Thursday Writing Prompt No. 47

A mirror in the headquarters of Agora publishing company in
Baltimore, Maryland, kindly lent its space for the
author hospitality suite during the 2011 Baltimore Book Festival.

The Thursday Writing Prompt this week focuses on mirrors and images. They say that some part of you will always show up in your writing, no matter what you do. I think that’s true. How could it be anything else? Your author’s voice is not some separate identity that you can turn on and off at whim, or change to suit the seasons. No matter how fast you run, like your shadow, your author’s voice will always be a part of you.

For this week’s exercise, imagine that you just woke up and you’ve gone over to the mirror to take a look at yourself. But when you peer into the mirror, the reflection that you see isn’t the usual you. You have somehow managed to become someone else. Write a flash fiction piece about your reaction to the change. Don’t make your new self look like your old self: change as much as possible. If you’re a man, turn yourself into a woman. Change your race, age, and anything else you can think of. A drastic change will push you to write from a completely different viewpoint, and I’m hoping that it will make you think about writing characters and how they might react to situations.

If that’s not enough for you, write a second flash fiction piece, but this time don’t make the change so noticeable. Imagine yourself as someone you might have become if you hadn’t taken the path through life that you did. What would you look like? Different hair cut, glasses, plastic surgery? Would care lines crease your face, even though you’re only 30 years old? What if you had been in that car accident you almost avoided last month?

The point of these exercises is to project yourself into another possible you and to write as vividly as possible from that point of view. It’s important that you consider back story, because that determines how and why you’ve ended up as the alternate self. But you don’t need to include the back story in your flash fiction; it’s there mainly for your reference. So you might end up doing some outlining before you even write the flash fiction. Have fun with this, and don’t take it too seriously — although it may really make you think hard about some of the things you’ve done or how things might have turned out. Just don’t get so distracted by wishful thinking that you forget to show, not tell.

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