Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sunday Musings: Do you have a prompt?

Hey there, Musing Friends

We've reached the end of January. Starting a new month reminds me of starting a new page which sometimes means looking at something to prompt an idea. Now, I've posted photo and sentence prompts on my own blog, but today we're asking...

Do you have a writing prompt to kickstart your writing.  What if.... Mood... Time of day the story starts... A picture or catch phrase that keys a story start.

 Usually begin with a real event, from my own life or that of family members, or some event in history. Two examples:

1) My mother was evacuated, aged 17, some 200 miles from home when her office was relocated to a northern seaside town. My DNA history indicates I had a European Jewish great-grandparent. So I created a heroine born on the same day as my mother, with a Jewish grandfather, sent across the Atlantic to a safe haven with a relative in America and what befell her (The Girl Back Home).

2) Research into the Boer War (1899-1902) led me to the papers of Lucy Deane who acted as secretary to a committee of women who voyaged to South Africa to inspect the camps set up to house Boer women and children after the British Army burnt their homesteads. That spawned several ideas, amongst them a priveleged young woman getting caught up in the conflict and how she is changed by what she sees (The Baronet’s Daughter)

I draw inspiration from so many things that it's hard to say if there's anything in particular that kickstarts my writing. However, I like the writing prompts that are given out at my writers' group and have written lots of stories based on those. But other ideas come from overheard conversations, news stories, history etc.

MJ LABEFF, New Mainstream author

I think as writers most of us have characters and stories floating around our subconscious. There's that seed of an idea, waiting to blossom. For me, it's often something small but persistent that keeps reoccurring in my thoughts, and I'm forced to figure out why? When this happens I play the "what if" game to see if there’s some sort of emerging plot. If a character is coming to life and trying to tell me something I love using, The Psychology of Creating Characters by author Laurie Schnebly Campbell. One of my favorite tools is her character enneagrams. It's a great way to learn your character's back story, goals, motivations and conflicts. Once I’ve worked through the characters enneagrams, I’m ready to explore the plot more and play the “What if…” game again.

It depends on the story. For the Raymond Jaye series, a modern take on the hard-boiled PI style, I’ve got a playlist of modern songs done in styles from the 40’s to get me in the right mood to brainstorm. Because it’s a series, and because the overall arc is planned out well ahead of where I am, I know a few things going it. In many ways the “prompt” is the previous story.

The prompt for the fourth in the series, which was the first written, was one line that popped into my head. The rest of the story came about through asking why he was driving in the rain.

The third in the series, the one about to be released, started with a minor character in another story who left a secret message in her CD rack. The order of the disks spelled out the message, which would be seen by her brother, and destroyed by anyone looking for a message when they removed the disks. That led to other means of hiding messages in plain sight, and I ended up with quite a list, a few of which made it into the story.

I have done a few of the “Flash Fiction Challenges” from Chuck Wendig’s blog. They usually come out on Friday, and will include either a specific idea or a couple of random things from a list. (Roll a 20-sided die twice to end up with one of 400 mashups.) It’s an active site, with lots of advice and interviews, but the language is definitely not for everyone. One short story I really liked came from using the names of colors of paint.

Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. Never stop believing. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at

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