How To Write Better Story Details

Instead of a picture book review this Friday, I’ve chosen to share a favorite writing exercise I read about in an art book a while back. The instructions were straightforward: using a pencil or pen, fill the bottom of your page with a drawing of grass. It sounded simple enough. I sketched a row of haphazard, waving, wandering wisps across the bottom of my paper, thinking I’d captured grass-ness.

young grain

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Next, the instructions said to head outdoors and bring in a clump of grass, study it, and draw grass again. I dug a one-inch patch out of the corner of the lawn where I hoped it wouldn’t be noticed. Back inside at my desk, I brought out my magnifying glass and studied each blade. Clearly, I had missed some details in my earlier drawing. The blades of grass grew thin at the top where they reached a point and thicker in the middle. One of the blades had been nibbled by a hungry insect, leaving a tattered line along one edge. Another blade had a crease from being stepped upon. And at the base, where the roots disappeared into the earth, the deep green had faded away.

As a writer, I found this drawing exercise relevant. How often have I placed a story in a setting where I have never spent a minute or in a place I knew as a child but haven’t visited since? While I’m writing, I think I’m recalling the details of sight, sound, touch, and taste accurately. However, my descriptions, as it turns out, might be simplified, like my first drawing before I brought in the grass I dug from my lawn. So, what did I learn?

Set aside time to visit the location I’ve chosen for my story.

Take pictures from low on the ground and up high (if possible) for a bird’s-eye view.

Photograph as many details as possible.

Pull out my notebook and pen and jot down sensory details.

Make sketches of anything that interests me.

Video record with my cell phone so I can listen to and observe this place while I’m writing.

And, if visiting the location isn’t possible, do an internet search. Look up videos of the ocean, videos taken in space (if your picture book has a planetary setting), videos of farm life, etc… Google maps is also a great place to check out towns and cities on our globe you want the characters in your manuscript to interact with.

Let’s pretend my story is about two children who visit their grandparents near the sea. Let’s also pretend I live close enough to a beach to spend the day there.

I step onto the sand and take off my shoes. In my notebook, I write down the details about this moment.

The golden color of the sand, the warm temperature against my feet, the gritty, abrasive feel of crushed shells and sand beneath my feet.

I step into the ocean and notice…

The many colors of the blue and gray sky reflected on the surface, the foamy edges of the tide washing over the beach, a smooth seashell pushed up on the shore, the force of the waves washing against my legs, the roar of the waves, the cry of the seagulls, and the salty smell perfumed with a touch of fishiness… 

Before I leave the sea, I photograph the water pulling around a shell on the sand, a wave building in the distance, and the entire shoreline. I add a few more drawings into my sketchbook of a crab scraping over a stone in its path. Then, I fill a small container with sand and collect a few seashells to bring home along with the memories I have gathered.

I’m ready to write.

Until next Friday.

Nine Ways to Hook Your Reader With a Powerful Opening Sentence.

Nine ways to hook your reader

with a powerful opening sentence.

hook

 

Maybe you’re like me in that your blank computer screen acts a bit like an impenetrable wall one moment and an empty canvas of possibilities, awaiting your inspired ideas the next.

Picture it… While you’re hanging out at your local coffee shop, a girl at the table near yours tells her friend about an incident at school involving their class guinea pig, a projector cord, and a schoolwide black out. Your eyes bulge behind your iced cappuccino. What you just overheard is the makings of a humorous story.

Over the next number of days or weeks, you create a list of characters and give each a life and a history. The story problem becomes clear as you plot the grandest of all middle-grade adventures. Notes in hand, you sit before your laptop, typing out that first brilliant sentence that will have readers begging to know what happens next.

That’s about the time your inner editor bluntly tells you that what you wrote is sludge. “That gopher hole in your back yard,” she says, “has a better opening than this!”

Delete, delete, delete…

Where to start?

