a potpourri of prompts

Over the past year plus, I’ve offered you a variety of writing and creative prompts. I would love to hear from you who have been following this blog.

  • Have you used any of the prompts?
  • Are there one or two that have been especially interesting, fruitful or fun for you?
  • How has this blog served your creative process?

Thank you for taking the time to reply.

Enjoy your creative life!

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“My name is love…”

“My name is love
supreme my sway
The greatest god
and greatest pain,
Air, earth, and seas, my
Power obey,
And gods themselves
must drag my chain.

In every heart my throne I keep,
Fear ne’er could daunt my
daring soul;
I fire the bosom of the deep
and the profoundest hell
control…”

from Don Quixote Part II
by Miguel de Cervantes

L O V E

Love.  It amazes me that we fall in love.  As if it were a puddle, pool or lake.  Do we trip and fall? Are we walking, unawares, and suddenly we’ve fallen in loveInto love?

Everyone writes about love at some point, right?  Do they?  Do you?  How do you define what seems ineffable?  Intangible.  And, has attached to it one’s particular perspective on the definition of what love is.

When you say “I love you,” what are you really saying?

In the quote above, Cervantes has personified love–made it into a person with great power.

This poem, written and read by Edna St. Vincent Millay, surprised me on many levels.

First, the quality and tone of her voice.  Secondly, I had not read this poem before…listening to it for the first time, I felt a certain trepidation–where was she going to land?  And, finally, hearing the conclusion, I felt deeply moved.

Contemplation:
A poem touches us because we fit the meaning to our experience.  Does this feel true to you?  When writing, how do you personify love?

 

Engaging the Fantasy

Date Night2Worlds emerge through our art-making.  Though they aren’t necessarily the agreed upon reality, they exist somewhere–perhaps–outside of the conscious in the unconscious, your personal or the greater unconscious.

What an interesting territory to explore and bring into form through writing and art.

For me, it is most accessible through painting.  I tap into it when I allow something to show and reveal itself to me.  I engage the conversation and follow the lead I receive through inquiry–“what is showing itself to me?”

It is the territory of the imaginal realm…

As defined by Mary Harrell, Ph.D.,

“As a first definition of the imaginal realm, I’ll borrow from Iranologist and scholar Henry Corbin (1997) who said that the imaginal realm is a subtle world, which exists in a field between matter and mind.”

And I like this one from Wikipedia:

“Coleridge distinguished imagination, which expresses realities of an imaginal realm transcending any personal existence, and ‘fancy’, or fantasy, which expresses the creativity of the artistic soul. For him, ‘imagination is the condition for cognitive participation in a sacramental universe’.”

Finally, this one by C. S. Lewis:

C.S. Lewis considered that “reason is the organ of truth, but imagination is the organ of meaning.

Creative Prompt:
Where have you gone lately, in your imagination?  Through your writing or through your art-making?  What’s your favored vehicle for visiting the imaginal realm?

The Point of Inspiration–The Closing

How do you bring a short story to a satisfying conclusion.  A short story is by one definition “a slice of life.”  The audience enters at a certain point and exits at another point and we assume the story continues beyond our point of exit.  Yet the reader looks for an ending to this exposition, this portion of the larger ongoing story.

The Point of Inspiration (Part 3 of 3)
© by Christine O’Brien

Fifteen years later, she was a hazy memory.  He once thought he loved her but was now convinced that he only wanted to express himself creatively.  She afforded him this avenue.  Decorating cakes for special occasions became his secret obsession.  By August of that summer, he had invested in a cake decorator’s starter kit.  He bought cake circles and boards, a turntable, one plain and one patterned side scraper, an acrylic board (recommended) and a rolling pin.  And, of course, a set of crimpers, a cake smoother, brushes, parchment paper triangles, a flower nail.  Every hue of icing colors, piping gel, spatulas, stencils and the icing tubes and tips.  He practiced piping congratulatory words, fluting flowers and leaves, scrolls, ripples.  He bought instructional DVDs from cake decorating sororities the world over.  He sketched the spires of Bryce Canyon (where he’d first met her) on large sheet cakes when he could think of a valid reason to do so.  He did return to his job as a firefighter.  You’d never catch him with frosting on his turnout coat.

Writing Prompt:
I invite you to write about a secret revelation.  How do you build a story?  One that creates a bit of suspense and then the surprise conclusion when you reveal what was hidden?

 

The Point of Inspiration–Story Development

There are many ways to propel a story forward.  The physical action of the characters creates movement.  Dialogue creates revelation…who are these people…let them tell you through their words and actions.  And, descriptive narrative assists the forward motion of the story.  Image detail engages the senses.

The Point of Inspiration (Part 2 of 3)
© by Christine O’Brien

She trolled her blue Volvo along the main road, pulling off at the various lookout points.

