Write This Scene in Show Don’t Tell

Last prompt for the month featuring show don’t tell.

*****

The air burned in my nose as I pumped up the hill. All this exercise would either kill me or make me fit enough to beat the entire cross-country team next fall. But if this was the only way I could see Ava and Lucy during this stupid virus crisis, I’d let the air burn off my nose completely.

“C’mon! Race ya!” My little brother flew by us as we passed the Jenkins’ farm.

Besides the threat of death, Gavin was the other drawback of these rides. But Mom made me bring him.

“I’m glad it stopped raining.” Ava sat up straighter, the breeze that was tossing the leaves of the budding honeysuckle catching her long, red hair.

Lucy bent lower over her bars. “I don’t let a little rain stop me from riding.”

Of course she didn’t. Lucy was in good enough shape to make Olympic athletes throw up their hands and go home to their couches.

I didn’t say that, though. Couldn’t. I was pedaling.

Gavin stopped at the overgrown drive that always had a chain across it, and we pulled up beside him.

“Look.” He pointed at the chain that was wrapped around a tree.

“That chain is always blocking that drive,” said Lucy.

“It’s not now.” Gavin hopped into this seat and took off.

“Gavin! That’s a private drive!” I tried to shout, but it came out as a strained whisper.

He disappeared around the bend.

I looked to Ava and Lucy. “He’s your brother,” Ava said.

“You know, I’d forgotten that.” Blowing out my cheeks, I pushed off and headed down the drive.

Write This Scene in Show Don’t Tell

A photo prompt for the speculative fiction writers out there. How would you write this scene in show don’t tell?

Here’s mine.

*****

I slipped my hand into Jakon’s as we strolled along the highest catwalk in the city park.

“It’s beautiful.” I sqeezed his hand.

A big grin lit up his long face. “I knew you’d like it here.”

This close to the dome, we could see the sun sending its beams through the clouds. The devastated land was too far below us to see clearly. The perfectly controlled air temperature blew gently over us, stirring Jakon’s wavy red hair.

“We’ll have to get back soon.” I sighed.

A loud hum made me look up. My jaw swung loose.

Sailing against the clouds was some kind of vehicle. I’d seen pictures like it in history posts.

Jakon gawked. “Nothing can live outside the dome.”

“Maybe it’s a government or military vehicle.”

“But everybody travels underground to visit the other domes.”

The flying vehicle turned, heading straight for us.

Write this Scene in Show Don’t Tell

Assume the point of view of one of the people in the scene or add a character of your own.

*****

I climbed on top of the jeep, spitting sand out of my mouth. The wind spun another gust into my face, and I wiped sand from my eyes.

“They’re coming! They’re coming!” our guide pointed to the shapes blurred in the dancing sand.

Clearing my eyes again, I looked through the viewfinder of my camera. After tracking the herd for a month, I could not miss this shot. As long as the wind didn’t get stronger, I could do it.

“What a way to make a living,” Dean muttered, brushing sand from his grizzled beard.

Spitting again, I grinned, and the sand tried to burrow into my teeth. “I wouldn’t want to be any place else.”

Write this Scene in Show Don’t Tell

This month, the theme is “show don’t tell”. My pictures for writing prompts will all feature scenes that allow you to imagine yourself as a character in it. Or you can describe the scene as an omniscient narrator. Then write the scene in the “show don’t tell” technique.

Here’s mine:

A breeze ruffling my fur, I stare at Mandy. Life just hasn’t been the same since those two-legged pups showed up. Mandy hardly notices me any more. I appreciate she hasn’t let me starve and still takes me for walks, but it’s not the same.

She’s so busy with getting her pups to sit–something I can do on the first command– that I’ll just do some exploring on my own.

I head off at an easy trot. Nothing like springtime. Sometimes all the smells can overwhelm young dogs, but I’ve got enough experience to sort them all out and enjoy them.

Let’s see … sweet yellow flowers, clean grass, and–and–I lick my nose. Yes, meat. Probably one of those fat worm-shaped cuts humans like to eat with red sauce. But the pungent, sweet aroma of the sauce is missing.

I glance over my shoulder. Mandy drags the younger pup back to the log. I won’t be missed. Licking my chops as well as my nose, I lope toward the aroma of meat.

Interview Yourself

In Gail Johnson’s post on nonfiction writing, she recommended turning what you already know a lot about into nonfiction articles. This approach also works for inspiring fiction. Interview yourself to discover ideas for both your fiction and nonfiction.

For example, I love horses. It’s easy for me to create characters who work with horses. It’s a subject I’m already interested in.

Schedule an interview with yourself, which shouldn’t be hard these days. Below is an interview Me did with Myself. You can borrow my questions or come up with ones of your own. Once you complete your interview, I’d love to see your answers in the comments.

Me: So glad you could work me into your schedule.

Myself: I will always make time for such a close friend. What do you want to know?

Me: What topics do you think you are an expert in?

Myself: First of all, writing, especially how to write a short story. Next, I have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Hollywood movies from the Golden Age. Right now, my focus has been watching film noir. I’ve also read hundreds of mystery short stories, mostly from the 19th and 20th centuries. I’d feel comfortable writing about those topics.

