Thursday Writing Prompt No. 145

We’ve had some record rainfalls in the Maryland area and some nasty flooding. While there have been jokes about building an arc or buying a boat, the floods have had devastating effects on some areas, such as Ellicott City, Maryland.

I don’t want to make light of a serious situation, but the constant rain and overcast skies are taking their toll in more ways than one. And so for today’s Thursday Writing Prompt your topic will be rain. (Surprise!) And to mix things up even more, I’m asking you to write a short poem about rain. Even if you never write poetry, do the exercise and see what you come up with. It doesn’t have to be an award-winning verse, just write whatever comes into your head.

One way to approach poetry is to pick up a pen and paper rather than use a computer or tablet or phone. I find that doing things old-school tends to slow me down, but for writing poetry that’s just the mindset you want to cultivate. Typing fast is great when I’m on a roll with a story or novel, but sometimes it’s just better to take the extra time for musing.

 

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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. 141

My sketch of the clock at Savage Mill, Maryland. Media used: Canson art journal, Utretch sketching pencils, and Ooly Kaleidoscope multi-colored pencils.

I’ve joined a Meetup sketching group to do some urban sketching. Many years ago I took an art studio class, and since then I’ve taken watercolor painting and dabbled a bit with acrylics, markers, and colored pencils. I’m kind of a lazy artist and it helps me to have an assigned project or something particular to focus on to get started. So, with no further ado, let me introduce this week’s Thursday Writing Prompt.

Clocks have been with us for many centuries in one form or the other. We have atomic clocks that measure time down to the pulse of a cesium atom; we have mechanical clocks with gears and flywheels and pendulums; we have sundials, where the shadow cast by the gnomon indicates the hour; and we have water clocks, where the slow drip, drip of water filling up a reservoir is measured to show the passage of time.

Your writing prompt for this week is to come up with a different way to measure the passing of time, whether for an alien race, or a group of humans. You should plan on deciding what kind of measurements would be of importance to your characters, and then design a timekeeping device or some way of tracking time that can be used by more than one person. For example, say your characters only care about the seasons, and they want to measure the solstices and equinoxes. You’re probably thinking about Stonehenge and Mayan temples, but how else could they track these things? And if your characters measure the hours, what kind of device would they use? Water-powered, steam, wind turbine?

Have fun, and plan to do a little bit of research for this one. Some clocks are really works of art and will be a good source of inspiration for you, even if you’re considering something other than a mechanical clock for your timepiece. Also check out sundials for a bit of variety. The North American Sundial Society is a good starting point, and there are links to images as well as instructions for constructing your own sundial, should the maker bug bite you.

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?