Thursday Writing Prompt No. 104


Next week I’m going on vacation. I’ll “fill the well,” as Julia Cameron calls it, and probably empty my wallet at the same time. Not that it’s full now. Do you know how much a plastic bag with plastic travel-sized bottles goes for? I do, and that’s why I didn’t buy any of them!

In honor of traveling, this week’s Thursday Writing Prompt is about the fine art of waiting. I expect to spend a lot of time sitting at the airport waiting to get on the plane, lots of time sitting on the plane, etc., etc. I normally take road trips, so I’m driving and in full charge of when and where I stop to eat, but driving to London from the United States just was too problematic and so we’re flying.

Waiting has never been my strong point, but I intend to put it to good use by people watching and getting ideas for stories and characters.

For this week’s prompt you’re going to work on describing a location where you’ve had to wait. This could be an airport or bus stop, a doctor’s office, grocery store, or the line for the tickets at the latest blockbuster movie.

Describe the location. Start with how the place looks, but don’t overlook adding sensory detail such as smells or sounds. It’s often the creaking step or smell of popcorn that fix these places in our memories, so writing sensory details should be a part of your writing toolkit. Your descriptive scene should ideally be a paragraph, or about 150 words.

Thursday Writing Prompt No. 103

Geologic feature, or sea monster?
Geologic feature, or sea monster?

I just sent off a short story submission so cross your fingers for me. In the manner of all things Internet, I spun off the publisher’s website, following a link to an article about sea monsters on the Smithsonian website entitled “The Enchanting Sea Monsters on Medieval Maps.” I can’t seem to include a link, but the article is pretty interesting and is accompanied by some wonderful illustrations from antique maps.

Just as wonderfully, it gave me the idea for this week’s Thursday Writing Prompt. Mariners are prone to telling tales of sea monsters, all kinds of weird and wonderful and grisly beasts that can swallow ships whole or tempt sailors to wreck on dangerous shoals. But what if mermaids and mermen actually existed? What tales would they have to tell about the hideous beasts that lived on land, who might capture the merfolk with nets or spear them with harpoons? What kind of stories would they tell their young?

And that, dear reader, is up to you, because your writing prompt this week is to come up with a land-monster story. Have fun and don’t let science get in the way of having a good time with this idea. It doesn’t have to be realistic because you’re coming up with a legendary monster, not an actual beast.

Thursday Writing Prompt No. 102

Sculpture outside the Baltimore War Memorial Building.
Sculpture of a sea horse and eagle by Edmond R. Amateis, located outside the Baltimore War Memorial Building. Photo by Karen S. Garvin.

This week’s Thursday Writing Prompt is about poetry and the memories of war. This year, 2014, marks the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, also known as the Great War. Trench warfare and the use of gas are the historical aspects of WWI that you’re most likely to see featured on television shows and in movies, but some great poetry was written during the confrontation. Some of the authors were Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Alfred Joyce Kilmer, Vera Brittain, John McCrae, Rudyard Kipling, Katharine Tynan, and Alan Seeger.

Your task this week is to combine history and poetry. Go to the First World War Poetry Digital Archive or First World War: Prose and Poetry and spend some time viewing the collections. Pick two authors and read one poem from each writer. To get a much better feel for their work, view any images of the actual manuscripts. Your task is to notice the language used in the poems and how the authors told their story. There’s no writing involved this week unless you’re moved by what you read and want to try your own hand at war poems. This isn’t a post about politics, but about the wider scope of war and human experience. If you do make an attempt to write something, try to see beyond the political squabbling and into the greater truths of human nature.

The photo accompanying this post building is the Baltimore War Memorial Building, which was completed in 1925. It serves as a memorial to Maryland veterans of all wars and has an interesting history of its own.

Cindy Kelly, Outdoor Sculpture in Baltimore: A Historical Guide to Public Art in the Monumental City. With photographs by Edwin Harlan Remsberg. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 2011.

Thursday Writing Prompt No. 101

fake beach postcard
This imaginary Shell Beach postcard is really North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
But with a bit of Photoshop magic, it makes a cool retro postcard.

Welcome to this week’s Thursday Writing Prompt. Since I finished my thesis in April I’ve been having a bit of trouble settling down to work on long-term projects. But it’s barely been a month since I’ve finished school, and I’ve been in school since 2003, finishing my bachelor’s degree and master’s degree. I guess taking a month off to dawdle about and do mostly nothing is okay, although I can’t help but feel I should be producing something of value.

And now, on to the prompt. Refer to my “postcard” above. This picture was actually taken in North Carolina, at the Outer Banks. I used Photoshop to do a bit of editing and applied Topaz filters to give the image an old-fashioned look. Your task is to use the postcard image as the basis for writing prompt. The scenario starts like this: you check your mailbox and find this postcard among your letters. It’s from a friend or relative that you have not seen in many years. What is the message on the postcard? And how do you reply to it?

It might be interesting to write a short story in the form of letters. This technique has been used in literature and can work quite well, so your first step is to write the postcard’s message. It should be short — probably about 150 words.