Thursday Writing Prompt No. 143

“Sienna City,” one of my digital paintings.

It’s been some time since I’ve had the energy to sit down and write a blog post. Work has been tremendously busy and at the end of the day I find myself just staring at the TV or playing Guild Wars 2 or Random Mahjong and telling myself that tomorrow I’ll do some writing. Since I work full time as a copy editor I pretty much read all day and that type of work is intense; editing requires that I make a lot of decisions (you might not believe the angst that hyphens can cause for editors) and by the time five o’clock rolls around I’m mentally spent. At that point I chuck any unused hyphens in the recycle bin and shut down my office connection.

So, last week I was avoiding writing my zombie short story for Corrugated Sky’s upcoming third anthology by looking at the digital tools over at Creative Market. I picked up a set of Photoshop brushes called Cityscape. I spent some time “doodling” until I came up with a nice composition, and then combined my newly minted city with effects from Topaz Studio to create “Sienna City.” Art and photography are cross training for writing, since they are all creative endeavors, right? I mean, at some point you have to do something other than write, or else what can you write about?

So, what’s a city without people? For this week’s Thursday Writing Prompt, you get to describe Sienna City and its population. In 350 words, write a travel guide entry for tourists that will compel them to pack their bags and head to town. Think about the kinds of things you want to know about a place before you visit, but mostly, think about what is so compelling about Sienna City that people want to go there. Are the restaurants world-famous? Is there a special landmark or museum? Is it a shopping destination? Or does the city hold some special festival each year that pulls in tourists by the busloads?

 

Thursday Writing Prompt No. 142

F is for Febrrrr..uary

It’s been some time since I’ve written a Thursday Writing Prompt, and since it’s Valentine’s Day next week, a romantic theme might be just right for this week’s exercise. So without further ado, let’s get down to business at the keyboard (or pen and paper).

Your task for this week is to come up with your characters for romance story. Give them both names, and then write a brief resume of that person’s life: their background (siblings, where they grew up); their current job (or lack of one — maybe they’re in school yet); their likes and dislikes (food, drinks, sports, hobbies, pets); and most important, how they view their life. This doesn’t have to be a long paragraph or pages of writing. In fact, writing a bullet-point list might be a better option.

With the list format you can make up a batch of characters for use in whatever stories you want. While I was drafting Seacombe I came across some websites that offered enneagram tests. In case you haven’t heard of an enneagram, it’s a type of personality test. In any case, I found it useful for figuring out some of my characters’ personality profiles. You might find that using an enneagram test or some other personality test will help you sort out what it is that drives your characters. Once you know who they are and what they want, stories are much easier to write. Good luck with your character lists!

Writing about Settings

Setting is the time and place where your story is set. It can be as mundane as a typical suburban neighborhood or as exotic as a foreign country or alien planet. Remember, “exotic” to you might be the mundane to someone else, and vice versa, so you will have to rely on your skills of description to bring the setting alive.

Another term for setting is location, although that is more properly limited to the physical space in which the story is set. But setting involves much more – the time or era when the story is taking place (past, present, future); the passage of time, such as how long a period your story covers (a day, an hour, a character’s entire life); mood and emotion; physical location (for example, deserts, cities, planets, underwater algae farm, Victorian London); geography (the description of the physical location as related to nature – rivers, mountains, etc.); and weather and climate.

Additionally, your setting needs to be populated, otherwise there’s not much of a story. First, consider the people you’re writing about: are they human? It’s not a dumb question, because depending on your story you could be writing about protagonists who are fully human, paranormal creatures such as werecows, or aliens from another planet or dimension.

Use descriptions of the physical landscape (geography) and buildings to help establish your setting. It helps to look at photographs of locations when you’re trying to come up with descriptive text, but don’t forget to use sensory descriptions to make the place come alive in the mind of the reader. The beach may look wonderful, but what does it smell like? Is the breeze strong? Or hot, or cold? What kind of sounds does the protagonist hear at the beach? Does the sand crunch under his sandals, or get into his shoes and give him a blister?

Thursday Writing Prompt No. 139

I captured this image during a nighttime cemetery excursion in Edinburgh, Scotland. Is it simply a flashlight blurred by movement, or is it something else?

I captured this image during a nighttime cemetery excursion in Edinburgh, Scotland. Is it simply a person holding a flashlight, blurred by the camera’s long exposure–or is it something else?

I’m having another night of insomnia. It’s gotten to be that I’m dealing with this three or four nights a week, but I can’t find a pattern to it. It doesn’t seem to matter if I drink coffee or tea or alcohol, and it doesn’t matter what I eat or how much I exercise. I think partly I’m just getting used to using the time for writing or other creative work and so I’m starting to crave it. Obnoxiously, a few nights ago I wanted very much to work on a project and I couldn’t keep my eyes open no matter what.

O! Fickle Muse!

And that brings me to this week’s Thursday Writing Prompt. Many writers use the wee hours of night to coax words onto the page. Some just can’t sleep, while others just find it easier to write uninterrupted once everyone else has settled down for the night.

But what if the reason were something else? What if, during the night, your Muse did actually visit you? What form would it take? Human, animal, god/goddess, elf, alien, robot? Would the Muse offer you a gentle nudge, or slam your head into the desk if you didn’t start typing right away?

Your task is to introduce your Muse and to describe the modus operandi that he or she or it uses to wring some words out of you. Because you are the only one who can see your Muse, you will have to be very descriptive in your writing. Pull the curtains shut against the world, shut the door against interruptions, and write on into the night. I am.