Me: What topics would you like to learn more about?

Myself: Nature. So that when I go for a walk, I know what I’m looking at. I’ve been learning over the years because my kids are interested in it, and I’ve given them books on the subject. I’m also fascinated by police and how they works. It’s a life very different from anything I’ve known. I’ve been doing research in this area for my WIP novel.

Me: What are your hobbies?

Myself: Hiking or just walking. I try to walk every day. Biking. I like to bake but don’t do it enough. I love to sled in the winter. Photography, usually taking pictures of nature.

Me: What do you like to read?

Myself: Mysteries, any kind, adult or YA, 19th, 20th or 21st centuries, short stories or novels, contemporary or historical. As along as it’s a good mystery, I’ll read it. I like to read fantasy and science fiction short stories. In nonfiction, I’ll read anything that I’m interested in. I’ve read a lot about classic movies and theology. I also love humor, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction.

Me: Thanks for taking the time to sit down with me.

Myself: No problem. Come back any time.

Turning Points in Our Lives

Turning points in our lives. We’ve all had them. Often we don’t realize what they are until a lot of time has passed. At other times, we recognize turning points in the moment we make a decision and/or take an action. Considering turning points in our own lives can prompt us to create turning points for our characters.

I had two in quick succession as a new mother and realized what they were as they were happening. During the first week with my first child, I became very anxious about his health — I can’t remember specifically what I was worried about. But I told myself if I started worrying now, I’d never stop. So I had to stamp out my worries.

The second turning point came as I tried to soothe my fussy baby, and it hit me that I was IT. The mother. The only one who could help my child. Nobody could do it but me. I had to figure how to comfort my child, or he would remain upset. That realization was as startling as getting smacked upside the head with mallet. But it made me truly a mother.

What turning points have you faced? Have you tried to work them into a story?

Turning People into Characters

Have you ever tried turning people into characters?

At a writing conference, author James Rubart talked about how he had a friend, whom he turned into a character for a novel. He didn’t adapt his friend’s personality or made any other adjustments. He just plunked him in as is.

I don’t have the courage to do that. I figure I’d describe a friend in some way he or she didn’t like and I’d offend them. But most of the characters we writers create contain some aspect we’ve seen in real people.

Such as my oldest’s kindergarten teacher. This woman personified patience and even temperament. She seemed more than able to handle any crisis her students could concoct.

Kindergarten Teacher, speaking in a completely bland voice:

“Now, Aiden, you shouldn’t set fire to the classroom. You’ll get a demerit for it. Children, Aiden has set fire to the room. Please line up at the door so we can leave quickly.”

I’ve been working with a character who has that kind of calm, unflappable personality, although she isn’t a kindergarten teacher. For this character, I’m mixing the kindergarten teacher with a woman from my church.

Who are some people who would work as prompts for characters?

Vacations as Writing Prompts

Here’s another prompt to help us look at our lives and find inspiration for our writing. I’m a huge advocate of writing about things we have directly experienced. With that in mind, how can a vacation serve as a writing prompt?

I’ve only flown three time in my life, so most of my vacations aren’t too far from the Buckeye State.

Because I write mysteries, I look at these places through that lens. My family and I visited Pensacola in winter when there aren’t many tourists. Maybe I could create a mystery about a retired couple, who notice something strange going on in the supposedly empty beach house next door.

In St. Louis, I visited the fantastic St. Louis Art Museum. A break-in to steal a valuable painting on loan would kick off the action nicely. The place is huge, so maybe the security guards would have to play hide-and-seek with the crooks, who have knocked out the surveillance cameras.

For more on writing about vacations, click here. How can you use your vacations as writing prompts?

Family Stories as Writing Prompts

The theme for my blog this month is nonfiction. Since my speciality is fiction, I’ll have several guest bloggers write about their experiences writing nonfiction and how it influences their fiction. The prompts this month will be about examining our nonfiction lives for inspiration for our stories, both fiction and nonfiction.

Turning to family stories as writing prompts can produce one-of-a-kind stories, stories only a few people know now, stories maybe only you can write.

For example, in just the last few years, I learned about the youngest brother of my great-grandmother Irene. Harry would have been born before or around 1900. He had Down’s syndrome. I know many children born with disabilities or challenges at that time were given away to be maintained at state institutions. But not Harry.

He lived with his parents. When they died, he moved in with one of his brothers. As a child, my dad remembers his Great-Uncle Harry stopping by his house and asking my grandma for “smokes”.

This story kicks off so many questions. My grandmother and all her siblings have passed away, so I can’t ask them. Was it a hard decision for my great-great-grandparents to keep Harry at home? Was their pressure from their extended family or community to give him up? Did the neighbors treat them differently because of Harry? How was Harry treated? At that time, I’m sure a man with Down’s syndrome was an unusual person to see in small-town America.

This leads me to another piece of advice about using family stories as writing prompts. If you are interested in those stories, interview the elderly members of your family. When I was in college, I conducted interviews that I tape-recorded of my mom’s parents. I learned all kinds of fascinating details of what it was like to grow up in rural West Virginia in the 1910’s and 20’s. I loved getting to know my grandparents better.

What family stories can you use as writing prompts to build a story?

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