Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Time Rift


Wormholes, portals, time rifts, tear in time and other magical gateways make for interesting possibilities in the world of fiction. Today's prompt will make use of this concept.

Pumping Your Muse Prompt:
Develop a character within a short scene of two-three paragraphs. Then with the use of a portal of some kind transport them to another time. It can even be the same place, but doesn't need to be.

This prompt will most likely require a little research if you want to be authentic.

If you wonder where to start here are a few ideas to play with:

  • WWII soldiers carried to battle in the Civil War
  • Career woman of the 1990s transports to New York of the 1890s
  • A tired mother of three has the chance to visit her great-grandmother
  • A middle-aged business man without family and few friends travels to the future
* * *

To support the author of this blog, consider buying her books.

Pumping Your Muse (Creative writing book)

Windwalker (Fantasy)

Beyond the Fifth Gate (Fantasy)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Create Mood with Setting


If you write character driven fiction, it's easy to overlook setting details that add to your character's mood. Today's prompt will practice pulling details from the world around you and using them to set the mood. For example, yesterday I noticed a bird:

Charcoal clouds blanketed the sky where it met with the pale yellow horizon. The silhouette of a single bird flapped steadily toward the light. Does it feel as alone as I do?

When I saw the bird, I didn't feel alone. I thought the bird might feel alone. No flock. It did make a great story starter. This opening creates a lonely, perhaps dark feel but offers hope (the light).

Today's Pumping Your Muse Prompt:

Practice looking at the world around you. Look for small details and pull them into a sentence or two to create mood in the setting. Save your story starters to use when you need a jump start for a new story.

* * *

To support the author of this blog, consider buying her books.

Pumping Your Muse (Creative writing book)

Windwalker (Fantasy)

Beyond the Fifth Gate (Fantasy)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Don't Go There


How often have you read a book or watched a movie where a character heads into the dark cellar, up to the rooftop, or steps outside to check out a noise and your mind screams, DON'T GO THERE. If that has happened to you, then the writer has done their job. They've laid the groundwork to create that tension and conflict. Today's prompt will help you practice those skills.

Today's Pumping Your Muse Prompt:

Create a scene involving risk. If you don't have an idea, use one of the following story prompts:

*Character peers through a crack in the curtains
*Door banging in the wind
*First babysitting job
*Meeting a blind date
*Look for missing pet
*Running from one bad situation into another
* * *

To support the author of this blog, consider buying her books.

Pumping Your Muse (Creative writing book)

Windwalker (Fantasy)

Beyond the Fifth Gate (Fantasy)

For more about the author of this blog check out Theinkslinger.net.



Monday, December 15, 2008

I'm Late


Collecting details from real life offers realism to your writing. The trick is to learn to pay attention to those details so you can incorporate them. In the busyness of the holiday season, it's easy to get caught in traffic, a long line, or have the phone ring when you're walking out the door.

Pumping Your Muse Prompt:

Keep a notepad with you and keep notes on running late. (This can give you something to do when your stuck in traffic, or even waiting in line.) To collect the details, answer the following questions:

  • How do you feel physically?
  • What thoughts run through your mind?
  • How do you feel toward those around you?
  • How do you treat those around you?
  • Do you do or say anything you regret later?
  • How do you deal with the stress?

These kinds of details can help deliver an active, engaging scene even when you're character is standing still.

* * *

To support the author of this blog, consider buying her books.

Pumping Your Muse (Creative writing book)

Windwalker (Fantasy)

Beyond the Fifth Gate (Fantasy)

For more about the author of this blog check out Theinkslinger.net.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Light and Shadows


The use of light and shadows makes for an interesting setting. Today's photo prompt doesn't offer a lot of detail for setting. Use light and shadow to create a paragraph or short story based on this Pumping Your Muse photo prompt.

If you need help, ask yourself these questions:

Where is the person going?
Where are they coming from?
How do they feel?
What do they smell?
Why are they there?
Are they from this world?

* * *

If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel. Also available in ebook.

Also check out my fantasy novels: Windwalker and Beyond the Fifth Gate.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Three Word Writing Prompt


The first story and only mystery I ever had published came about from a three word prompt. Three unrelated words become embedded in the story threads. Readers will never know where your inspiration came from!

Today's Pumping Your Muse Prompt:

  • Nose
  • Yellow
  • Sour
* * *

If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel. Also available in ebook.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Character Interview Questions


When you start a new story, or get bogged down in a work in progress, this prompt can help you get to know your characters on a new level. It may also reveal the detail that sparks your creativity, and not only develops your character, but adds fodder to pull from as the plot unfolds.