 

1. Begin with one attention-grabbing word.

Darkness. Pitch darkness filled every square inch of my school today thanks to our class guinea pig, Percival Pickles.

2. Make a comparison.     

I wish I had been placed in Mr. Dowfeld’s class with the hairy tarantula instead of in Mrs. Peach’s class with Percival Pickles, a guinea pig with serious powers.

3. Start with a powerful moment that raises curiosity.

Every room in my school went into a sudden blackout.

4. Begin with a fact.

Not every guinea pig makes a good classroom pet.

5. What sound can be heard?

Nibble, munch, squeeee! All of Lincoln Jr. High fell into darkness when Percival Pickles, our class guinea pig, bit the projector cord.

6. Start with a question.

What happens when a guinea pig mistakes the projector cord for his lunch?

7. Open with a fact that hints at something significant.

Death is merely one side effect that comes when a classroom pet electrocutes itself.

8. Begin with an intriguing fact.

Nobody, not even Percival Pickles, our classroom guinea pig, could believe an electrical shock could shoot his IQ off the charts.

9. Let your readers hear the compelling voice of your main character.

At 8:15 this morning, the single most important thought peddling through my head was to scamper to my squeaky wheel and play. Twenty-three minutes later, I’m well into understanding Einstein’s theory of relativity.

If you have a favorite way to hook readers with a great opening, I invite you to post it in the comments.

Also, if you enjoyed this post, I hope you’ll share it through social media.

Would You Silence The World?

Something my daughter said yesterday sparked this blog post. We sat outside, reading on our porch swing when she huffed and puffed.

“I can’t concentrate!” she nearly exploded. “There’s too much noise.”

I set my book on my lap and listened. “Hmmm,” I said. “I see what you mean. Let’s pretend we can silence every noise.”

airplane trail“Quiet, airplane,” I said.

“Quiet, bird!” my daughter ordered.

“Quite, trucks and cars and train, whistling into the station,” I said.

“Quiet, squeaky springs in this swing bench,” my daughter ordered.

“Quiet, gusty wind, and balmy breezes,” I added. “And while we’re at it, let’s quiet the footsteps and chatter of our neighbors, walking their dogs,” I said.

“Quiet, dogs!” my daughter said.

Next, I quieted myself. Even when my daughter asked questions, I said nothing.

“Talk to me!” she said. “I changed my mind. I don’t like all this quiet.”

Of course, we don’t have the power to remove all the sounds in the world.

Thank goodness!

But in pretending we were magical enough to evoke silence, I helped my daughter realize how important sound is and how easily we tune it out. The thud, thud, thud of jeans in the dryer, the soft blub, blub, blub of the fish tank filter, the soft, wheezy, breathing of my dog, sleeping behind me on my chair. Sounds are all around us–constantly.

As a writer, I often feel like I enter into moments like a deaf person given the gift of hearing, or a blind person given the gift of sight. The symphony of sounds surrounding us is a great gift. Tune in today and as you listen, make a mental list of the sounds you hear.

A note to writers: When including sounds in your work, let those sounds bring meaning to your writing. Let the sounds reveal something about your characters. Does the train whistle remind Charlotte of her vacation in Italy when, because she missed her stop, she met the man of her dreams? Does the warm breeze take Robert back to the beach where he proposed to his wife fifteen years ago?

The random mentioning of sound in a book serves as dead filler. Bring sound to life by connecting it to your characters.

 

Let’s Go To Italy for Our Writing Warm-Up! – Wednesday Prompts and Inspirations

chalkboard-3-APhotographs make great jump-off places for story inspirations and writer warm-ups.  

Pour yourself a cappuccino and let’s get started!

