If you don't already know about Story A Day, lemme tell you about it: IT'S GREAT! Julie Duffy oversees it, and it's just a wonderful place to get inspiration and encouragement. She posts daily prompts, but I haven't used them, since I've used prompts of my own.
far, I've done the challenge for four years, and I've been lucky enough
to complete it every year and post a story a day to this blog. I say
"lucky" because I'm aware that luck has a lot to do with it. I haven't
had a major health issue with myself or family or close friends during
May, I haven't had electrical or internet problems that kept me from
posting (which wouldn't have stopped me from writing!), and I haven't
had the well suddenly go dry. Any or all of those things could easily
have happened, and I'm very glad they didn't.
First, the prompts I've used:
-- I keep a binder of pocket dividers, into which I stick story starts,
story ideas, bits of dialog, and writing exercises that turned out
fairly interesting but not interesting enough to follow up on right
away. In 2013, I dipped into that binder and pulled things out and used
them. I was going to a writing group at the time, too, that did writing
exercises with prompts, and I used those.
2014 -- In April, I went
around the house taking pictures of random things: a small globe of the
world faced with thin bits of semi-precious stones, a pair of cow
sugar-and-cream holders, a fireplace, a bit of knitting. I numbered the
pictures randomly from 1 to 31 and used one a day.
2015 -- I began
by using the number of the day as my prompt ("One is Enough", "Two of a
Kind") but, after Day 21, I gave that up. After that, I just used
whatever I happened to be reading or looking at or listening to AND I
used some of the wonderful spomments -- spam comments -- that grace my
spam folder. Many of those stories were ... surreal.
2016 -- This
year, I decided to go for a three-fer, so I made a beginning at cleaning
up my office. I had two boxes of bits of paper I had collected over the
years and forgotten about: story ideas, business cards, convention
programs, photographs, and pens. Many, many pens. I'm also wanting to
write some stories connected with various books and short story
characters I've already written, so I used stuff from the mess I sorted
out to write those stories this May. Some of them will have to be
fleshed out, and some of them are tight but complete.
How I use prompts:
I've discovered that the way I don't like to use prompts is to have to stick too closely to them. If I have a set of words, I get itchy if I have to use them exactly as they are. If I have a sentence or phrase as a prompt, I don't want that to have to be the heart of the story. If my prompt is "Write about a dog," I don't want the story to have to be about the dog.
The way I like to use prompts is as a jumping-off point. This is the way the Green River Writers
did writing prompts, and that's what I like best. It lets me
free-associate and follow thoughts wherever they lead. Now, mind you, I
can't be all that free during Story A Day May, because I have to turn
out a story BeginningMiddleEnd, but I've learned that I can do that best
if I have that structure in mind, but let my thoughts play around it
for a while. If the prompt word is blue, I want to be able to use sad or
cerulean instead. If the prompt word is dog, I want to be able to write
about a wolf or a pig or a pangolin. The prompt is like, "We need to go
to the store for milk," and writing the story is like, "Oooo! Ben and
Jerry's has a new flavor!"
This is excellent practice for writing
for themed anthologies. The editor's guidelines give you a range for
word count -- for instance, 2,000 - 10,000 words, with shorter being
better -- and a theme, either specific or general. Maybe the anthology
is stories about sweet romantic love between supernatural beings in
Medieval Russia. Maybe it's stories about survival after a non-zombie
apocalypse in Atlantis. Maybe it's private detective stories set in
space or other planets. You know what the story has to have in order to
qualify for submission to the anthology, but the only way you can write
something uniquely your own and have fun doing it is to be able to let
your mind play on those monkey bars.
Does that make sense?
Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes