Monday, March 31, 2008

Writing Markets and Pithy Endings

As I researched writing markets for my Anthology News and Reviews blog, I've recently come across two markets requiring a "pithy ending". When I shared this news with my local writer's guild it raised questions. What does pithy really mean? The definition makes it clear: "brief, forceful, and meaningful in expression; full of vigor, substance, or meaning; terse; forcible: a pithy observation." (

Today's writing exercise challenge is to write a short essay of 500 words or less and to close with a pithy ending.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Dragon Photo Prompt

As a fantasy author I couldn't pass this photo by koma Bboy (found at stock.xchng). I don't want to say too much and influence your writing, but this photo did raise some questions for me.

Is the dragon crying out?
Is it alone?
Seeing the full moon--does this affect the dragon in some way?
Is the dragon flying across the sea?
And lastly, why the flame? Is this some kind of signal to shore?

Have fun with this one, I know I will.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Story of a Tree

Do you ever think of how old the trees you walk by are? They form a ring for each year. Can you imaging the stories they could tell?

Write three short scenes, each including the same tree at different stages of its life. Tell the story from the tree's POV.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Broken Lives

Create a broken character. This can include one or more of the following:

Broken dreams
Broken body
Broken spirit
Broken relationships (broken home)

Don't start by telling about this broken character, but let the scene unfold as you introduce your broken character to a new world.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Taming the Weakness

One thing about characters is that they are neither all good nor all bad. Even the most evil character will show some foible that makes the reader care in a small way, but not for long. I call the exercise, "Taming the Animal" because all protagonists will have some weakness they need to tame--and so will your antagonist. If those weaknesses are left untamed, they often lead to the demise of that character.

For this exercise, take one of your favorite stories and identify the character's weaknesses. Then write a scene where that weakness is no longer tamed and bring the scene to a new conclusion.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

First Kiss

Learning to write sexually sensual scenes can challenge writers who choose to keep their writing appropriate for all ages. Today's prompt is to write a scene including a first kiss. Write it from the POV of one of the characters involved in the kiss.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Day in the Life

As a kid, I remember watching a Twilight Zone episode where a young girl hears her dog barking and finds that he has found a portal in her bedroom wall that leads to another dimension. She follows after her pet, and adults realize not only that the girl and her dog are in this other dimension but the portal is closing as the wall gradually is turning solid and closing the way of return.

We've also read stories of kidnapping, identity theft, and all kinds of situations where suddenly reality has changed for those involved. Today's writer's prompt involves change. This one is just for fun, though you never know where it will lead.

Write about a day in your life as if someone else was walking in your shoes. For example, if you have an elderly mother and she suddenly had the opportunity to live your life for a day, what would it be like?

Or a young child...taking over the role as parent.

The POV can make this one fun!

Today's photo was taken by photographer Dan Colcer.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Photo Writing Prompt

This photo writing prompt should be fun for fantasy writers. I'd love to hear what you come up with. If you're looking for markets for your stories be sure to check our Anthology News and Reviews and check out the Tickle My Fantasy Anthology guidelines.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Foreboding Scent

Use the sense of smell to create a foreboding scene. Here are some ideas to get you started:

*Dog feces
*Gun Powder
*Dirty ashtray

If you really want to challenge yourself, try using two of these scents in the same story.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Place a character in a situation where they awaken and don't know where or who they are. Place clues in their path to help them learn what they've forgotten. One item is a key...other than that it's your world. Have fun finding your way.

Monday, March 17, 2008

First Sentence

Start a short story or scene with the following sentence:

Dark clouds swirled overhead and wind bit into my damp flesh as I glimpsed the outline of tall buildings on the horizon.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Photo Prompt

Today I offer this photo prompt. Who's that man waving to? Where is he coming from? Where's he going?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

First Sentence

Write a scene or short story starting with this sentence:

Leslie crushed the cigarette in the ashtray with new determination.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cooking with Stress

Often when we tell a story that's funny, if you think back, the original circumstances were not funny at all. Today's exercise is to come up with a situation like that. Create a scene that involves cooking. Guest(s ) are invited for dinner. Start it out slow and controlled. Your character knows what they're doing. Then add one of the following elements:

*The power goes out
*They don't have one of the necessary ingredients
*They burn their hand moving the pan from the stove and spill the contents all over the floor
*Phone rings and guests will be arriving an hour early
*The dishwasher overflows
*Add your own element of conflict and tension

Have fun with this one. Make yourself laugh.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Plane POV

POV can get a bit confusing at times. The best way to remember how it works for me is to imagine yourself inside the character's head. You see what they see, feel what they feel and know what they think. For today's exercise, imagine yourself on a plane sitting in the window seat. What do you see? What do the clouds look like? What does the landscape look like?

Now, put your character on the ground beneath the plane. Now what do the clouds look like? The landscape?

In both cases, how do they feel?

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Time Change

Since today is the day we move the clocks ahead, I thought it would be great to write about a character who forgot to change their clocks. For this change, when the clocks move ahead, if you forget, you'll be an hour late for your next appointment. What happens to your character when they forget to reset their clocks?

If you can't think of a story, try one of these characters to get you warmed up:

*Church pianist
*Sports announcer
*Bus driver

Friday, March 07, 2008

Wind, Rain, Sleet or Snow

Weather changes things in real life and will do the same in the lives of your characters when writing fiction. It can even be used to foreshadow upcoming events or create a question in the reader's mind related to other details they already know. In chapter one of my creative writing manual Pumping Your Muse, I challenge writers to describe the sky in one sentence everyday for a whole week. Learning to show the sky in brief snippets makes the scene real, offers information naturally and can even be used to foreshadow events. Consider this example from exercise 1B: Attention to Detail: The Sky and the One Sentence Rule.

"Silent thunderheads gathered like an army above the eastern horizon."

The clouds create an ominous foreshadowing of things to come. Needless to say, the sky provides readers with information and should generate further interest. Will rain spoil the picnic? Should the young mother with the kids in the car be driving in this weather? Will the lover be late and miss his chance to tell her he really loves her and does want to marry her?

Create a scene where the weather plays the role of a character. For example pit your character against the weather. Give them a goal and let's see who wins.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A Feel Like...

Feelings dictate actions. Introducing your character's feelings engages the reader. Why do they feel like that? How do they act on those feelings?

Start a story with one of the following:

  • I feel like someone is watching me.
  • I feel like ending it all right here, right now.
  • I feel this might be the break I've been waiting for.
  • I feel...(choose your own).

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Actions Speak Louder than Words

You've seen the commercial. It says, "Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now," or something close to that. It shows people in the middle of something that must leave because they "gotta go." But it doesn't say what they need to do...viewers know. They have to find a bathroom.

Create a scene that shows action that leads the reader to a conclusion. Here are a few ideas or use one of your own:

  • A character that has to sneeze
  • A bloated, gassy character that needs to...well pass gas.
  • A character with an itch

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

What Am I Doing?

Have you ever walked into a room and then wonder what it is that you came in there for? Write a scene with a befuddled character that comes through in the end.

Challenge yourself to include all the senses. What does your character smell, hear...feel?

Monday, March 03, 2008

Animal Tales

I'm an animal lover and have had all kinds of pets over my lifetime--and I've rescued wild animals like small birds and raccoons until they could be released. Each animal that touches a human life leaves behind a story to tell. Write a story about an animal that left its mark on your life.

And if you're looking for markets, check out Anthology News and Reviews. I recently posted a market for cat lovers, dog lovers and horse lovers.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

This Week's Photo Writing Prompt

Life circumstances change the path of destiny. Here's a photo to challenge your muse to write such a scene for one of your characters.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Editing Your Work

Choose a scene you're working on or one you wrote awhile back that has merit. Look for passive language. World like:

*There was (were, had been)
*He (she) noticed
*He (she) saw
*He (she) heard
*He (she) realized
*Had been
*That (read the sentence and see if it makes sense without the word "that"
*went (be more specific--show how your character went. Did they run, shuffle--create an image

Rewrite the scene replacing your passive language and you'll be surprised at how it comes to life.