Pumping Your Muse Prompt:

Character Interview Questions:




Relational:

  1. How old are you?
  2. Where were you born?
  3. Who do you look like? Your mother, father, or someone else?
  4. Do you have any brothers or sisters?
  5. Are you married or single?
  6. Do you have someone you care about?
  7. Did you or do you know your grandparents?
  8. Is anyone in your family famous?
  9. Are your parents still living?
  10. Are you adopted?

Personal:
  1. What do you like to drink?
  2. Are you a morning person?
  3. What are your hobbies or interests?
  4. What do you do for a living?
  5. What is your education level?
  6. What's your favorite food (or drink)?
  7. Do you travel much?
  8. What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
  9. Do you like to read?
  10. Where are you going?

Which Describes You Best?
  1. Nervous or calm
  2. Teacher or student
  3. Leader or follower
  4. Brave or fearful
  5. Religious or superstitious
  6. Humble or proud
  7. Tall or short?
  8. Long hair or short?
  9. Honest, stretch the truth when necessary, or all out liar
  10. Introvert or extrovert

If you have other questions or suggestions to add to this list, please be sure to comment.

* * *
If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse ebook. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel. 

Monday, December 01, 2008

Verbal Brushstrokes


Have you ever happened upon an artist with their easel set up painting the local scenery? Today we're going to do much the same with verbal brushstrokes.

Pumping Your Muse Prompt:
Today's photo prompt is an exercise in introducing your setting. Over and over, we are warned to show not tell. Today's prompt is no different. Show this scene on paper. Feel free to incorporate characters, for one of the best ways to actively introduce detail is through a character's eyes. Within the scene you develop answer these questions:

*Why are they there?
*What do they see?
*How do they feel?
*What do they smell?

Of course you can answer plenty more questions if the scene takes off.

* * *
If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse for Kindle. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel. 

Friday, November 28, 2008

Pending Disaster


Hope you all enjoyed a blessed Thanksgiving Day. Fond memories are kindled by the gatherings, scents and sitting around talking of things past. Today's prompt will center around such a day, but the prompt will challenge you to introduce a sound or smell that foreshadows pending disaster.

For example, amid the busyness of preparing a meal for a large gathering, amid the laughter, threads of conversation, children playing...a wisp of smoke curls from the oven. That scent paints the picture of a pending disaster.

Pumping Your Muse Prompt:

Have fun with this one. It doesn't have to be a catastrophic disaster. It could just be the rolls burning after the turkey or ham has been taken from the oven, or something like adding too much spice to a dish. This does not have to be a true story, but you'll most likely pull from past experience or design characters with traits similar to some of the real-life characters in your life.

Also, your story does not have to be about Thanksgiving. It can be any gathering where people are getting together for a meal. Here are some other ideas:

*Fourth of July barbecue
*Wedding rehearsal dinner held in someone's home
*Sunday afternoon dinner at Grandma's
*First meal cooking for Inlaws

* * *

If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel. Also available in ebook.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bullet


Today in the news there's a story about a man cutting his grass. Riding along on his mower, something hit him in the chest. He thought it was a rock, but when he checked it out found a bullet stopped by his cell phone which instead of carrying in his hip pocket, he clipped on the front of his shirt. There's a story in that bullet. Where did it come from? Who fired it? Was this an accident or intentional? Does this experience change the man's life?

Pumping Your Muse Prompt

Today's prompt includes a bullet. The flavor and theme is up to you. If you want further information, use one of the following phrases:

*Bite the bullet
*Faster than a speeding bullet
*Silver bullet
*Magic bullet
*Bullet with my name on it

To add to the challenge, include at least one detail for the sense of smell, hearing and sense of the unknown.

* * *

If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel. Also available in ebook.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Unprepared? Maybe, Maybe Not


In our last prompt we talked about expectations. Today we'll continue on this theme, but we're going to add a twist. Write a scene in which it seems obvious that your character is unprepared for lies ahead. Your goal is to make it appear the character is careless, unprepared or just not ready when in fact, they are following a calculated a plan which leads to a surprise ending.

Pumping Your Muse Prompts

Use one of the following character profiles to get you started:

  • Person of faith walking into a trap
  • Teenager walking out the door in anger
  • Child lost in a crows
  • Truck driver breaks down
  • Person who can't swim goes out in a boat
Write a story between 1000 and 1200 words
* * *

If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel. Also available in ebook.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Misdirected Expectations

One of the skills needed to keep a plot interesting is to create questions in the readers mind. Why? Who? What? Where? When? Along with that is the ability to misdirect expectations. You want to avoid predictability. Consider this blurb from a recent review of my novel Beyond the Fifth Gate:


"There are plenty of plot twists along the way and the ending is a real shocker which truly caught me off guard just when I thought I had it all figured out." (Read the entire review here)

Writing a plot that makes readers expect one thing and delivers a different reality is challenging but fun. It leaves the reader pondering and talking about your story. Today's prompt is designed to practice this skill.

