Thursday Writing Prompt No. 36

Afternoon sun over hay bales along Interstate 90.

Afternoon sun over hay bales along Interstate 90.

Today’s Thursday Writing Prompt is going to take you away from writing for a little while so that you can do some background research into the story that you’re working on. Or give you ideas for a new one — or both. In any case, I read something recently about using clippings from magazines and newspapers, post cards, souvenirs, and other things as props.

I’m thinking of trying to sketch my characters or the island they go to to help me work out some rough spots in the story. On one hand, this is just another way of procrastinating from doing the actual writing; after all, I still haven’t finished my first draft and it’s lingering at the 80,000 word mark. I haven’t typed that magic “the end” phrase yet. But on the other hand, it seems like if I’m stuck then anything that I do to move the process along is working on the novel, right?

All right, so let’s get to the story box. Find a box or other container for your story. It doesn’t matter what kind it is, although if you think you’ll be putting regular sized sheets of paper in with the other stuff you might want to get something that will be large enough to accommodate the paper without having to fold it up. You don’t want a box so large that it looks like you’re moving or it will just be in the way. Otherwise, make sure to use a folder or paper wallet along with the story box if you need to keep your papers separate. For me, this might be the best route, since I already have a stack of paper four inches high.

This box should be used only for one project because it’s actually just another way of filing your work, only, instead of just paper, you’re going to add whatever comes along that resonates with your story. For my story, I’m working on an idea that will include plants and minerals on my island, so I may put a rock specimen in the box as an idea prompt. You could use small model cars, little toys, charms, or even buttons.

Not everything in the box has to be an object, though. Index cards and Post-It Notes are useful for jotting down quick ideas. Instead of leaving them scattered on the desk, put them in the story box. Did I mention that the box will help you clean up your work area? That’s a bonus you get for organizing your work. Don’t forget to label your box and put it in a place where it’s easy to get to but not in your way. When you get stuck on the project, open the box and go through your notes and stuff and try to get restarted. If you can’t finish the scene or chapter that you’re working on, pick up one of the objects or note cards and try working on a different part of the story. It still counts as progress.

If you have any story box suggestions that you’d like to share, please leave a comment. Have fun with the box, and since this is still a writing prompt, be sure to at least fill one index card (or equivalent paper real estate) with a story idea, a character description, or notes on your work.