“That’s Thor’s Hammer,” she said pointing to a top-heavy stone protrusion.

“The thunder god,” he offered to show her that he had a degree of mythological literacy.

They continued on to Bryce Point and the delicate Wall of Windows.  She took him down a trail or two, asking occasionally how he was doing.  Did he need water or want to rest.

When the sun was near setting, she asked him where he was staying.

“Don’t know yet,” he answered truthfully.

There and then she said “I’m going to bake you a cake.”

They returned to her suite at the lodge.

“I work here from April through October,” she told him in explanation.

“As what, a tour guide?”

“No, I’m the head pastry chef.  I actually have a staff that bakes the cakes.  I decorate them according to the occasion and my inspiration.  You might say that I take cake decorating to a new level.  People come here to get married, celebrate an anniversary, birthday, all of those special human occasions.  And a few odd ones like this older couple who ordered a cake to celebrate their newly acquired false teeth!”

He was definitely drawn to this brawny woman with a flair for cake decorating.  He was surprised to hear himself ask, “Can I watch?”

He lingered at the lodge, sharing her room through spring and into summer.  He told her he was on a medical leave from his job for a few months.

“What job,” she asked.

“Firefighter,” he said gruffly.

“A job with a lot of risk,” she said admirably.

By the end of July, she told him that their fling was sweet and that it was over.

“Time to move on,” she said.

To irk her, he added “to greener pastures.”

****
Do you know these characters a little better?  Can you see how the story is being developed?  Can you guess what the secret revelation is?  Post what you think under comments!

The Point of Inspiration…the Opening

How do you begin a short story?  It helps to have a good idea, one that has sparked your own curiosity and imagination.

Sometimes, as in this case, it can start with a class assignment.  Several years ago, a writing instructor offered this prompt…Write about a secret revelation.  Does that get your imagination going?  It did for me.

At the time, I had become fascinated by the spires of Bryce Canyon (having come across a photo of them in a magazine).  That seemed like a good opening, a starting place.  And, perhaps, a good way to capture my reader’s attention.

The Point of Inspiration (in 3 parts)
© by Christine O’Brien

     She was either to blame or to be credited for his secret passion.  It was certainly a fate of sorts, meeting her below the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon.

Pointing upwards and to the east, she handed him her binoculars, saying “That’s Inspiration Point.”

And then, in a quick breath almost inaudible, “Do I inspire you?”

“What did you say?” he asked shaking his head as if he had water in his ears.

Swiftly, she changed the subject “Have you been here before?”

“Never,” he answered.

“How about I be your tour guide for the day?  I know these spires like, like…”

“…the back of your hand,” he offered.

“I was looking for an original metaphor,” she said.  “I hate cliches.”

“Cliche or otherwise, I’m all yours,” he said, noting her muscled calves and tall sturdy frame, a spire herself he found himself momentarily thinking in metaphors.

*****
Does this opening make you curious to know more?  About the characters?  About where this story is going?  How is it going to lead to a secret revelation?  If it has caught your interest, then, it’s done what was intended.  It has hooked you as the reader.

 

 

The Story of Pandora’s Box

I’m guessing you’ve read this Greek myth.

For the writer, writing has a quality of opening Pandora’s Box. When I write, I’m opening up more than my journal or notebook, I’m opening the unknown.  In the unknown, everything, all possibilities, exist.  What is going to be roused in me or you remains to be seen.  That which has remained hidden to yourself is given an opportunity to emerge. This can feel scary. Feelings can be tweaked, excavated trauma (I’ve referred to this in an earlier blog).  You decide if it’s worth bringing up again in this unearthing.

With writing (especially fiction and poetry) and art-making, there is nothing straightforward.  You don’t just sit down and write and remain unruffled.  You are taken places.  You volunteer for this journey a bit unwittingly.  “Yes, I’m a writer therefore, I write!” What you soon come to realize is that you have gone down a rabbit hole and you are being compelled as much as you have chosen the journey.

Who or what are you going to meet along the way?  White rabbits, card soldiers, tin men,  fairy queens, purple people eaters.  You don’t know.  It’s yet to be discovered.  Which Pandora’s lid is going to be opened in you?  What is going to leap out from your own inner underworlds and scare the heck out of you?  How did that get in there?  You can turn tail and run; slap your journal shut and find another interest.

Or you can continue the venture of discovery and inner sorting through the writing process.

Writing Prompt:
Consider how you manage your own writing journey.  If you are writing Non-fiction, are you less likely to encounter the unknown?  Or, in your research, do you uncover something that sends you there–into the unknown–regardless?  If you are writing fiction, do you get thrown off course when you are diverted down the rabbit hole?  What does getting back on track look like for you?  Or is the diversion where your writing really wants to go?  Is there a best way to sort the chaff from the gold and carry on?  Scan_0004

 

 

 

 

 

Opening my journal…
opening to the unknown.