Today's Pumping Your Muse Prompt:

Choose one of the following starting points and ending point and write a scene:

Starting Points:
*First day of school
*Learning to drive
*First date
*Finding a bone fragment

Ending Points:
*Making a profit
*Discovering a deadly secret
*Disappointment in the truth
*Character discovers a truth within

Use starting and ending points from the list or your own, but in the end leave your character and your reader changed.

* * *


If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel. Also available in ebook.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fleeting Thought


Did you ever experience a burst of inspiration...a great idea...just before falling asleep? It's so good you don't have to get up and write it down. I mean it's brilliant!

I experienced just such a moment last night. Something to share with all my faithful readers. Except when I awoke only threads remained. Not threads of the actual idea, but of the memory that there once existed a great idea. Don't trust your memory! Write it down.

Today's Pumping Your Muse Prompt:

Place a note pad and pen by your bedside and write down the last ideas of the day. Do this for at least three days. Select one of your ideas and write a short story or essay based on it.

* * *

If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel. Also available in ebook.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lexus Magazine Story Prompt

Today's prompt is for a specific market.

Lexus magazine is asking readers everywhere to come up with the ending to
their cross-country adventure story. So far, nine installments have been
written by award-winning authors, and the ending is up to any aspiring
writer out there. The best ending will be posted in the next online issue
of Lexus magazine alongside some of the country's best. It should be no
more than 1,000 words and the deadline is fast approaching-- November 16.

Those eager to write should post their stories at:
http://www.lexus.com/magazine/lifestyle-pursuits/itbotb/index.html#top
Click the red "How Would You End It?" tab, fill in the necessary
information and paste in the story.

Lexus magazine's site can be found at: http://www.lexus.com/magazine

* * *

If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel. Also available in ebook.

Monday, November 10, 2008

President's DNA


In my book, Pumping Your Muse, some of the writing exercises take you to the news...past or present. Today in the news they talked about the fact that one thing the Secret Service is responsible for is making sure the President doesn't leave behind his DNA. If he drinks from a disposable coffee cup, the cup must be destroyed. This is an interesting story premise. What would the enemy do with the President's DNA?

Today's Pumping Your Muse Prompt:

Write a story that involves collecting the President's DNA. This has the potential of a thrilling Whodunit. Today's prompt only requires the collecting of the DNA, but I challenge you to figure out what the plans are beyond that...answer these questions:

  • Who harvested the DNA?
  • Are they working for someone else?
  • What do they plan to do with it?
  • Do they accomplish their goal?
* * *

If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel. Also available in ebook.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Change of Seasons


It's a beautiful time of year. Ribbons of color climb the foothills here in Georgia as leaves mark the change of seasons. The display inspires contemplation.

Pumping Your Muse Prompts:

Use the change of seasons to introduce changes in your character's life. Are they invigorated, or does melancholy overtake them? Here's the fun part. Show it, don't tell it.

* * *

If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel. Also available in ebook.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Write a Scene Photo Prompt


Pumping Your Muse Prompt:

Write a scene inspired by this photo. Originally I was going to write a prompt about breaking a habit, but this photo opens the door to a variety of options. Here are a few questions to get your started:

*Whose hand is this?
*How do they feel?
*Where are they?
*Why do they smoke?
*What does the room smell like? Or the character's hair and clothes?

* * *

If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I Love Your Blog Award!

I Love Your Blog Award!

It's Wednesday, and the the middle of the week. I have a midweek blessing to share. Yesterday I Pumping Your Muse Prompts received the I Love Your Blog Award from the gifted Chiron O'Keefe's blog The Write Soul. She's a fiction writer who also writes a motivational essay for writers each week.

Thanks, Chiron, you made my day!

In return, I'd like to do the same for others and pass on to you some of favorite blogs for writers. Today I award them with the "I Love Your Blog" award. Be sure to check them out for your inspiration today, and along the way you'll gather some great resources:

Mike's Writing Workshop and Newsletter

Advanced advice for writers of all genres: Publish, Earn Money, and Improve at the Craft.

