Friday, November 30, 2007

Mr. Nice Guy

In a writers’ workshop, each participant chose a bunch of their favorite words and wrote a different one on each of a bunch of index cards. (A solitary writer could gather words by pointing blindly in a dictionary.) Then participants exchanged cards and used their new stack of words in a story.

My word stack:

My story:
Yeah, I like to please the customer, I like to get accolades from the boss. But what can I do on the jobsite when I’m halfway through pouring cement and snow starts falling -- those intricate little flakes that melt into drool all over my work? C’mon, do I have foreknowledge of the weather?

And right away, the obnoxious little lady-of-the-house comes tearing out the front door, her wrists loaded with those flashy bracelets that make her jangle like she’s wearing silverware. She barrels down the steps toward me and screams that her sidewalk’s ruined. I want to tell her it’s not even done yet! It’s gonna have perfect usability, she just needs to exercise a little patience. But she’s from that genre of female that should only come out after dark -- the kind that inspires me to forget my role as a nice guy.

I step aside and let the silly woman march right into the muck.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Three Day Dirty

Our Protagonist stands next-in-line for coffee and sees the blonde barista step back from the espresso machine. He watches her tug a scrunchie off her pony tail, run both hands across her scalp, shake out her three-day-dirty hair, then pull it into one bunch again and twist the scrunchie around it in a couple of figure-eights. In the moment it takes her to step to the bar again, he considers fleeing the line.

Too late! “Sir?” the cashier asks, and he reluctantly gives his drink order. While the cashier marks his cup, the barista impossibly steps back again and removes the scrunchie, fluffs her hair once, twice, three times, then leaves it loose. She reaches for a gallon of milk and a frothing pitcher. At the register, the cashier’s face startles when she meets our Protagonist’s eyes. He leans in. “Tell her to wash her hands!”

What happens next?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Road Trip

You're driving a rental car, a thousand miles from home, and come up behind a car like the one back home in your garage.

And not merely its model, you realize, but its identical twin.

You draw close enough to read the license plate. Your eyes widen.

What's the story?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Prompt Yourself #2

As I do periodically, I collected writing prompts yesterday by running through the TV channels and writing down the first sentence I heard on each.

I narrowed my list to the following dozen. Pick five or ten and let your subconscious connect them into a story.

How’s that harmonica solo coming?

I don’t want to say my vows with you.

I’ll forgive you if you want to use a fork.

I’m going to make the most of the daylight.

It’s all going to be done by e-mail.

Mom’s cooking sucks!

On an unrelated note, why don’t you take this pie?

One of my colleagues developed an instrument.

They laid sod over it.

We always follow state regulations.

Who cares about better blood-sugar control?

You remembered my name?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


My husband is certain: only Melvin Udall (below) and I pack like this.

So how can the TSA think a one-minute video will convert the traveling public?

Monday, November 19, 2007

No Na No

I’m not doing National Novel Writing Month this year, but when a fellow WriMo (hi Leo!) challenged me to race him to write 10,000 words over the weekend, I couldn’t resist. He’d work on his novel; I’d draft a short story I’ve been marinating.

Surely anyone who’s interested already knows about this annual novel-writing frenzy that includes 99,000+ writers in its ninth year this year. But as I wandered around the site yesterday, I peeked into its Young Writers Program (an off-shoot that supports independent writers age 12 and younger, and in-school writing programs in grades K-12) and noticed a couple things to mention here. One is the archive of writing prompts in the Writers Block (if you’re not up for fun, just the merest flip of a brain cell can turn silliness deliciously serious). Another is the downloadable Young Novelist Workbooks, which include NaNo founder Chris Baty’s not-to-be-missed Magna Carta premise -- that what you love most and hate most while reading novels are exactly what you should include and exclude, respectively (and will be easiest/hardest for you to write), in your own novels.

In the end, a weekend of high-velocity writing reminded me to turn off the editor and create ... forward, forward, forward; to "turn the camera out" occasionally (thanks Nancy Beckett!) and be amazed at the surprises a wide angle will capture; and that I need about 100 times more plot than comes easily.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Obvious Story ...

... is that the sock slipped off a baby's foot during a neighborhood walk, and whoever found it posted it in hopes the parents would reclaim it on their next walk.

But the sock is still there two weeks later.

So what's the not-so-obvious story?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Location, Location, Location

A woman, stopped at a light on a 4-lane street, noticed the driver in the car alongside motioning for her to lower her window.

“Can you tell me where we are?” he asked.

She named the street and said they were heading northbound.

“No, no,” the other driver said. “What city and state?”

It really happened -- but what are the circumstances that would make it believable in fiction?

Reverse the genders and see what happens. Fiddle with the ages and see how your story changes.

[Inspired by a caller to the John Williams radio show.]

Monday, November 5, 2007

Mail Pouch

When I opened a letter today, the lining pulled away a bit from the envelope -- enabling something to be secreted inside between the layers.

What could be there … and what's the story?