Venice panoramaYour setting is Venice, Italy. Your main character could be a native Italian, an American traveling through Venice on business, or a young girl visiting her aunt for the first time. What if your main character is one of the many cats loitering between the buildings in this marvelous city, quietly aware of everything? Perhaps the water taxis are nowhere to be seen and the only mode of transportation is by gondola. Many options await you! The gondolier could misunderstand the address you give him and take you someplace else: a street fair, a cathedral, a museum, a bookbinding shop… The previous passenger could step out of the gondola in a hurry and leave a package, letter, or list behind. The gondolier could be a spy. He could also be related to one of your cousins. He could know the aunt your main character is visiting. Where will this photograph take you?

Another view of Venice.  

Two gondolas parked side by side.

Your main character observed the two gondoliers exchanging more than conversation.

Venice verticalThen the two men crossed the bridge and disappeared.

What lies beneath each canvas cover?

Where are the gondoliers?

For that matter, where have the Italians and tourists disappeared to?

A stillness has fallen over the city.

Where are the birds?

The shops are empty.

Windows are dark.

curtains are drawn.

Gelato stands are abandoned.

Or perhaps on a less gloomy note, it is early in the morning, the city is waking up, and the first day of your vacation awaits you.

As always, I wish you happy writing!

Leslie

Want To Play A Game? – Wednesday Prompts and Inspiration

chalkboard-3-AAs I move forward in writing my middle grade novel, I continue to define my cast of characters. (remember my 75 point character development questionnaire?) Part of understanding my characters so they feel like real people involves creating a list of defining items for each. My main character is a fourth grade ‘girly’ girl with a strong dislike for camping (one guess what her class is doing on the weekend).

As a writing warm-up for this task, I wrote the names of some people I know along the top of a sheet of paper. Beneath each name, I listed defining things/items.

If you try this exercise, you can test your lists for accuracy. Without revealing the names, see if others, who know the people, can figure out who each list belongs to.

WANT TO PLAY A GAME? This exercise can also be turned into a fun family and friends game: choose four or more people everyone in the room has in common. Then ask everyone to list 5 or more things that come to mind when they think of each listed person. When you’ve all completed this, pass the nameless lists around the room to see who can match  the most names to the right lists.

What you’ll learn is more than you expect…

Beyond your list of items that shows your relationship to each person, you will see how others perceive these people, too. In writing, it is important to remember that, like in the real world, the relationship Anne has to her best friend, Linda, is different from the relationship Anne’s mother has with Linda. If Anne and her mother both made lists to define Linda, you would see two different lists. If Anne and her mother interact with Linda in your story, you’ll want to take the time to make both lists.

Whether you are making these lists as a writing exercise or as a game, you could include other items…

Habits: clicking nails, twisting a strand of hair, jingling coins in their pocket.

Hobbies: exercise, stamp collecting, reading, swimming, golf, gardening, etc…

Expressions: Whatever, gotcha, you know it, etc…

Positive personality traits: uncomplaining, willing to lend a hand when someone needs help, volunteers, kind to everyone, sets goals and achieves goals, organized, …

Negative personality traits: Complains often, no situation is ideal, finds flaws in everyone and everything, nags, lazy, untidy, undisciplined…

Defining Items individual would use at home, always or often take with on a car ride, always keep in their pocket, purse, or wallet: small notebook, pen, photo of someone, goals list, particular snack, magnifier, etc…

 

A FICTITIOUS EXAMPLE:

George – microscope, reading glasses, science magazines, strong coffee, workaholic, generous.

Megan – sketch pad, pouch of colored pencils, mini trampoline, bike, hair accessories, doesn’t put things away, artistic, creative.

Liza – exercise bike, workout clothes, cup of tea, Kindle, stretchy headband, spearmint gum, organized work space, often too honest with comments.                                    

After I filled in the list of items for some of the people I know, I made a column for myself. Why? Because as writers, we often look to ourselves when creating our characters.

Leslie (me)Stack of small notebooks (No surprise there. Right?), favorite wood pen my husband made for me, jar of highlighters, laptop (Of course…), coffee, my pets, stack of favorite books (too long to list), focused, determined, works so hard at her writing she often neglects doing the dishes and laundry.