Muze's Musings

Nikki Leigh, author of Book Promo 101 – Basics of Book Promotion shares all kinds of promotional and articles with links to more information for writers on her blog Muze's Musings.

The Fearless Blog

This blog challenges its readers to be courageous and attempts to inspire, motivate and celebrate life, its challenges, obstacles and joys.

Murder By 4

Here you'll find interesting articles, author interviews, articles by guest bloggers, reviews, and an insider's look at the publishing world.

The Writing Nag

An almost daily blog of writing quotes, inspiration and writing exercises from a beginning freelance writer.

Sharon's Writing Lab

Experimental writing from Sharon Hurley Hall. Includes creative writing, freelance writing, book reviews, travel tales and much more.

Foot In Mouth Disease, Content Writing for the People

A content writing advice blog with helpful tips on how to write compelling content that is effective in the search engines and converts traffic into customers.

Creative Writing Corner

With weekly writing exercises, inspirational photos and poems, and daily thoughts on the writing life, Creative Writing Corner is for the writer in all of us.

Confident Writing

Join the conversation about what it means to write with confidence. Tips, suggestions, examples and a chance to make connections with other writers, readers and learners. Hosted by Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach - because our words count.

Single Source Writing

Single source for writing, thoughts, and social networking

* * *

If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day


For the Pumping Your Muse Prompts readers living in the U.S., today is election day. You may or may not have time to write, but for those who voted early, here's a prompt that pertains to today.

Pumping Your Muse Prompts
With all the spin put out by the talking heads media, wouldn't it be great if someone, somehow created a way that only the truth could be spoken on election day...even by the candidates...win or lose. And would the truth make a difference in the outcome of the race? Interesting concept, eh?

Write a short story about an Election Day where all the journalists, news anchors and politicians can't lie. It's all about the truth and nothing but the truth. Sad but true, this could be a humorous story so have fun with it.

* * *

If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

First Frost


We had our first frost last night. How things change in a day! I brought in plants, and to my surprise a little bird had taken shelter in one of them. A surprise and adventure ensued as I worked to get the bird out of the house.

Pumping Your Muse Prompt:

We've talked about foreshadowing recently, and this is another exercise that incorporates nature as an agent of change that foreshadows things to come. For example, your piece doesn't have to be the actual frost...it can be about a bird flying around your house. Here are some ideas to get your muse peculating:



*Elderly person rubs arthritic hands expecting a long winter
*Individual who busies themselves covering garden plants to protect them a little longer
*A child wonders at the white coating covering the grass on the way to school
*Character mentally compares frost on the ground to manna in the Bible (never know where this one will take you!)

* * *

If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Story Starter--Black Cat


Pumping Your Muse Prompt:

Today's prompt is a story starter in keeping with the theme of superstitions or Halloween. Write a short story that starts with or includes this paragraph:

The overcast day chased me under the throw on the sofa where I sat with my laptop and a hot mug of coffee. I settled in; the heat from the laptop warming my legs. A blur of movement drew my attention to the sheers at the deck doors. A black cat peered into the house with darting golden eyes. I stopped and stared. A black cat...

* * *

If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Dysfunctional Family Holidays - Photo Prompt


Most people tend to think they come from a dysfunctional family. With this in mind, writing a holiday story that involves family tradition and all the ins and outs that make for "interesting" relationships can be anything from serious to inspirational.

Pumping Your Muse Prompt

Submitting holiday stories should be done months in advance, but now is a great time to write one with a market in mind. As the holidays near, memories will surface. Be sure to jot them down. For today, your writing can be fiction or non-fiction. Base it on this photo, and be sure to include that dysfunctional element.

Chicken Soup for Soul is looking for Christmas and Holidays stories for their next holiday book. Currently, there is no deadline date for story submissions.

* * *

If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Flip Side Scene - Take Two


Those of you who own my creative writing book Pumping Your Muse may remember the flip side exercise that generated a new female character. That character grew to become the protagonist in my novel Beyond the Fifth Gate. Look what the latest review says about her:

Beyond the Fifth Gate has a strong female main character who reminded me of Xena without the long hair or possibly Seven-of-Nine without the spandex. Elita starts off a little weak in her fighting skills (but realistically, how hard would it be to practice when you live in a hive and are guarded day and night by big bugs?) but her first mystical gate provides two teachers who not only give her a crash course, but join her on her quest to freedom. There are plenty of plot twists along the way and the ending is a real shocker which truly caught me off guard just when I thought I had it all figured out.


You can read the entire review at Queen of Convolution.

Review written by:
Caprice Hokstad
Author of the fantasy novel, The Duke's Handmaid, and its sequel, Nor Iron Bars a Cage.
Website: www.Latoph.com

Pumping Your Muse Prompt:

With this review in mind, take an existing scene and practice the flip side exercise by changing at least three details. For more information look at our last exercise Flip Side Scene. If you haven't written your flip side scene do it! You'll be more than pleased at what you learn and who you meet.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Flip Side Scene


I want to take a moment to thank everyone for letting me know how much they enjoy the prompts here at Pumping Your Muse Prompts. You just make my day!

With that said, let's get writing. Take a look out your window. What do you see?

Outside my window, the wet deck planks shine under the overcast sky.

Pumping Your Muse Prompt:

For today's prompt we're going to write a flip side scene. For those of you who own my writing book, you'll know what this means. For those who don't: Write a short scene incorporating the weather outside your window. Then rewrite it flipping at least three details. For example, I'd look out the window in my flip side realm and see dull deck planks bleached by the harsh sun. Creating a world in the flip side gives birth to new ideas. Give it a try! You'll soon realize you're not in Kansas anymore.

* * *

If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sense of the Unknown


I posted a two part article on Five Senses in Your Writing over at Pumping your Muse Fantasy Writer. Can you name them?

  • sight
  • smell
  • touch
  • hearing
That's the top four, but todays prompt will center on the fifth: the sense of the unknown. A creative element that keeps the pages turning in a good book.

Pumping Your Muse Prompt:

Write a a slice of live scene. It's a normal every day kind of scene and then something happens that changes that...something that creates a sense of the unknown. Use one of the following agents of change to usher in the circumstances that raise questions and change life with an element of uncertainty.

*Out hiking and realize you don't know where you are
*The phone rings
*Laid off from work
*The power goes out
*A doctor's visit

* * *

If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Melting a Hardened Heart


Continuing on the agent of change theme, today's prompt will melt a hard heart. Not an easy task in many cases. You can pick the hardened heart from the following list or one of your own:

*Divorced woman who caught her husband cheating repeatedly
*A young man who grew up in an abusive home
*Ex-con who was innocent but paid his time
*Person living in poverty without hope

Pumping Your Muse Prompt:

Now you have an idea of the heart you're going to be dealing with in this scene. The truth is, that each of these people want to hope, want to dream, and want to be part of a relationship. Bring in an agent of change that starts to melt that heart and renew the hope that once burned there.

Ideas for Agent's of Change:

*a pet
*an abandoned baby
*a child in the park offering a hand-picked wild-flower
*a stranger who treats them kindly with no strings attached

Be sure to include elements of tension and internal conflict within your protagonist and then bring it to resolution.

* * *

If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Agent of Change


A good story introduces an agent of change. An element that stirs the plot, touches the characters and creates a question of what will happen in the readers mind.

Pumping Your Muse Prompt

For today's exercise write a short scene of 4-5 paragraphs and add one of the following as an agent of change:

*bird
*speeding car
*an unexpected letter
*words
*a chance meeting
* * *

If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hungry

Hunger...how do we know you're character is hungry? If you say, "Joe was hungry", you get the point across in a passive way. Writers should work to rid their work of passive telling language and today's prompt will work on showing the hunger. in an active way that pulls the reader into your story.

Pumping Your Muse Prompt

Write a scene with a character who is hungry. Include the senses of smell, taste and one other...sight, sound or the unknown.

For example:

Sounds: stomach growling, food sizzling, people talking about food

Taste: taste of food while cooking

Smells: turkey roasting, cookies baking, gilling burgers

Sight: stopping at the bakery window, pies cooling

Unknown: Dieter heading into an unknown scenario, when will they get their next meal

* * *

If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Foreshadowing


Today's prompt will work to develop foreshadowing through the use of a sunrise or sunset. By their nature these acts of nature represent a beginning or an end, but by showing them, a writer can create an element of foreshadowing. For example, if the sun rises brightening fog that lays like a shroud over a tiny village, it creates an eerie sense that something could go wrong in that tiny village.

Today's Pumping Your Muse Prompt

Write a scene that incorporates a sunrise or sunset and an element of foreshadowing of things to come.

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If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Capturing the Essence of a Short Story


Coming up with new ideas to write about shouldn't be a problem, but in the real world can cause a writer fits. I'm working on stories for a pet anthology and while I'm an animal lover, condensing details into one short story can be a challenge. All kinds of animals have touched my life, but how do I capture their story? For today's prompt we'll learn to capture the essence of a story.

Pumping Your Muse Prompt:

Answer these questions to form a skeleton for your story.

