Wednesday Writer’s Prompts and Inspirations

chalkboard-3-AI have a pen pal in Europe, a country where it seems the average job pays higher and offers better vacation days than America. Every letter from her speaks of grand vacations in which she takes in the opera in France, visits the coast in Germany, and shops for her clothes in Sweden. After reading each letter, I pour myself a glass of port and remind myself of my own, less than internationally adventurous, but valuable life. What saddens me most is that her letters lack something the writer in me craves.


I love to hear the stories people tell from their world travels, and I am often let down when what I receive compares to a shopping list.

“Do let me tell you about our most splendid vacation! We traveled to Italy, spent a day in Rome, lunched in Venice, took in the theater in Florence… Blah, blah, blah…”

How am I’m supposed to listen with anything but pretend enthusiasm? What I feel like saying is this…

Stay home! Send me on your vacation. I’ll keep a journal, take pictures, talk to the locals, and enjoy their cuisine. And when I return, I’ll have stories to tell that will captivate, mesmerize, and entertain you. Sadly, roaming the imported food aisle of the grocery store is as close as I come to sampling cuisine from around the world.

When my Dad was alive, we used to talk on the phone every night for an hour or so. He’d share his day, I’d share mine, and often we would laugh at old jokes. Friends would wonder what my Dad and I found to talk about every single day. They’d wonder what sort of amazing life we lived to have so much to share. In return, I wondered in reverse about their daily lives. Frankly, unless one stays in bed all day, staring at the ceiling, I can’t account for a lack of something to say. I think even if I stared at the ceiling all day, I could share the umpteen thoughts I knocked about.

The often ordinary life we live each day is, if we tune in to our five senses, remarkable in its details.

For this Wednesday writer’s prompts and inspirations, I would like you to record in a pocket notebook the details of the typical moments in your day. These are the details, after all, that find their way into our writing.

Suggestions for things to include:

Your thoughts when the phone rings, your thoughts when you see who the caller is on caller ID, your reaction to a conversation you overhear in the post office or at your job, your thoughts about the way someone is dressed, your reaction to the sweet smell in the bakery, describe the texture of something you eat with your hands, describe the flavor of that food, the familiar scent of a perfume you smell as you pass through a crowd of people, an incident that brings back a long forgotten memory, a sudden weather change, the way the weather alters your day, a package you weren’t expecting at your door, etc…

I would love if you shared some of your discoveries.

It’s Wednesday! Writer’s Prompts and Inspirations Day.

chalkboard-3-AWe all have favorite books–books that open naturally to our favorite passages, books we read annually, books we have purchased because they have deeply touched a part of us. We love these books for their characters. We also love  these books for their true-to-life locations. What a gift it is when a writer has researched a location well enough to transport us there. When written well enough, we can stroll beside the ocean, feeling the massage beneath our feet of stones washed smooth and slippery. We can move from room to room in an abandoned mansion, nearly tasting the musty smell of mildew as the foul air stains our breath. We can walk down the squeaky, paint-worn steps of an old farmhouse and hear the sizzle of bacon, crisping in a skillet. We can relax in a black gondola in Venice and breathe in the smell of… (never mind.)  We can hear the hush of snow sifting around us on a still, Winter’s evening. 

This Wednesday, I’d like you to consider the many locations available to us in our writing. Think about why you chose a particular location for one of your projects. Does that location add to the tension? Does it seem the most natural and obvious choice? Could the story work as well or better in a different setting?

Suppose in the book, From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg that Claudia didn’t run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Suppose she ran away with her younger brother, Jamie, to New York with no plans. Two children alone in a dangerous city where anything can happen. A city where evil can lurk in shadows, where the darkness of night offers no protection. That would make for a different story.

How about Charlotte’s Web by E.B White. Suppose Fern lives in a little apartment with her parents. One day, while on a school field trip to a pig farm in the country, she spots a tiny runt of a litter. Fern, being the caring girl she is, packs this pink bundle of squirmy cuteness in her backpack (when the teacher isn’t looking) and brings him home.

Location/Setting is very important to the story. First we need a central location. For this example I’ll choose a farmhouse.

Next we need to broaden out. What lies beyond the farmhouse? An abandoned house? An office building?  What lies beyond the farmhouse is important as our MC will be moving around the area during the telling of the story. For this example, let’s suppose our main character is a little girl named Betsy. One day Betsy’s dog runs away (Not a complex story example, but one that will suffice.)  The chase begins! Now if Betsy’s best friend’s house is in the direction she’s running, will the tension increase? But what if Betsy lives next to a rocky stream, a forest, a cemetery, or…that abandoned house?

Sights and sounds play a part in location, too. Let’s pretend Betsy puts her fears behind her and dashes in the abandoned house after her dog. She might feel chilly breezes along her neck, hear the wind whistle eerie tunes through cracks in the windows, see cobwebs flutter. Tension climbs.