If you play the game I outlined above, I hope you’ll learn a lot about those you know and have fun along the way!

Happy writing!

Tighten your manuscript – Wednesday Prompts and Inspirations

chalkboard-3-AYou’ve heard these, I’ve heard these, and up-and-coming writers are sure to hear these comments about their work…

But those are my best words.

Kill my what? No! Not my darlings!

But I worked hard perfecting that lovely, poetic flow of flowery adjectives.

What’s wrong with adverbs?

Take out that “telling” sentence? But what if the reader doesn’t grasp the showing sentence?

My love of writing centers around picture books. Therefore, I don’t have the luxury of writing without eyeing the word count at the bottom of my screen. I take a deep breath as the number crawls to 550. Gad’s I’m at 750, and I haven’t reached my story’s climax! In my critique groups, I find it easy to help others trim words. Since I don’t have a relationship to any of their carefully structured sentences, I can highlight every adjective, adverb, and telling sentence, offer stronger verbs, offer suggestions, etc…

Here is what I look for…

Signs of a passive “telling” voice. I don’t want to read that Mary is happy, I want to see her hands clapping and her feet lifting off the ground.

In picture books, descriptive passages are word hogs and can often be deleted and turned over to the capable hands of the illustrator. Unless the color of Sarah’s shoes are important to the story, don’t write — Sarah slipped on her pink, sparkly shoes with the purple, satin bows. That sentence weighs in at 12 words. Let’s shorten it for a picture book: Sarah slipped on her shoes. Woo Hoo!  5 words.

We’ve all been told to delete adverbs. And after years of writing, most writers reach the point when, after proofreading, they rejoice at not finding any. Adverbs are a sure sign we haven’t chosen the strongest verbs to “show” the action.

Mark quickly ran to the corner.  Mark dashed to the corner.

It’s easy to string a series of adjectives together when the best choice is to use one or none.

Sarah pulled on her sky-blue, loosely knit, chunky, cowl-neck sweater.

In a picture book, the writer needs to leave the bulk of description to the illustrator and write: Sarah pulled on her sweater.

Lemons are yellow, so unless the lemons in your story are purple for a reason, leave out the adjectives.

Does your picture book open with lots of back story? Have you offered the reader a long look into your main character’s past? While this information is good to know. Correction: While this information is good for YOU to know, your reader can be spared. I recently read a picture book manuscript in which the first 500 words toured me through the main character’s house, offered me a look at his town, outlined his hobbies, pointed out the places his friends lived and, I’m not kidding you, went on to say, and now my story begins… Needless to say, the deletion of those first 500 words brought the word count down.

A picture book of 500 words or less requires the writer to put every word on trial and trim unnecessary words with the thought of receiving $20 per deleted word. (Make that $50.) Constantly question if every sentence reveals something about character or plot. At the top of my computer screen, I tape a slip of paper with the central question of my story. Everything I write must answer that question.

I’m off to tighten my word count.

Happy writing.

ULTIMATE Brain Warm-Ups For Writers – Wednesday Writer’s Prompts and Inspirations

chalkboard-3-AIt would be great if a group of us could get together at a seriously big table. In the center we would place a bowl of questions and take turns pulling slips out. For five minutes we would write our answers, and then share them. I can dream… I’ll go first. Here is our first question.

1. How would you spend your day if you woke up invisible and knew the condition was temporary and would only last for one day? 

Good question, right? Okay, set your timer for 5 minutes and see where this takes you.

2. By some strange string of events, the power has gone out everywhere around the world. The messenger who came knocking on your door (because the doorbell can’t ring without electricity) told you the electricity wouldn’t be restored for 48 hours. NO LAPTOP today! Oh, and by way of that same strange string of events, you lost ALL battery power to each of your mobile devices. Nope, can’t charge it up in your car, that mobile device has a dead battery, too. 