  1. In a few words, name the one event on which you’ll base your short story.
  1. Determine the ending of the story. Once you know where you're headed the story is easier to write.
  1. Work back from the end. What helped you determine this end? What was the Ah-ha moment?
  1. What dark moment made the event stand out? This can be adventure, decision, death, or something of that nature.
  1. What essential information do you need to convey to the reader about your everyday life before the dark moment occurred?
Number 5 is your story’s beginning, numbers 4 and 3 will comprise the middle, and number 2 is the end.

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If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Buried Alive with a Twist


We've all read or seen those horror scenes when someone is buried alive. Think of the terror, the helplessness...and then the hero. We certainly can't leave our character in that situation, though we can use all that conflict and suspense to build the story.

Today's Pumping Your Muse Prompt:

First, make a list of emotions and physical symptoms brought about by being buried alive.

For today's prompt I want you to take those same feelings and symptoms evoked by the thought of being buried alive and carry them into an urban scene, to a character who is buried in circumstances that are overwhelming. They're so stressed they can hardly breathe. Here are a few ideas to get your scene up and running:

*buried in work
*buried in bills
*buried in responsibilities of motherhood, wife and caregiver to elderly parents
*buried in depression
*and if you want to actually bury someone for real: buried in rubble from a natural disaster

Once you've found your idea, think of a way out. Create a hero.

Now write the first draft of your short story!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Photo Prompt - Graveyard


I chose this photo as a prompt because it holds possibilities for just about every kind of writer. Notice some of the details.

Pumping Your Muse Writing Prompt:

Who is in that building in the background and how does what happens in the graveyard affect them?

Does the full moon affect what happens in the story?

If you're standing in the graveyard, what do you hear? Smell? Feel? Be sure to include these details in your writing to bring it to life and make it real to the reader.

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If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel.

Monday, October 06, 2008

It's a High Pop Up


The creative process is fun. Your muse plays with "what ifs" and allows you to live the same moment in time with different results. Eventually, you determine the scenario that works for your story. Today's prompt is going to replay that moment in time so you can discover those different results. As an avid Cub fan, needless to say I'm disappointed that they are out of the running again this year, but I could write a great fantasy about how they won after 100 years!

Today's Pumping Your Muse Writer Prompt:

To tie in with the time of year, let's set today's prompt in the playoffs. It's your's choice which teams are pitted against each other. You can even choose to make it the little league playoffs. It is your story after all. The focal point of the scene is this: The announcer's voice says, "It's a high pop up..." What happens next is up to you times three. Write the same short scene three times with a different result based on that high pop up.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Photo Writing Prompt - Forced Entry


With my mystery writer readers, crime writers and the like, today's prompt is a change up from what I usually post. Write 500-1000 words based on this photo.

Today's Pumping Your Muse Prompt is titled forced entry. If you're not in the mood to write a crime thriller, switch it up. How could you make this a funny story? For example, could this be the result of a woman with a full bladder who is locked out of her house?

The story is up to you. Have fun and let me know what direction your story took.

* * *
If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Foreshadowing with Change of Seasons


Foreshadowing is a tool writers use to drop subtle hints of things to come. Today's prompt will use the theme of seasons to create an element of foreshadowing. Writing exercises such as this can be used to learn how to raise a question in the readers mind or can even misdirect them in order to deliver a surprise later in the story.

Today's Pumping Your Muse Prompt

Develop a scene in which the change of season delivers information that coincides with the character's life. For example, as fall transforms trees in brilliant colors your character who is about to turn 65 contemplates the harsh winter predicted by forecasters. Or a pregnant teen watches the snow melt as new buds spring to life outside her window. These are just examples. Choose your season and start writing.

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If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The 2009 Great Depression


Plucking details from history lend our writing details readers can relate to. In the light of today's economic difficulties today we'll look at the Great Depression. However we'll look to it for details of daily life and pull it into a contemporary fictional scenario. Society today is different and yet similar tho the late 1920's. It's those similarities and differences you'll incorporate into your story.

Today's Pumping Your Muse Prompt:

Write a short story that takes place in 2009. It's up to you to determine where your world is economically and how your characters react, survive and interact. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

*Rationing (this includes everything from shoes to appliances and food).
*Multi-generational families living under one roof
*Innovative food supplies--more people turned to family gardens--what do your characters do?
*Once successful entrepreneurs looking for work

The possibilities are endless, and life in the city will be different from than in more rural areas. Either way, life will be changed. A society promoting instant gratification will now plummet into living with restrictions that require harder work for less.

