Tag Archives: writing prompt

The Morning Stretch #14 – Kaleidoscope writing

Different pictures formed from the same jumble of crystals in a kaleidoscope. Some writers manage the same with words. (Pic courtesy of Wikipedia)

There are some writers—Neal Stephenson comes to mind—who treat words as if they were various colored crystals in the lens of a kaleidoscope; they throw them together, jumble them up, and bizarre, often beautiful, patterns emerge. You have to wonder—applying that word’s double meaning of  awe and confusion—whether the message you have divined from the mystical pattern is one the author intended. Sometimes you doubt any true meaning is contained in the ornamental arrangement on the page, even as you stand in awe of the artistry.

While I believe a writer, in most cases, should use the simplest combination of words to achieve his desired outcome, I can’t deny the pleasure I sometimes derive from complexity. But if a sentence is constructed to maximize its lyricism, as opposed to its meaning, the writer risks confusing and losing the reader. If that’s the goal, you should write poetry. (No offense to poets intended :-).)

So, why take the risk? For one, I’d consider being called an artist whose canvas rests between the covers of a book as high praise indeed.

Today’s exercise … craft a lyrical sentence whose meaning is secondary to its beauty.

—–

Plowed free by the tip of a pen, rough stones write the history of my run on the moldy carpet; hard testaments of a conquered trail soon swept out the cabin door and returned to the mountain from whence they came.

—–

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The Morning Stretch #13 – Ticket to Paradise

Since my wife and I are going to win the $540 million dollar Mega-Millions lottery tonight, it is possible that this will be my last post for a while. After all, I’ll be spending  a lot of time talking to lawyers, accountants and long-lost relatives.

Therefore let the last stretch be an easy one … fantasize about what you would have done with the money if you’d won. (My stretch, on the other hand, will be realistic planning.)

This evening, my wife and I—after our winning numbers have been drawn—will probably scream our selves hoarse … and then cry ourselves dry. After that’s out of the way, we’ll talk about whether to take the $540 mil as a lump sum ( about $359 million before taxes ) or settle for almost $21 million a year for the next 26 years. It’s likely we’ll take the lump sum so we can find out what it’s like to burn through that much money in record time, like many past winners have done.

Once that’s done, we’ll work on the obligatory list of all the causes and charities we’ll want to fund. I’m fifty-five and forgetful already, so the Alzheimer’s Association will probably get a big chunk. :-)

Then, until dawn the next morning—since there is no way I’m sleeping tonight—I’ll be planning the Ultimate Writers and Runners Retreat.

Where I'll be heading after I hit the lottery tonight.

First, I’ll search the internet for a small piece of land in the Rocky Mountain region, something in the 50,000 – 500,000 acre range. This one’s a bit small and it’s in Canada, but it gives you the general idea.

After I’ve found the right property, I’ll start planning the loops of running and biking trails that will run through the property. They’ll be from a few miles up to ultramarathon length … and all within the borders of my runner’s retreat. We’ll have a guest house big enough to fit thirty or forty of our closest running friends; we don’t actually have that many close friends, but I’m sure that will change. And I’m figuring on putting a few small cabins around the most picturesque locations where inspired writing will take place.

I’ll need a private air strip so I can fly in my grandkids (yes, mom and dad, you can come, too), as well as the runners and writers I’ll invite. On occasion, my wife and I might use the jet to visit all the most beautiful, remote places in the world and see how they compare to the paradise that sprang from our lottery winnings.

That’s all the planning I can do right now. Figuring how to spend my winnings is going to take so much time I better use the rest of the day to clear my schedule.

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The Morning Stretch #10

There are two purposes for The Morning Stretch: 1) Loosen my creative muscle for a successful day of writing. 2) Strengthen my writing skills by stretching beyond the comfort zone. This won’t always produce great prose, but the goal is to become a better writer and trust that great prose will be the ultimate result.

If characters are to be believable, a writer of fiction must be able to empathize with each one he or she creates, at least to some degree … even the nasty ones. Otherwise, characters won’t act or speak authentically. For a basically decent human being, this can be difficult and I believe that anything difficult requires some practice if we are to do it well; a lot of practice if we want to excel.

Today we have another challenging stretch. It may loosen and strengthen. Do the first step before reading the second step. 

Step One – Make a list of three things you would NEVER do. Two of these can be things that frighten you or are physically challenging, but they should be possible. Don’t put “Grow wings and fly” or “Meet the creature from Aliens in a dark alley.” One of these must be something that you would never do because even the thought of doing it is repellent, illegal, or immoral. Give this some thought and be willing to get uncomfortable. Don’t list things you’d like to do, but can’t, such as “Keelhaul any agent who sent me a form-letter rejection.”