The weather and time of day add another level and must be appropriate for the location. Of course we’ll have the dog run away as the sun is setting. We might even add the threat of a severe storm. And what if it isn’t June 1st? What if the day is October 31st? HALLOWEEN!!!

Time to switch gears.

What if we decide that a little girl chasing her runaway dog in the country sounds boring? What if we really change-up that location? Suppose Betsy is on vacation with her family in Cairo. While there, Betsy befriend’s a child. One day while the two girls are playing near a street market, the little girl’s dog runs away.

* How does the location change the story?

*How do the actions of the characters change in this new place?

*Important items available to your characters are no longer present. What new things are present in this location to add challenges?

*By making this change you have introduced drastic cultural differences. The people’s attitudes and ways will be quite foreign to your main character, the landscape is now unfamiliar, and the language will pose a problem. The list goes on.

Are you ready for your Wednesday Prompt and Inspiration?

Take a short story you’ve written or the first pages of one of your novels, and see what happens when you give the location a major jolt.

I’d love to hear from you. To comment, scroll to the top of the post and click Comment below the title.

It’s Wednesday! Writer’s Prompts and Inspiration Day.


How often does the opener of a new writing project have you staring at a blank computer screen for an unacceptable amount of time? Some of us become nearly paralyzed over those first words. Why isn’t sentence number two, three, or four this darned hard? It seems once sentence number one is written, the next words flow freely! Probably because the pressure is off, our brains unclamp, and the story takes form.

Here is a typical scenario of my writing process…

An idea comes. I feel a rush, typing that first brilliant sentence. Then I read those earth-moving words and…delete it, retype it, and delete it again. “I’ll bet agents have seen this kind of opening line before.” delete, delete, delete. “This isn’t even original!” delete, delete. “Billions of words in the world, and all I have to do is choose a handful of them, group them in the right order, and I’ll have it!”

Today being Wednesday, it’s time for another installment of Prompts and Inspirations to get your creativity flowing. And speaking of first sentences, here are the first sentences from some of my all time favorite books.

1. You wouldn’t think we’d have to leave Chicago to see a dead body.  — Richard Peck, A Long Way From Chicago

2. Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away.  — E.L. Konigsburg, From The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

3. There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.  — Louis Sachar, Holes

4. It seems there should have been some warning, but I felt none. — Marlo Morgan, Mutant Message Down Under

5. Until almost the very end, Han van Meegeren thought he had committed the perfect crime.  — Edward Dolnick, The Forger’s Spell

6. There’s something frightening, and magical, about being on the ocean, moving between the heavens and the earth, knowing that you can encounter anything on your journey.  — Lynne Cox, Grayson

7. I know I’m not an ordinary ten-year-old kid.  — R.J. Palacio, Wonder

Now it’s your turn. The pressure is off. After all, this is a writing game to loosen up your thinking, open yourself to crazy ideas, hilarious ideas, or darned serious ones. And what if one of these “just for fun” sentences spurs on your next novel?

A friend of mine lent me his/her favorite book, and the first line took me by surprise. Chapter one began…






Want to share a first sentence from one of your favorite books (current or classic, it doesn’t matter here.)

Welcome to my blog


country roadEvery weekday I drive the same route to take my daughter to school. We pass familiar house and tree-lined streets. We stop when the crossing guard holds up her stop sign to let a string of happy children cross. A mile further, our car rattles over a number of closely laid railroad tracks. We joke that those tracks are holding our town together.

It’s the drive home that started me thinking about my blog direction…. I arrive at a fork in the road. Turning right takes me through town—a couple miles of fresh-paved road lined with a variety of well-stocked grocery stores, charming boutiques, floral shops, department stores, and quaint coffee shops. The road leading left takes me on a country drive past barns, a rolling field of grazing horses, and a llama farm. In the winter, this drive is a scene from Currier and Ives.

Both roads serve their purpose.

Both roads tempt with their abundant shopping and pastoral views.

Both roads will take me home.

Why does this fork in the road make me think of my blog? 

I imagine the path leading to the bounty of tempting shops symbolizes blog posts in which the rules of good writing are discussed, blogs in which new books are reviewed, and favorite authors are interviewed.

And the country road? Maybe this road symbolizes blogs in which the writer gets personal and shares photographs, life stories, and inspirations.

Yesterday I stopped at the fork, questioning which direction suited me best. After a moment, I decided to aim between them…with my writing and not my car.

I will meander around my personal observations, tying  in how I relate all that beauty to my writing. Occasionally I’ll share my take on the ingredients of good writing. I’ll also inspire you with some of my favorite writing games. And I’m sure I’ll want to share the books I’m reading, too. I might even toss in a recipe.

Welcome to my blog.

I hope you’ll visit me often.