Okay, very funny! Which one of you comedians pulled that slip out of the question bowl?

3. Make a list of ten things or more that would describe who you were as a child. This list can include items you held dear as well as favorite activities and personality traits.  Then, make a list of ten things or more that describe who you are today. Again, you can include items you hold dear, favorite activities and personality traits.  How are the lists similar? In what ways have you stayed the same?

4. Write about a day or event that changed your life. Include as many sensory details as possible. Tap into the emotions you experienced. Write about the changes you made in your life because of this. 

5. Think back to a funny event. By embellishing and exaggerating the details that led to this event and transpired because of this event, can you write a tall tale? 

6. At sundown, your pet will have the ability to share with you his feelings about being your pet, his thoughts on the kind of care and attention he receives from you, what he truly thinks of the food you glop in his dish, his feelings about his sleeping conditions, leash, use of the sofa, and what his greatest desires are. Write this from your pet’s POV. 

7. Imagine that without risk of war breaking out, fear sweeping the nation, or the general weirdness factor taking hold, tomorrow at school or work, aliens will join you.  Wow! This is your chance to find out how life on their planet differs from life on Earth. This is your chance to find out what these aliens cherish. What do they celebrate? What do they believe in? What are their dreams and goals? Do they work for money? Do they drive or fly in vehicles? How old do they need to be to drive? Do they get married and have special outfits for such an occasion? Do they have music and what does it sound like as well as what do their musical instruments look like? Are they ahead of us or behind us with technology? Do they have a relationship to mobile devices, too? Do they live in homes, and if so, are their homes similar to ours with designated rooms? Where do they get their clothing, furniture, and food from? Do they have shopping malls or replicators? Do they keep pets? Do they have something similar to books in which they record their thoughts, histories, stories both fiction and nonfiction?

I could explore that question for a while. But you get the idea.

8. Somehow a dose of truth serum splashed into the punch bowl at a friend’s wedding. 

Need I say more?

9. Think about your favorite book. Now, imagine how events would change if you could become a character in those pages. What would you change about the story? Would you become the love interest of the main character? The protagonist – maybe?  

And now for #10… Drum roll please.

10. Starting right now, time begins to move backwards one year every minute. Only you have the power to stop it before you become a baby or not even be born yet. (tick-tock-tick-tock…) At what age do you stop the clock and start forward again? Why have you chosen this age? knowing this is a clean slate, how will you change your life? What decisions will you make that you wish you had made? What about your current life will you maintain no matter what?

 

I hope you enjoyed this Wednesday’s Prompts and Inspirations.

Happy writing!

The Idea Generator — Wednesday Prompts and Inspirations

chalkboard-3-AMaybe you’re a writer or perhaps an avid reader who wonders where writers get their ideas. I started thinking about this recently when I spoke to a friend who challenges herself to come up with one new picture book idea every day. Every day! How many picture book manuscripts did I think of last year? Easy answer. Twelve. My goal has been one new idea I develop into a manuscript each month.

Like other writers, I stay tuned in to life. I also pay close attention to everything my daughter tells me. (She’s nine, and although most parents have learned to tune out the nonsensical babblings of their kids by that age, I find her “babblings” spark story ideas. After all, she’s close in age to the group I’m writing for, so the things she takes notice of and gets curious about are the topics I need to focus on. I admit, she’s a little more serious in her thinking than a typical nine-year old. There are times when the answers to her questions would better be left unanswered until she was, oh, say… sixteen or more. Like the time I nearly drove through the garage door when she asked how two married men can make a baby.

So what happens when the stream of creative ideas stops? How does a writer get the damn to burst and the idea stream flowing again?

Although many writers tap into  their dreams, I can tell you flat-out that I don’t. Probably because what goes on in my head when it’s lights out doesn’t make sense in the real world.

