From Natalie: Begin your story with: “How many times do I have to tell you?”
Write for 10 minutes. Post your piece to comments.
As a young child, I loved to read. My tiny chubby hands would grip the sides of a book, my eyes lit with excitement and intrigue, my voice full of confidence and drama as I read a scene aloud for the home video camera. There were princesses and magical forests, amazing quests and romance. I would flip the pages eagerly, ready for the next passage.
The funny thing was, I was making up the story as I went.
My eyes would see the pictures in those children books, and because I was only four and couldn’t read coherently yet, I just imagined a story based off the illustration and rambled. My imagination went wild, and this was where I first discovered my love for creating stories. Reading has the power to do this—to inspire new stories, broaden your imagination, and encourage creation. Even after you felt the calling to be a writer, it is still important to read frequently. There is so much knowledge in this world, and you’ll find a good portion of it in the books all around you.
As a writer, we begin our journey using other people’s styles or techniques from books we’ve read. By pulling elements from different sources and implementing our own unique stylistic choices, we have created our own individual writing style. Of course, it doesn’t stop there—we are always learning and growing, evolving our style to a more sophisticated level than before. And while practicing frequently is one part of the writing process, there’s another: reading. Stephen King said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
Reading is how you study. You don’t just read a book for the intended purposes of that book—you read it to determine the voice of the writer, how the story was told, what elements you want to see in your own writing. Even though, as Ernest Hemingway once said, nobody is purely a master at the art of writing, there are those that have greatly impacted the writing sphere, and by studying their work, just as a pianist would study the works of Mozart or Beethoven, you gain significant writerly knowledge. A fine example I can offer is when I read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Yes, the book impacted me greatly as a human being—the themes of love and death, of words and life really opened my eyes. It’s what you might call a “life-changing” read.
But other things caught my eye as a writer. The sequence of events, the originality of the descriptions, the voice of Death (what other book has Death as the narrator?), the formatting–Zusak wrote with such a unique style I had never seen before, and it inspired me to write with that keen eye for detail. The way in which he personified words was not just a larger theme in the book, it was subtle in the language. I used that kind of detail in my writing after, tweaking it to fit my own style.
Even if you know reading is important, it’s hard to make time for it when you’re buried in school work, and school related reading. I recommend taking advantage of the required reading as an opportunity to study for your own style, too! William Faulkner once said to read everything, to absorb what you read, no matter what it is. Then figure out which parts work in your own writing. We’re always learning as writers!
The main message here is to never stop reading–and by “reading” I mean really absorbing the book. Infuse your work with what you’ve discovered. Let different styles and techniques influence you–play around with them, fit them together in unique ways with your own voice. I wish you the best with your reading.
What books have influenced you as a writer?
From Olivia: How does your character feel about Valentine’s Day? Write a scene where they reveal these feelings to someone unexpected.
Write for 10 minutes. Post your piece to comments.
Valentine’s Day. For some people, it’s either a happy day filled with love and joy, or it can be a dreadful and depressing day if you feel like there’s no significant other out there to share love with you. I think society has ingrained this idea in a lot of our heads that Valentine’s Day is meant to be celebrated exclusively by couples. But I believe that regardless of whether you’re in a relationship or not, Valentine’s Day in its entirety should be a day where any person finds someone who has impacted their life in some way and do something for them that will make them smile.
Writing is a gift all by itself. Creativity can be explored and experimented with on all kinds of levels, and gift-giving is absolutely a great way to use your creative writing talent. For Valentine’s Day, think about an individual who had done something special for you at some point in your life. This person can be a teacher who stayed a few hours after class each Thursday to help you understand a homework assignment, or a kind, compassionate neighbor who made a delicious roast for your family when you moved in. This person, whoever they may be, should have given you a happy memory of some sort.
Once you have this person in mind, sit down and write them a little fictional short story. It can be something entirely made up, or you can choose to write about the event that impacted you in a fun, light-hearted way. If you’re not the story type, poems work just as well. And if you prefer songs over poems and stories, I’m sure the special person would love to hear you play a song you wrote just for them—either recorded on a flash drive or played live in their living room.
The whole point of this act is to find it in your heart to bring out your giving spirit. Even if you are reading this article past Valentine’s Day, don’t wait for a special occasion to do something spontaneous for another person. Valentine’s Day—and any day for that matter—is a day of love for any relationship; celebrate it in a way that makes someone feel unique and appreciated. They will definitely love your writings much more than a little dollar-store trinket.
