It’s time for your Thursday Quick-Write! Today, guest author Katy Duffield challenges us to get specific!
Katy writes fiction and nonfiction for children and is the author of sixteen books including Farmer McPeepers and his Missing Milk Cow. Her latest nonfiction title, California History for Kids: Missions, Miners, and Moviemakers in the Golden State, was released this year. Learn more at her website.
My favorite types of writing prompts are those that carry with them certain restrictions. If I’m being honest, I’ll admit that I’m often too unfocused or too indecisive to write to a more general prompt such as “Write about a time when you were angry” or “Describe your childhood bedroom.” These prompts are simply too “wide open” for me. I usually feel that the writing I’m producing with these prompts is too general (too blah!) and often not as applicable to a specific story or work-in-progress. These are, of course, extremely useful prompts, but I seem to make more progress when I am asked to focus in a little tighter using specifics.
A teacher in a creative writing class I recently took was a master at these types of prompts. In working through her prompts, I was amazed by the wide-ranging, atypical work I was creating. I kept asking myself: “Did I write that?” Simply by including certain parameters within the prompts, I was led in surprising directions. I hope you’ll find this type of prompt as valuable as I have.
Today’s prompt will help you focus on “knowing” your character. As writers, we understand that our characters do not live in a vacuum. If we want them to resonate with readers, they have to feel real, right? One way to bring them to life is to consider what their lives were like before and after your story takes place. Take the character you’re working with (or one you think you would like to write about) and write about a time when that character is five or ten years older than he/she is within your story. Then go back and write about a time where he/she is five to ten years younger (you can adjust the time range, of course, to suit the current age of your main character). And in order to follow the more specific prompt type that I mentioned above, try this—within your writings, include the following: an argument, a food that no one wants to eat, two specific place names, and an article of sports clothing. If you’re writing for a younger audience, such as for a picture book or a chapter book, try coming up with a complete story using the listed requirements—without the age range restrictions—(and here’s a hint for picture book writers—try beginning your story with the argument).