“So, I was walking through a convention in a church which was really my childhood house when I heard a noise in the living room, which was really the pet shop around the corner. I saw a hundred children drawing pictures of floating houses with crayons that were made from candy canes. Then my friend Sam showed up, but it was really John disguised to look like Sam. He gave me a little jade statue of a goddess. I set it down and watched it morph into a green doll with movable arms and legs. When I picked the doll up, it’s eyes flicked open, it turned into a snarling tiger, and tried to grab me.”

See what I mean about my dreams?

When that idea stream isn’t flowing, ask yourself these questions:

What if?

I woke with wings and could fly? My brother turned into a moose? The backdoor of my house led to another dimension?

Wouldn’t it be incredible if?

Rain fell as dark chocolate drops? (I’m okay with that.) I were chosen to go to the moon? Everything I saw or read stayed with me in perfect clarity?

What would people think if?

I had super-human powers? Could change myself into anything I imagined? Knew how to speak every language in the world?

What would happen if?

The most distant planet with life where close enough to visit? Aliens attended school with us? Animals shared our level of intelligence?

or, taking it a step further…

We know that when lightning strikes a tree it will split it in half, blacken it, or turn it to ashes.  But what if when lightning struck something it gave life to that otherwise inanimate object?

How or where do you get your ideas for your writing?

Chime in. This is a place to share!

A Game For Writers — Wednesday Writer’s Prompts and Inspirations

chalkboard-3-AWhen my daughter and I think of things to do when she comes home from school, one of us (okay… usually me) often suggests playing the writing game. What can I say, writing is something I always want to do. And by the way, you can play this game alone as an exercise to limber your brain. This is a great way to say goodbye to writer’s block, too.

Further down, I’ve included a printable pdf file to get you started with the Writing Game.

1. Start a word list. Include places, both real and fictitious, near and far.

Wisconsin, California, Egypt, Norway, London, Chicago, Planet Zorg, Ball Park, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Hawaii, North Pole, Coffee shop, Antique store, Thrift store, Dentist office, Bookshop, etc… 

2. List things you might find in these places.

Lakes, rivers, parks, oceans, boats, cruise ship, tamales, cappuccino, chocolate, pyramid, tombs, ancient writing, prison, secrets, red phone booth, Big Ben, aliens, laser blasters, slime, base-ball, hot dog, stadium, pine trees, fish, lizards, rock cliffs, blazing sunset, Hula dancers, poi, pineapple, surfers, tidal waves, snow, ice, cappuccino, doughnuts, vintage lamp, crumbling book, painted vase, roll-top desk, used clothes, torn handbag, musty comforter, toothpaste, drill, protective glasses, chairs, fish tank, rare first edition books, collector books, latest novel, magazines, etc…

3. List things you could find in a city, in the country, on a farm, in a house, in a haunted house, at a carnival, in a bank, in a boutique, in your purse or wallet, at your friend’s house, etc…

Skyscrapers, taxi cabs, boutiques, restaurants, diners, hot dog vendors, rats, litter, trash cans, pigs, cows, barn, silo, hay bales, chicken coop, farmer, bacon frying, grease spatters, wooden tables, milking stool, hay loft, rope swing, cobwebs, rusty plumbing, broken windows, dust, dilapidated garden, abandoned car, cotton candy, rides, roller coaster, judges, tractor pulls, parking lot, money, tellers, pens, lollipop dish, deposit slip, cashmere sweater, silk blouse, rhinestone necklace, pumps, lipstick, nail file, loose change, dollar bills, credit cards, snack bar, grandfather clock, candles, tea-cup collection, sports gear, etc…

4. Make a list of types of people.

fireman, police officer, visitor, friend, ex-husband, ex-wife, neighbor, alien, baker, thief, conductor, gardener, student, teacher, magician, King, Queen, Duke, knight, clown, messenger, mailman, grocer, etc…

5. Other lists could include: favorite words, sounds, holidays, famous artists, gift ideas, things found in a car, at a bus stop, train station, great words you came across in books, etc…

Here is the promised pdf file you can print to get you started.