From Rosalind: Your character is fixing a Valentine’s Day dinner for his/her significant other, but there’s only one problem. Your character can’t cook. Describe their cooking experience.
Write for 10 minutes. Post your piece to comments.
“The air was fresh and clean; the birds sang their songs of glee and liberty pleasantly, and the bees buzzed cheerfully as they went about their work. Flowers of a thousand colors bloomed in the warm sunshine, showing their brilliance willingly to the quiet observer. The leaves shown with a bright, deep, vivacious color, and even the grass seemed to glow with a deeper green. A doe was grazing near the trees, peaceful, for the time being not terrified of being found. A rabbit crossed quickly by it, causing her to lift her head momentarily from her meal, blinking lazily. Squirrels flew from tree to tree, chattering to each other. A vixen fox stuck her head out from behind a berry bush, her children following close behind. Nearby, there was a bubbling stream, laughing Nature’s laughter to the delight of those listening. The fish were very active this time of year, occasionally jumping out of the water for joy.
This was how things were when I found myself without home, without money, and without friends. Distraught, I had left the only home I had, not only because it had been demanded of me, but because I couldn’t bear the news in the place I had once so loved.
Tears streamed down my face as I blundered into the quiet meadow. The doe startled and sprang away, the vixen rushed her kits into the brush, and the birds singing and squirrels chatting ceased their merriment. I flung myself onto the soft, cushiony moss that covered a large, round boulder and let the rivers I was trying to hold back flow freely.
For twenty years of my life, I lived in a nice country house just south of the nearest town, Bartleton. My parents dead from the Black Death when I was just a babe, I was raised by my uncle. His wife never cared for me, and neither did his children, but he was kind to me. When I confided in him and told Uncle about how his own children were cruel to me, he listened. When they refused to allow their governess teach me, and supported themselves with their doting mother, he hired another, kinder one to show me how to be a proper lady. Never did he think about sending me away, and as I grew into a young woman, I found I was with at least one friend who always was there for me.
A year ago, my uncle took ill, and I was distraught with grief. I took care of him every day, made and brought his food up to him, held the glass for him to drink, and administered the medicine the doctors recommended. His children would have nothing to do with him, and on the pretense that they worried they might also become sick, they were constantly out of the house on walks with their mother. My governess would spend the hours we were supposed to do working sitting next to me in his sick room, reading to both of us as shrieks of glee and merriment rang from below.
Months passed like this, and my uncle got worse and worse. Still, we tarried in his room more than usual and tried our best to heal him. With time, I woke to him with barely a breath of life in him, and I held his hand as he slipped away. My governess helped me dress the body and carry it into the garden, where he loved to wander when he needed to think. We held a quiet funeral, just me and the governess, since his own family refused to stand in the dirt amongst weeds. That was last week.
My aunt brought out his supposed will earlier today, which he kept in her safe keeping, and decided to not take action on his wants until he was “properly gone” (whatever that meant). But when she did produce the desires of my dear uncle, she claimed that they were to banish me from the house without a penny. In shock and pain, I flew from the place that held so many dear memories for me, from the place where I was betrayed by the one I cared for the most.
And now I sit, without any direction or hope for my life. My story ends here.”
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From Grace: Your character has the power to stop and start time. Write a scene where they use this power.
Write for 10 minutes. Post piece to comments.
A woman passed by me as I sat in the the dentist office, dressed in cheetah print and dancing as she collected business cards from the front counter. I’d write about her this weekend. A couple stood in the parking lot of Publix later that day and fought about who knows what. Maybe he cheated on her. That would make a great novella. But not a better one than the one that I thought up earlier this morning, as I sat when the rush died down at the clinic where I escort, allowing me to conjure up a whole entire short story centered around the dog that had paced the parking lot at around 8, right before the sun hit it’s max. Seemed like everywhere I looked a story could grow.
These are everyday ideas, the ones that come from what we see each day we leave our homes. The ones that blindside us at the checkout line in Target as we buy a chocolate bar and some Iodine. The one’s that startle us and show up with a bang as we fix out hair in the grungy bathroom mirror in a gas station. Maybe I could write a story about a man who’s trying to poison his sick mother with Iodine in her chocolate bar to gain her fortune early. Maybe there’s a poem in this grungy old gas station mirror. Everywhere you look there is potential for something grand. That’s the thing about writing, it’s everywhere you turn.
Life is one large story. From meals in restaurants where you watch the waiters each move. From the man that stands behind you in the line to get a hotdog. From the moment you wake up in the morning, these are times that we can open our eyes as creators of creativity, and notice the little things that could turn to something big.