Saturday, December 29, 2012

Writing Prompts for the Insane

Writer's are travelers, and one foot in front of the other plots the story.

We can expect disagreement from some because they confess poverty, anthrophobia, agoraphobia, and a lack of imagination, but then who among us cares, as they really aren't writers. Experience and original conceptualization are key. These come from experience.

As you can guess, I don't consider fan fiction to be true writing. Someone can go into their bathroom and share the experience, and I'm on board with that. Really. They may not have wandered off to the Russian Steppes, but they are sharing original content with an audience.


Writing prompts are not writing. You cannot, will not, would not, and gods forbid admit to, consider a finished piece for publication from a prompt initiated by someone else in a touchy-feely, ego-stroking, talent-snuffing writers workshop.

WRITING PROMPT #1: First person narrative, walking across the roof of an industrial parking garage and a bird poops on your head.

"We have a responsibility to strengthen their confidence," a flower-sniffing mentor might suggest. "Workshops are not about tearing someone down, but about building them up." "I don't want to get brained with a doodle journal by a frustrated, no-talent hack."

These are just excuses for a lack of competency, and can be very dangerous and incorrect postures to take as a writing circle moderator.

First of all, let's remember critical thinking 101. There are no issues that are black and white. If I'm not overly joyous and fluffy with a 'criticism,' that does not mean that I am a heartless bastard bent on crushing the dreams and aspirations of fellow writers at the table in order to winnow down the competition for the next Glimmer Train Fiction Open.

WRITING PROMPT #2: There's been a nuclear spillage 2 miles away from your favorite farm co-op. Using only dialogue and light scene-descriptive segues, walk through a characters decision to stop buying local.



My state-of-mind going into a critique circle is simple. I will give as good as I get. If you spend the time to run through what's not working, and that is the true purpose of a well-structured workshop, I will most certainly reciprocate with my own critique of your piece. It needs work, with detail.

It is not emotional. Do not get angry. Do not cry. Do not take personal insult to a comment that suggests your heavy use of the comma-splice for creating tempo reflects your deep-seeded guilt for dropping your infant sister on her head back in the 60s.


And please, I'm not stupid. You and I both know you wrote that drek about goth, unrequited love at 11pm the night before so you could have something to bring to the table. Yeah, don't be that person. You might as well have written about ponies.

WRITING PROMPT #3: Copy and paste something from Hemingway, put your name on top, and submit it to the New Yorker.

But I digress, as today I'm writing of writers as travelers.

I've been places, you know. Rome, Naples, Palermo, Chania, Diego Garcia, Cozumel, Chicago, New York (blech), Indianapolis, Memphis, Kuwait, Bahrain, Sandy Devine's intimates drawer, my backyard vegetable garden, the bathroom- and in each environment, I made it my narcissistic purpose to soak in as much ambiance, language, and cuisine as possible so I could regurgitate it later on the page. So far, so good, I say.

 

But a writer, again, doesn't have to travel to the ends of the earth. They simply need to be aware of their surroundings 'in the now', those places they understand or simply want to understand. Then, share them.

WRITING PROMPT #4: A vampire and a werewolf fall in love-

Both are androgynous.

The crazy thing is, I don't write geographical pieces, per se. My latest story takes place in a Vermont mental institution, but I've never been to one. The one before (which is being made into next year's break out Indie film), draws its character and ennui from the state of Maine. My MFA thesis? On the road between Texas and Minnesota. The places are conceived more from local character than simply descriptive settings.
 

WRITING PROMPT #5: Your protagonist is a mouse who can only communicate by nibbling out a 'negative braille,' in Tuvan, on cereal boxes.

The saying, 'Write what you know,' should be taken with a grain of salt. Sure, you walked the Appalachian Trail five years ago, but was it interesting? Did you come away with a profound sense of self-discovery, a decision that you would rather be an exotic dancer than a kindergarten teacher, or a distaste for the American landscape as too 'cliché' because of all the elm trees? If your manuscript is page after page of 'Here's what I saw and it was nice looking,' then keep it to yourself. That is not a travel log, but a dead tree ruined with forgettable vistas.

WRITING PROMPT #6: The red light atop the Prudential Center claims to be George Washinton.

OK, I admit, that came off as insensitive and mean-spirited. I have seen too many manuscripts and submissions to Collective Fallout that were well-written structurally that lacked even the most basic thread of purpose thanks to insensitive and lazy feedback from workshop peers. Writing has body and flavor, like a good gazpacho. A reader deserves to taste the toothpaste drying on your bathroom sink. They want to smell the koogle wafting through the TV room after dinner. You owe it to them to share the rough feel of the Honda Civics backseat upholstery as you did during your first time.
 
WRITING PROMPT #7: A mall cop, a dominatrix, and a scientologist all meet in a city-hall lobby, waiting to register for the New Hampshire Safe Boating class.
 
Be brave, tell your story through your plot- illuminate a message through your description of the rusted-out '53 Chevy parked behind the local Baha'i temple. This is not a stretch, but an embodiment of your experiences traveling along the planets surface. Trust your story, and don't let the miserable non-seekers in your workshop limit you to writing about what they can envision. "It doesn't seem plausible,' should become your signal for battle.
 
I've rambled. I see that now. Good for me.
 
WRITING PROMPT #8: Don't be afraid to write how you want to write.
 
Your audience will find you.

2DWJN56G2JN6