February 17th, 2009

Carefully taught

One of my publishers had all of their novelists read Janet Burroway's Writing Fiction.

One writing exercise from the book that I liked was this one:
List five specific things your family members or best friend taught you to do (for example, to drive a stick shift, to sneak into R-rated movies, build a fire in the rain).

Then list five specific things they never taught you to do (jump from a speeding Jeep, lock my mother’s boss in his office, write Valentines.)

Do one or two lessons suggest a larger story or evoke a vivid picture? Can any lessons be combined?

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Writing Prompts

In McSweeney's, Dan Wiencek had some satirical writing prompts. Here are some of my favorites:

- A husband and wife are meeting in a restaurant to finalize the terms of their impending divorce. Write the scene from the point of view of a busboy snorting cocaine in the restroom.

- Write a scene showing a man and a woman arguing over the man's friendship with a former girlfriend. Do not mention the girlfriend, the man, the woman, or the argument.

- Choose your favorite historical figure and imagine if he/she had been led to greatness by the promptings of an invisible imp living behind his or her right ear. Write a story from the point of view of this creature. Where did it come from? What are its goals? Use research to make your story as accurate as possible.

Click here to read more.

Write Around Portland has a good list of writing prompts. One they don’t list, but I know they use is “People like us” which is such a great prompt when you think of the work they do with people living on the margins.

Here are some of their other prompts:
The night smelled like...
The old blue shirt...
In my dreams...
The thing on the beach...
The dirt road ...
Reflected in the window...
As I entered the room...

See more here.

Do you have a writing prompt you like?

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Guess who's written a "sizzling politcal thriller"?

Guess who's written a "sizzling political thriller" with a "seamless plot that offers a plethora of twists and turns"?

According to Publishers Weekly, Lis Wiehl and I have. [Full disclosure: I'm also referred to as a "mystery veteran," which makes me sound like I've gone to war.] The book in question, Face of Betrayal, publishes April 7.

For the past week, I've been dreaming of seeing the review. In my dreams, I would look on line, but I couldn't find it. Or I could find it, but the words would get blurry when I tried to read it. Reality was much better than my dreams - it was all praise without a single quibble!

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