* * *
If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Discover Your Fictional World Through Drifting


One way I discover new elements to add to the world-building process when writing fiction is what I call drifting. Drifting lets you hopscotch above and through an area picking up details and fresh ideas as you go. This is accomplished by following a benign item not necessarily related to your story. For example, a leaf falling from a tree whirls in the wind higher into the bright fall sky only to drift slowly toward the frost covered grass in the park where a sole individual sits on a park bench...

The leaf is used to introduce the world.

Today's Pumping Your Muse Writing Prompt:

Introduce your world as you discover it by drifting. Follow one of these or an item of your own:

*Feather
*Leaf
*Butterfly
*Snowflake
*Ash
*Bug

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If you enjoy prompts, check out Pumping Your Muse. The prompts included in this creative writing book challenge the imagination to take new direction and if followed to the conclusion of the book, provide a detailed outline along with completed scenes and developed characters for one novel, as well as a solid start for a second novel.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pumping Your Muse Photo Prompt


It's been awhile since we had a photo writing prompt and this one can be fun. Note the details and you'll find your story.

Pumping Your Muse Photo Prompt: My Fee Hurt (Of course that's where my mind went...where will your muse take you?)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Musical Prompt


As a child did you play musical chairs? If you haven't heard of it, it's a game that requires one less chair than those playing. While music plays, participants walk around the chairs all going the same direction. When the music stops (at random intervals) everyone scurries to capture a chair. Last one standing is out and a chair is removed and the game is played again until one chair remains and one participant has claimed it when the music stops.

For today's Pumping Your Muse prompt we'll turn to the radio for a musical prompt much like this game. Turn on the radio and select a station that plays music. Listen to the words of the first song you hear and jot down concepts. Turn it off. Return to the radio three times throughout the day. Turn on the radio from dead silence to see what's on.

Take the concepts from one of the three songs and incorporate them into a scene or short story.

Note: Today's photo provided by Paulo Correa http://www.flickr.com/photos/stereofunk/

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Exhausted - A Story Starter


The following prompt is designed to get your imagination planted in fertile ground.

Prompt: Exhausted

[Enter Character Name] sat on the edge of the bed in the dark wearing nothing but underpants and one sock--half on or is it half off? "I'm so tired, I don't know if I'm getting up or going to bed." Then it hit...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Routine and Backstory


Backstory plays an important role in a story. It helps to understand the character: why they do what they do, how they think and how their past colors their present.

Today's Prompt

Write a scene SHOWING your character involved in everyday routine. Within the scene reveal at least one habit, quirk and a thought of the past that shows inner conflict. Tie their present actions with what they're doing.

For example:

Your character starts the morning coffee brewing (habit), and puts a mug of water in the microwave to heat because they only drink coffee poured into a warmed mug (quirk). They go into the bathroom to brush their teeth and look into the mirror stirring memories. She thinks she looks much like her mother who spit coffee into her face as a child when it wasn't warm enough. Now she is preparing to take her elderly mother in and become her caregiver (conflict). This is just a sketch and leaves room for a much larger story, but it gives you an idea of how to use this prompt.

Let me know if you have questions.

Write whether you feel like it or not and you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Was War


I've got a reputation for being anti "was". Now to be fair, was is a word and it must be used sometimes, but most times in creative writing it drags your prose into the dreaded land of the passive. This happens because in most instances using the word was lends to telling the story rather than showing the story. For example, if the character "was running" you're telling the reader about the character's action, but if you say "he ran" or "he sprinted" it creates an image in the readers mind. They are actively engaged.

Today's prompt: The Was War

Write 500 words without using the word was. This is best accomplished by writing your scene and then editing it. However, this prompt will also cause your brain to flag the use of this passive word even while you're writing and help train you to find a better word choice.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Learning From a Different POV


Point of view (POV) offers readers a glimpse into the world you've creative on paper. Based on this POV, they take in visual and other sensory information limited to that POV. For example, if you have three characters in a scene, and it is written from an outside POV--readers will not know the characters' thoughts or feelings. Instead they must make determinations based on what is said and in interpreting body language.

Today's Prompt:

Today we're going to have fun with POV. Take out an existing story (preferably one of your own) and write it from another POV.

Note: If you're ever stuck at a point in a story you're working on, this is a great way to get unstuck. You may never use the additional scene, but information gleaned from it can help you get on with writing.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Foreshadowing and the Red Herring


Little details threaded into your story can add an element of foreshadowing and raises questions in the readers mind. Foreshadowing offers the reader hints of things to come. For example, if you're writing a story about Sophia's wedding day, and the TV is on in the background as she gets ready for the rehearsal dinner and the weatherman announces chance for "scattered thundershowers tomorrow" this foreshadows a less than ideal wedding day.

