Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Writing Prompt: Big Money

In the United States, we've recently had a rash of big lottery jackpots.  One person won almost a billion dollars.  These jackpots are amazing and life changing for the winner.  But, experts warn that winning a big lottery jackpot has a dark side.  Long lost family members come out of the woodwork seeking money.  Criminals and con artists flock to the winners.  I would imagine it could be dangerous and lonely for many winners.  But, still, for the winners who can manage the huge winnings, the experience must be incredible.

For today's writing prompt, create a short tale about a person who suddenly receives --

big money!

Photo by Maklay62, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons


Friday, January 22, 2021

Writing Prompt: What's in Box 1494?

The popularity of unboxing videos is one of the most curious phenomenons on the Internet.  People just can't resist opening up a package and seeing what's inside.  Quests for hidden treasure are similar.  People just want to know what behind the door or in the treasure chest or what around the bend.  Perhaps it is just a reflection of human curiosity and our thirst for knowledge?  No matter.  It's a human foible that works in our favor as writers.  We can write up a box, put something in it, and hide it!

For today's writing prompt, I present this humble row of post office boxes.  Your mission is to create a short story about -

 the contents of Box 1494!

Photo by MarkBuckawicki, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons


Thursday, December 24, 2020

Writing Prompt: The Gift

It's Christmas Eve and all through the world writers are handling preparing for their holiday celebration.  With gift wrapping and the like consuming all of our time, it's unlikely that we'll be writing much today.  But, if you have the time, a great writing prompt for today would to write a story that involves 

a gift.

Lambtron, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons



Friday, December 18, 2020

Writing Prompt: Addictions and Impulses

While this holiday season is a tad subdued due to the ongoing public health crisis, a normal holiday season would include family gatherings, holiday parties, and New Year's Eve Extravaganzas.  For most people, these gatherings are a healthy way to socialize and celebrate the season.  However, there's always someone who get a little carried away.  Folks drink too much and get rowdy.  Some people make ill-

advised sexual advances towards co-workers.  Co-workers often get a glimpse at who has an alcohol or addiction problem in their workplace.  With flirtations and flings in the air, there always seems to be something to fuel office and neighborhood gossip.  It's a good thing that Santa isn't keeping lists of adults.

For today's writing prompt, write a short story about someone who is struggling with 

addiction and/or impulses.

For a phenomenal book featuring a character struggling with sex addiction, check out this title from Jennifer Irwin:

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Children's Story Writing Prompt: Backyard Safari

Even in the most populated areas, wildlife finds a way to survive.  In the United States, suburban neighborhoods often provide homes for deer, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, opossums, rats, mice, snakes, and birds.  When I take my own garbage out at night, I often see a raccoon or possum making its way around our trash compactor to harvest table scraps from the garbage.

For today's writing exercise, create a children's story featuring your

neighborhood's animals.

If you are looking for some good children's stories that involve animals and that help support a good cause, check out this title:   

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Writing Prompt: Everyday Carry

Think about the things that you carry every day.  Ladies, what's in your purse?  Guys, what's in your pockets, on your key ring, or in your laptop bag?  Remember the old boy scout motto - Be Prepared.

That may be why many people obsess over what they carry everyday.  There are even dedicated websites like Everyday Carry.  What you have on your person is what you have available to handle an emergency.  
For today's writing prompt, consider what you carry on your person everyday and create a story where you, or a character you create, uses

everyday carry items in a significant way.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Writing Tips: What You Can Learn from Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising

A couple of month's ago, I came across one of my favorite books on the shelves of a local Salvation Army Thrift Store.  It was Red Storm Rising--Tom Clancy's classic military fiction novel.  The topic is World War 3 in Europe and the North Atlantic.  Tom Clancy does a lot of things right in this novel and any genre writer can learn from his techniques.

Hooking the Reader.  

First, Red Storm Rising opens with action.  A audacious act of terrorism acts as the catalyst that starts a chain of decisions that lead to war.  As the attack unfolds, the reader wonders what it means and where it will lead.  I first read this novel as a college student back in the late 1980s.  I started reading it on an overnight Amtrak train taking me to down to the University of Florida after a Christmas or Spring Break.  I initially read half of the meaty novel in one sitting on that train.  Then, when I could hold my eyes open no longer, I fell asleep with the novel open in the seatback pocket.  When I woke up, it was gone!  One of the first things I did when I got back to Gainesville was go to the bookstore and buy a new copy.  The Cold War was still scary in the 1980s and I was hooked.  If you want to be successful as a writer, you definitely need to hook readers in the first few pages.  I think Tom Clancy hooked me with action from the opening pages and by igniting my desire to know what happens next.

Handling A Large Widely Dispersed Cast.

One of the biggest challenges for an author covering an epic subject like a World War is handling a large cast that is scattered across the world.  One thing I noticed immediately is that Tom Clancy opens every chapter by telling readers where the characters are.  It's a small thing, but it helps immensely.  Clancy also creates puts his characters in widely diverse situations.  He looks at the situation from the perspective of a front-line Soviet General, an American submarine captain, a U.S. frigate commander and a U.S. Naval Intelligence officer.  One of the most intense subplots highlights the efforts of an Air Force meteorologist and a couple of U.S. Marines hiding on an island taken over by Soviet paratroops.  By giving his characters different roles, personalities, and geographic locations, it's easy to tell them apart.

Sympathetic Characters

Red Storm Rising offers a number of sympathetic characters.  Even the "bad guys" in the novel have sympathetic characters.  For example, while it is easy to portray the Soviets as evil caricatures, Tom Clancy shows us humans working within a deeply flawed and corrupt system.  The war is a colossal blunder that Clancy's Russian characters are unable to stop.  However, as patriots, they march onward to carry out their orders, protect their soldiers, and try to attain their goals.  As readers we can sympathize with characters on all sides of the war and care about what happens to them.

Chapter Length

Clancy hops around the world with each character's experiences providing a different perspective on the unfolding situation.  Chapters are short, but they are long enough to have significant experience and shed light on the unfolding war.  But, they also leave readers wanting more and needing to know what will happen next to the characters.  When Tom Clancy leaves a character in a bind, you want to get back to a chapter about him to see what happens.  Even in re-reading this novel, I found it hard to put down.

No matter whether you write science fiction, fantasy, or military fiction, if you are planning to write a novel with an epic scope, Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising is a good example novel to study.

Writing Prompt: Big Money

In the United States, we've recently had a rash of big lottery jackpots.  One person won almost a billion dollars.  These jackpots are a...