Thursday Writing Prompt No. 23

The Animas River in Colorado.

Happy Thursday, writers! The holiday season is upon us, and I’m sure most of you are very busy with family gatherings, traveling, shopping, eating, and other festive activities. So I understand that you may not have much time for writing in the next two or three weeks. Nevertheless, I intend to keep up with the Thursday Writing Prompts.

The other night I watched A Christmas Carol. It’s not the first time I’ve seen the movie, nor is it the only version that I’ve seen. But this time, I watched it a little bit differently. Since I’m taking graduate history classes, I’ve been busy reading about the nineteenth century and the philosophical underpinnings of the era. You see, Charles Dickens wasn’t just a writer who was out to entertain the masses: his writing was effectively a denunciation of the industrial revolution. More precisely, Dickens wrote about the way that working class people were treated as well as other issues related to the gung-ho capitalist system that was Victorian England. His Scrooge character wasn’t just some bad guy put into the story for dramatic effect; Dickens’s motive was to show his readers how the pursuit of profit in and of itself was a dehumanizing thing.

What I especially like about Dickens’s story is that it is optimistic: if people can figure out what’s wrong and take the right actions, they can make things better. Many philosophers, and even some writers, just want to talk gloom and doom. I’m sure you can find plenty of discussions about how writers interject their opinions into their work. It’s inevitable, really: we’re going to write about things that interest us and we’re going to make our characters act in the way that we think they should. I won’t get into talking about bias in journalism or other nonfiction work, since this blog is not about politics, but let’s just say that all writers must necessarily write from their own viewpoint.

Now, on to this week’s writing prompt. Dickens’s story, besides its political and ethical moralizing, is one of transformation. Scrooge starts out as a miserable old fart who won’t even spend enough of his money to keep himself warm. He is changed overnight when the three spirits visit him and knock some sense into his thick skull. The story ends with everyone happy. Your assignment this week is to write about transformation.

This is a tough one: most people don’t change overnight (which is why those New Year’s resolutions generally fail!) or even have life-altering events. So trying to write a short piece that shows a character’s transformation is a difficult task. Please do try it — even if all you write is an outline for a character that describes how the character starts off in your story and how you want the character to end up in your story. Putting this story arc down on paper will help you to understand your character’s motivations, and that, in turn, will help you to figure out how he or she is going to act in different circumstances. For this week’s prompt, don’t worry about length or vocabulary or any of that stuff. This one is a bit more of an internal process.

Good luck, and happy holidays!

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