” I throw my camera at him, yelling. “Run!”
Bouncer Guy jerks, stepping back, and I hurl myself on him, grabbing for his gun hand.
We hit the ground, dead leaves exploding underneath us, the gun flying out of his hand.
Tyler races in and kicks the man in the head until he goes limp.
“I told you to run.” I shout, sitting up, glancing around for the weapon.
“I couldn’t leave you, Dad.”
Through the mist I spot the gun laying beside a truck with no doors.
I roll to my knees when another figure detaches from the mist. A woman.
I gasp. It’s the woman in the–wait. She resembles the woman in the photo but she’s not the same person.
She tilts her head to one side, her gaze gliding to the gun that lays between us.
I pull my legs under me, my eyes fixed on this woman, who breaks into a not-quite sane smile.

Her voice startles me as much as her showing up out of the mist. “Are you here to rescue us?”
“Who is us?” I make my way to the gun, slowly so I don’t scare her.
Out of the mist, I see Geralyn timidly return. Tyler, who is using his belt to tie up Bouncer Guy’s wrists, pauses long enough mid-buckle to toss his phone to Geralyn. “Call 9-1-1!”
Geralyn catches the phone but looks confused. “Why?”
I’m angry now. Whatever Bouncer Guy has been doing has totally traumatized these ladies. “Because you don’t have to live in fear of this monster of a guy!” Both ladies jump enough to remind me to rein in my anger.
I hold the gun towards Bouncer Guy and tell Tyler to call 9-1-1. Between the gun and his restrained wrists, I can keep him at bay until the cops arrive.
Geralyn quietly asks, “Should I get the others now?”
“What others?” I ask. I hear Tyler explaining our location to the dispatcher. Please hurry.
“The rest of the people and animals he’s training for his traveling show.”
I feel my face blanch. People and animals? Is a lion going to appear next? Bouncer Guy mumbles something in his unconscious stupor. “If you…tell…kill…you….” His eyes roll back again. Sirens are coming now, fast.
I look at Geralyn and the other lady. “You’ll be safe now.” I’ve still got the gun aimed, just in case. The cops have parked and are running through the woods toward us.
Tyler hangs up and gives me a nervous smile. “I guess you got your story, Dad.”
“Better. I watched my son be a hero.”

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