Here are mine -

1. Work in a needle factory. The one thing that turns my head from the movie screen is seeing someone get a shot/injection. I hate needles.

2. Smoke. I was raised in a haze of smoke; both parents dead from smoking related illnesses. ‘Nuff said.

3. Harm my grandchildren, or any child for that matter … just the thought is upsetting.

Step Two – Choose one item from the list and write a fiction scene where the character is doing the thing you would NEVER do. Write in first person, present tense. Don’t let yourself off the hook by being a reluctant character—if your choice was “murder my mother,” don’t write about how you were forced to do it, or that you felt terrible.

—-

My foot smashes through Oscar’s mouth but it doesn’t end the grating sing-song words. The shattered and sparking flat-screen is on its back—one end on the TV stand and the other balanced precariously on the sill of the freshly-cracked living room window—but an incessant  “Doin’ the Trash … Doin’ the Trash .. Doin’ the Trash!” is still goose-stepping through my aching head.

I kick the bedroom door so hard the knob punches through the drywall and keeps it from bouncing back in my face.

“Christ, Tommy!” I yell at him. “I told you not to leave the damn TV on! Now shut the hell up!”

Spiderman’s leap into Aslan’s mouth is arrested mid-air as my grandson looks up from amid his toys. He drops Spiderman and clutches the stuffed lion to his chest. I see the bottom lip pucker and clinch my fists. The three-year-old’s blue eyes are huge and his breath begins to hitch, “wuh-hic … wuh-hic … wuh … “

I won’t be able to stand it if the tears start, and they do. Damn Sharlene for sticking me with this … this … who knows what he is? My whore of a daughter probably doesn’t know who the father is. From the doorway, the smell of sour piss almost makes me gag. Almost four and nothin’ seems to get through his head what the commode is for. Damned if I’m gonna change his dirty diapers.

As I step into the room, Tommy raises his hands over his head and wails. Shit! If he knows what’s coming, why doesn’t he just shut his goddam pie-hole? Still in the boy’s grip, Aslan stares at me as I aim the first slap at Tommy’s head, knocking away his only protection. The wails are louder now.

My arm is drawn back once more and for certain the damn racket will soon end. I clench my fist and swing again.

—-

Ugh! That’s an exercise that makes me feel like I need a shower.

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The Morning Stretch #5

Animate an inanimate object. (Using words of course, this isn’t a blog for cartoonists! :-) ) Select an object and describe it or  its use in human terms. Don’t name the object, let your description do the work.

He groaned as the new load of firewood filled his squat, ancient frame and felt the strain in his black metal bones as they accepted the weight and remained unbroken … for now. Squeaks of pain escaped as the skin of his dirty canvas lining pinched in some places—and stretched in others—to accommodate the odd shapes of the split wood. It stung when the thread of his lining snagged and frayed as a piece of the fresh-cut loblolly pine was pulled free of his embrace and deposited in the nearby wood stove. But he breathed a sigh of relief, taking in the pleasant, smoky odor of the fire as it mixed with the pine scent of the wood he held—content that he was still able to function despite his advanced years.

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The Morning Stretch #2

As part of my morning stretch, I’m going to create my own writing prompt. Something short to get the creative juices flowing. Feel free to use it if you’d like.

Today’s prompt: Assign a color to a sound of your choice. Do sounds have color? I think so. The hum of the fan in my computer sounds gray; insinuating, distracting, fuzzy … malignant. If I have music playing, it fills the gaps like an evening fog filtering into low spots along the ground. Sometimes I believe that hum might be the gray matter between my ears leaking out and preventing cohesive thought.

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“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun” Ecclesiastes 1:9

In the internet age, this is more true than ever. There are so many writers and runners blogging these days that it seems possible that any content one writes has already been done by someone else. Almost a thousand new books are being published every day. Being original in this new digital world is quite a challenge.

After having spent ten years as an electrician, I took a year transitioning into what I hope will become a writing career. Early on, I had an idea for a crime/thriller about a guy who uses electricity for murder and mayhem. Before I had put word one on paper, I saw a book at a newsstand with almost this same premise. What a depressing sight!

I have worried sometimes that projects I’m working on could be irrelevant and unwanted by the time they are published. But I have put that concern behind me. A writer must believe in his voice and his vision and concentrate on crafting the best story that he can.

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