Writing Game Word List

When making your list, add ten spaces between words and double space your rows. This allows room to cut the words apart. Next, fold word tags in half and place them in a dish beside your computer. For each writing warm-up, take 3-5 tags to help you create a short story or opening paragraph.

Of course everyone’s list will be different. My daughter made a list with such words as: crayons, playground, friends, ice cream, dragons, princess, and dolls.

My husband suggested these words: wood, chisel, box of nails, wrench, computer, mouse pad, and vacation.

To broaden your word choices, make these lists with others. Ask a friend, a co-worker, spouse, significant other, person sitting next to you on a bus or in a plane what their favorite places are, what strange items they keep in their house, their favorite keepsake from a vacation, the most memorable gift they ever received, the weirdest things they found at a garage sale or estate sale, their most prized possession, etc…  Of course, you’ll want to let them know you’re a writer, seeking inspiring words for a future novel, so they don’t question your motives. Most people jump at the chance to help someone with something fun like this.

Years ago, I got in a conversation with some friends about the kinds of candy bars we ate as children. Our list started to grow. What surprised us was the number of people in the restaurant we were in, listening to our conversation. As people strode by our table, some would stop and offer a few types of candy they loved when they were children. So, as it turns out, this list making project can turn into a great way to meet new people as well as getting the word out that you’re a writer.

Do you have any great words you’d like to share?

Happy writing!

Leslie

That’s A Great Plot Twist! Wednesday Prompts and Inspirations

chalkboard-3-ADo you need a twist in your story?

Have fun answering these questions.

Hint, hint…. Make sure to think outside the box.

 

1.  I thought I inherited a ruby ring from my Aunt Jenny, but when the package arrived, I found she left me…

This prompt was inspired by the movie, Baby Boom, in which the main character thinks she will inherit a pen from a poor relative that passed away. She instead receives a baby. When making your list of possible things one could inherit, consider how that item could change your main character’s life. This, after all, could be the perfect ingredient you story needs for a good twist.

2.  I bought a set of pottery maracas on vacation. They broke when I shook them and out rolled…

I confess this inspiration came from watching, Scooby Doo cartoons. In one of the episodes, Daphne purchases a mask in San Francisco in which jewels are hidden. Other interesting items could be a coded message, a map, a phone number, or address.

3.  I discovered a book beside a tree and stuck between the pages I found…

Actually, I opened a book at the library and found several amazing, unsigned sketches once. But for this exercise/example what was found in the book could be a letter, a map, or a hundred-dollar bill with a phone number on it. The important thing is to give your mind permission to go wild when considering answers to these prompts.

4.  Usually a businessman sits beside me on the plane and barely says a word, but this time I was seated beside _________________________ and his/her conversation opener took me by surprise. She/He turned to me and said…

I’ve been on many flights over the years. Usually, the person I’m seated beside stays focused on their book, newspaper, or laptop. It isn’t until the plane lands and we’re standing, slightly stooped beneath the low ceiling of the overhead luggage compartments, that we start our typical, mundane chit-chat.

“Long flight.” I sigh, gripping the handle of my carry-on bag.

“Yeah,” my seat partner remarks. “Are you visiting here?”

“No, this is a stopover. I’m catching another plane for California.”

You get the picture. So far, nothing that’s going to get those pages turning. But what if our main character’s seat partner is wearing a wedding gown? This could lead to all kinds of great conversation starters.

5.  I heard that tornadoes can lift houses and animals and set them down miles away, but I was stunned after that last storm when a _________________landed on my roof.

This inspiration came from a textbook back in Jr. High. Some things stay in our memories a long time. I read about a cow that got picked up by a tornado and set down, uninjured, miles away. But other things can just as easily be transported. Let your mind go wild.

I hope you will have fun with these plot twist inspirations. Perhaps you might find one of them sparks a fresh story!

I wish you happy writing.

Leslie