On our tour of Morocco several years ago I photographed this very patient mule standing just outside a shop in the busy medina of the city of Fes.
It just stood there patiently, ignoring the milling throng all around, oblivious to the movement, the noise and the general confusion.
- Write about a time you had to be very patient.
- Write about an occasion when someone had to be very patient with you.
- Write a list of the virtues of patience.
- Write a poem titled “Patience”.
- Write a short story starting with the words: “After three hours of patient waiting…”
- Write a short story finishing with the words “It had been a day that severely tested my patience.’
During our visit to the capital of Morocco we stopped briefly at the Mausoleum of Mohammed V in Rabat. This was one of many beautiful buildings we saw during our tour.
Just before we went inside, I took several photos of some Moroccan women talking. They were attired in what I assume was the standard of dress in that area.
- What is their story?
- Why have they come to visit the mausoleum?
- What did Mohammed V mean to them?
- Why is the little boy fascinated by me taking a photo of them?
- Write a poem from the point of view of the curious little boy.
- Write a short story from your point of view with a focus on the death of someone you admire, triggered by visiting this memorial.
- Let your imagination fly in any direction as a result of seeing these photos.
Last week I enjoyed reading the collection of inter-connected short stories called The Turning written by award winning West Australian author Tim Winton. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and it was all I had hoped it to be. I’ll review it on these pages soon.
One of the most obvious strengths of the collection of stories is how Winton has drawn extensively on his childhood experiences growing up in rural Western Australia. This sense of time and place is powerful, and it set me to thinking and reminiscing about my own childhood. I grew up on a farm in the Murray Mallee districts of South Australia. the more I thought about it the more the memories came surging back. Some good, others I’d rather forget.
I was supposed to be on holiday last week, but there are times when the writer in me just cannot switch off. I actually wrote several stories and made notes for another one, all based on childhood experiences. At this stage I am too close to the stories to know whether they will stand alone as unique stories in their own right, or they will become a part of a much bigger work.
Drawing on childhood experiences is something all writers can do.
‘Flannery O’Connor said that anyone who has survived beyond the age of twelve has enough fictional material for the rest of her life.’ (John Dufresne in The lie that tells the truth)
What I have done with these memories of my childhood is to take a real incident – and fictionalise it. I changed the names – to protect the guilty – and often twisted or totally changed the events to suit the drama of the story. I distinctly remember a classmate breaking his arm while we were playing football. His reaction astonished me. I changed this incident to a broken arm during a cricket match. That’s the beauty of fiction: you can change or make up whatever you like. The stories read almost like a memoir – but much of the content is fiction. I’ve drawn on just one incident – the broken arm, for example – and let my imagination soar.
- Cast your mind back to your primary (elementary) school days.
- Think of one incident that sticks vividly in your memory.
- Write down exactly what happened – or as accurately as you can remember.
- Now rewrite it in a fiction form, bringing in imaginary characters, new incidents, a different ending – just let your imagination have free rein.
Sometimes writers get stuck for ideas. This might just be a temporary blip on the radar screen. If it persists over a long period of time, the dreaded writer’s block might be the cause.
Whatever the situation, writers are left without ideas. This is where my very popular short story starters can help. Then we have this series of writing prompts to get you out of those writing ruts. Today I present the latest list of writing prompts.
Use these as writing warm up activities. Use them as jumping off points for stories, or magazine articles or even blog posts. Use them however you wish.
Twenty Writing Prompts
- Write about a career you have always dreamed about.
- Write a conversation between a cow and a blade of grass.
- What is your favourite household appliance? Write about its life from the point of view of the appliance.
- If you had a choice, where would you live and why?
- Write a list of ten things you would never write about.
- Write a list of menu items you would offer to an enemy who came into your restaurant.
- Choose an item in the room. Describe it without saying what it is and from the object’s point of view.
- Make a list of the ten greatest inventions ever.
- Write five things you would never tell your children – or your parents.
- You are alone in the house. Your cat/dog starts talking to you. Record your conversation.
- Choose a colour. Write about how it would feel if everything in the world was that colour.
- A stranger approaches you in an airport and asks for a thousand dollars. Record your conversation.
- Describe boredom. Make your description exciting.
- Assume that more ice creams are sold on Tuesdays. Write a short report on why this is so.
- Take on the role of your editor. Write the most devastating rejection letter you can imagine.
- What would you do if you could live for a thousand years? describe your life.
- Make a list of ten things that the world would be better off without. (“Things” – not people!)
- Describe the best party ever. Who would you invite? Where would you hold it? What would you have to eat?
- Describe what you would do if you found an elephant in your garden.
- Write down your thoughts about the most controversial current news item.
It has been quite a few months since I gave my last writing prompt, so it’s time for another one.
This time I thought I’d do something different. Instead of just one idea, I’m going to give a list of writing ideas. Use these ideas however you want. You might get an idea for a story, or a magazine article or a blog post. Or you might just use it as a warmup activity before the main writing project for the day.
20 Writing Prompts:
- Write about the Teddy Bears’ Picnic from the ant’s point of view.
- Write a list of things that are white.
- Explain why your character is afraid to go into the shadows.
- Write about a librarian who discourages people from borrowing books.
- Describe the most vivid dream you ever had.
- Make a list of things that make you laugh.
- Describe the last time you had a really good cry.
- Write about the joys of moving house.
- Write a conversation between a tree and a bird.
- Describe the most exotic place you’ve ever visited.
- Write the transcript of an interview you did with the character of a book.
- Make a list of the ten major events in your life.
- Write about the worst smell you have ever experienced.
- List the attributes of the most evil character you can imagine.
- Tell your life story in 50 words or less.
- Write a story about a cat in exactly 50 words. It must have a beginning, middle and end.
- What would you most like to change about your life – either in the past or the present.
- Imagine what it would be like living in a palace and write about it.
- Write a list of the ten things you would never do.
- Imagine being in your mother’s womb. Write about your feelings.
- Writing prompts – an archives of articles in this series of articles.