Hints provided by foreshadowing
raise interest as the reader wants to see how things turn out as the plot develops. Foreshadowing can be broad and easily understood, like the example above, or more complex with a number of things that must be connected to make the plot work. In longer works like novels, it's fun to mix things up with some deliberately false hints which are known as red herrings. This keeps things less predictable as your readers' minds follow your hints in the wrong direction. Mysteries are famous for this, but it doesn't always have to be a mystery.

Today's Prompt:

Write a story that includes red herring foreshadowing. Here are a few ideas:

*Following a treasure map--does X really mark the spot?
*Mr. Right--or is he Mr. Wrong?
*Who dun it?

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Story Starter - First Sentence


It's been awhile since we had a first sentence story starter. Today's sentence is not quite complete because I've left off what the character is wearing. Many times that's part of the story. If I said, "the waistband of her orange jumpsuit" that would set things up for her to be in police custody. How you dress her will offer a springboard into the rest of the story. Have fun:

Story Starter - First Sentence

Sweat trickled down her spine and soaked into the waistband of her...

Friday, September 05, 2008

Speculative Historical Fiction


Speculative historical fiction is a great venue in which writers can ask: "What if?"

Choose a time in history or a historical figure and write a scene asking what if things were different. It can be a lesser known person or a well-known and popular person. The fun is creating a new set of circumstances set in motion by changing one or many things.

A great example of this is found in the popular movie The Mummy. The High Priest Imhotep was a real person. Look at the fun the writers had with that one.

Monday, September 01, 2008

No Excuses Writing


One of the biggest complaints I hear from want-to-be writers is that they don't have time to write. Today's prompt is designed to help you bury that excuse and lay it to rest. There's only one way to find time to write if you live a busy life, and that is to make room in your schedule.

The truth is that most people want big blocks of time to be able to write undisturbed...well for most of us, that's just not realistic. Instead, set a goal to write 20 minutes a day 4 days this coming week. And let me know how it goes!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Expanding Your World Vision in Fiction


Today is the day I meet with my young writer's Pumping Your Muse class and I've decided to give them a different kind of exercise today. I figured if they can do it, you can do it.

Read your existing scene. Now close your eyes. You can sit, lie down, whatever, but I want you to do this for 5 minutes. From where your character stands, look north, east, south and west. What do they see? What do they smell? And what do they hear?

When you are done, jot down new information and then take time to sketch a world map. This doesn't have to be anything fancy. The only one who needs to be able to interpret it is you! As your character moves about, you'll know where they are headed, and if they reach the border of your map, extend your vision.

Creating a map will help you see where your character is going and keep details consistent.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sailing the Sea of Imagination


I'm currently working on a manuscript for Pumping Your Muse for kids. I love to encourage kids to be writers. Don't know what the title will be, but I'm working through the exercises with two children and having a blast. They started out thinking it's too much work, and walked away yesterday excited and with their first scene written.

My purpose for this blog is to help pump your muse, too, so that you too walk away with a new scene, character, skill or idea. If that happens, drop me a line at dsundblad (at) theinkslinger.net. You can also contact me with questions.

Today's Prompt:

For today, we'll use this photo prompt. Look at the photo and if you don't know where to begin answer these questions:

Where are they going?
Why?
What led up to them setting sail.
What do they smell?
What do they hear?
What do the feel?
What do they see?

Have fun as you sail on the sea of imagination!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Olympic Emotions Writing Prompt


The Olympics are full of emotion and present a great opportunity to learn how to show emotion rather than tell about it. As swimmers slap the wall in a close race they look up at the official times to see the reality of who won. The camera isn't on the board, it is on the swimmers. Their faces SHOW it all!

Pick an Olympic event and challenge yourself to write a paragraph that shows the emotion on an athlete's face. If you have time, I suggest you do more than one. These paragraphs will come in handy later when you write a story that requires joy, nervousness, crushing defeat...

Learning to incorporate real emotion in your writing is like the difference to watching the official times on a board, or seeing the emotion on the athlete's face. Which would you rather see in your writing?

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For a wealth of writer prompts check out my book Pumping Your Muse. These prompts can be used separately or used to pull together a fleshed out novel outline.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

10 Things You Do When You're Hungry and On a Diet


Today's prompt requires creating a list of 10 things you do when you're hungry and on a diet. Then take at least five of those things and incorporate them in a scene. This can be fiction or non-fiction. I'd say there's room for humor in this one if you are so inclined!