In August, I will focus on plot in our writing. And my prompts will borrow from an activity we did at an ACFW chapter meeting. We each brought a food for lunch. The writing exercise after lunch was to work a randomly selected food and genre into a story. I had to write a thriller with a casserole being a major plot point.
So for the sparks this month, I’ll provide a photo and a genre, and you can provide the first few lines. Use the photo above in a thriller. Here’s my opening lines:
“As I hid the thumb drive in the hollow heel of my boot, I caught a flash of movement in the tail of my eye. Jerking out my gun, I crouched below the window and peered out.
A toddler? Yes, a toddler was tromping through the weeds in the backyard of the empty house.
I scanned the surrounding woods. No one else in sight. What was a toddler doing out here?”
Or maybe just “really wants”. Do you have to listen to a certain style of music when writing a certain genre? Do you need a cup of coffee handy at all times?
When I was younger, I had to have black ink pens and college rule notebook paper kept in a three-ring binder. I still prefer writing that way, but if a writing opportunity arises, and I’ve forgotten my binder, I’ll write on anything.
Another favorite nature experience is also one of the easiest for me to get to. When the river we live next to goes down, I wade across with my kids to an island situated between the river and a creek. My kids fish, look for crawdads, build dams, and generally mess around. I take a beach chair, enjoy the breeze, the quiet, and write. It’s vacation just a few feet from home.
Since I recently had a unique experience with wild animals on a walk near my house, writing about wildlife encounters seemed like a suitable prompt because my theme this month is nature.
Last week, I went on an evening walk on the road I live on. We live in the country, the road is not heavily traveled and parallels a river. I was enjoying the coolness of the evening beneath the shade of the towering trees when I glanced to my right and found a skunk staring at me from the ditch beside the road. It was less the five feet from me.
My heart ramped up its pace but my feet, fortunately, did not. Keeping the same gait, I crossed to the other side of the road and continued walking. The skunk stayed on its side of the road. I couldn’t remember, from watching nature programs with my kids, the range of a skunk’s spray. Still, as I head north, I breathed a sigh of relief.
That’s when I saw the second skunk. One the same side of the road as the first skunk, maybe a hundred feet away, it was also snuffling about in the ditch beside the road. I stopped and stared. Should I risk passing the second skunk and finish my walk? What if there was a third? And how would I get home? Walking home the same way seemed foolish, and the only other route would take a long time.
But if I turned around, I’d still have to pass the first skunk. Being only a few feet from it hadn’t scare it, but I didn’t want to test my luck again. To be completely safe, my only choice was to plunge down the river bank and make my way from through snarls of invasive bushes and poison ivy. Since the evening was cool, I was wearing pants and a long-sleeved blouse, which would protect me.
Digging my tennis shoes into the muddy bank, I hiked south. It crossed my mind that there could be skunks along the river bank, but I decided to follow the theory that the skunk you see is more dangerous than the one you imagine.
The river bank proved to be the safest route. I returned home, muddy but unskunked, much to the relief of my family.
This month I am focusing on using nature to inspire our writing. This prompt encourages you to slow down and study nature.
Pick one of nature’s small wonders, such as flower or insect. Watch it for five minutes. Then take notes on it. Be sure to observe it through as many of the senses, if you can. (I do not recommend tasting the flower or insect.)
From your notes, write a paragraph or poem or something else. Please share below!
Since it’s Memorial Day in America, and we have been talking about research and historical fiction all month, I thought writing a tribute about a loved one who has passed away would be appropriate.
The house of my maternal grandparents was one of my favorite places growing up. No matter when we dropped by their home out in the country on an acre of hillside, they were always glad to see me and my sisters. We had pizza suppers on the weekend and watched old Tarzan movies or the Wonderful World of Disney. Grandma canned throughout the summer in the large, cool basement. In the winter, we had many family dinners down there, sitting around a long table, or if we were young enough, at the smaller, children’s table. Grandpa would work puzzles in the basement, and the wood burning stove smelled of comfort.
When they had to move next door to my parents, I thought I would desperately miss the house I knew as a child. But as soon as I stepped through the door of their new home, it felt exactly like their old one. The house wasn’t special. It was my grandparents.
I come from a family of storytellers. One way we get to know people is to swap stories. I am fortunate to have been told stories about my great-great grandparents. Such as I have a great-great grandfather who died in the notorious Civil War prisoner of war camp at Andersonville.
So if you are blessed with older family members with long memories and great stories, interview them. Besides preserving family history, you may find literary inspiration.
What inspiration from family stories have you gained?
Victorian era — Especially Europe, but any location during this time period in which Sherlock Holmes could plausibly appear.
Golden Age of Hollywood — Since I love movies from the 1930’s, ’40’s and ’50’s, I’ve already read a lot about the people working in the Hollywood studio system. A mystery set then would be fun to write.
I am dedicating my blog this May to historical fiction. With that in mind, today’s prompt is about delving into personal history, in the hopes your nonfiction experience might provide fictional inspiration. What is your earliest memory? I find early memories misleading because I imagine events my parents and grandparents told me about and think they are memories.
One memory I am sure of: I was not quiet four year old when my mom had my sister. I remember my parents coming home from the hospital and laying my new sister on the double bed in the front bedroom of our house. I jumped up on the bed and sat beside her to get a look at her. That’s as far as the memory goes, but I know it’s a true memory.