Friendship is a special and unique relationship that differs in obvious ways from our relationships with our family or with our significant others. Friendships come and go, but the value of a lifelong friend can’t be denied. As I’ve been a student at UT, far away from my family in Oklahoma, I’ve come to see how beautiful it is when friendships become deep, selfless, authentic relationships. I feel so much love and support from my close friends (and I hope they feel the same from me!) that even when I’m being bratty or difficult or crazy, they are still willing to love me, care for me, and go above and beyond when I need it.
For this week, write a story inspired about an important, beautiful friendship. The story can be a non-fiction account about one of your dearest friends, or a fictional story about a unique friendship. Of course, friendships also have their darker sides as we fight, get angry, and sometimes lose friends. Your story can be an example of an encouraging friendship or a destructive one. Either way, do service to the unique power that a friend has.
Let me tell you, transitions are weird. Some people are really good at change (or so I’m told) but I am not one of those people. Elementary to middle school, high school to college, old home to new home, even changing circles of friends: transitions have always been hard for me. There is this part of me that wants everything to remain the same always. But this isn’t how the world works! Ultimately, I’m glad that things change because transitions thrust us forward into adventure and challenge us to learn new things about ourselves. Without these forceful transitions, it would be easy to become stagnant and complacent in life. And who wants that?
For this week’s writing prompt, write a story (or a poem) focused on a character’s transition. The specifics of the transition are your choice. It can be a new job, the end or beginning of a relationship, or some sort of graduation. Whatever the transition, focus your narrative and the feeling of the story on the simultaneous scariness and excitement of being thrust forward into a new place in life.
Dialogue is my favorite part of a story, whether I’m reading a story or writing one. I think that dialogue offers such an opportunity to get to the heart of a character. We all speak differently because of our personalities, our backgrounds, and the things that have influenced us along the way. Writing really good dialogue is a way of honoring your characters and their differences.
For this week’s writing prompt, focus in on dialogue. Develop a distinct (and distinctly different) voice for each of the characters in your story. It’s easy to let the dialogue we write become uniform or to let it be simply a reflection of our dialogue. Force yourself not to do that this week.
Now, you are free to use narration and prose in your story. But I challenge you to try to tell your whole story (or as much of it as you can) only through dialogue. This will force you to step up and polish those dialogue chops. For inspiration, I suggest reading Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” a short story that communicates a poignant message, engaging plot, and spot-on characterization, almost exclusively through dialogue.
I feel emotions very strongly. This is something I (usually) love about myself because it helps me to live my life to the fullest. When I’m happy, I’m happy! And even when I’m sad, I like how open I am about my sadness. I don’t believe in bottling things up or shoving emotions down. I think that when we force ourselves to ignore how we feel, we cheat ourselves out of experiencing the fullness of what it means to be a person. Emotions are beautiful, even when they’re difficult.
This week, write a story or a poem driven by emotion. It can be sadness, anger, joy, nostalgia, anxiety, or any other emotion you want. But whatever the emotion is, allow it to drive your characters and your plot.
Happy writing, friends, and don’t be afraid to feel!
With the 4th of July already weeks behind us and fall looming, summer feels like it’s winding down (of course, in Texas, we know that summer weather won’t truly end until Halloween’s come and gone, unfortunately). But despite the appearance of back-to-school-supplies displays in every Walmart and grocery store, we still have a few more weeks to enjoy summer freedom. One of the greatest things about summer, in my humble opinion, is the opportunity it gives us for travel and adventure.
Trips and vacations have long been fodder for writers everywhere because traveling challenges our worldview, changes our perspective, and always seems to teach us something about ourselves and even how we understand the places we’re returning to. For this week’s writing prompt, write a story about travel. It can be a non-fiction account of your recent family vacation, a short story about a young college graduate’s trek through Europe, or a poem about a retreat to cabin in a sleepy rural town. The specifics are up to you, but the mission is to capture the spirit of travel and the immense capacity it holds to change us.
I will leave you with this quote from Austin-based writer Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like An Artist: “Your brain gets too comfortable in your everyday surroundings. You need to make it uncomfortable. You need to spend some time in another land, among people that do things differently than you. Travel makes the world look new, and when the world looks new, our brains work harder.”
Today is officially the first day of spring, and here in Austin it seems more like summer. However, I will put my sass away and be thankful for all the lovely flowers in bloom (and bees.) Write a two page short story or one page poem starting with this line :
It was the first day of spring, I stepped out to the garden and …
It could be positive and ‘spring like’ or it could be completely pessimistic and strange. Follow the first line and let spring bring something fresh into your writing.
I have many fiction friends who are incredible writers and incredible readers. I keep them up on poetry, they keep me up on fiction. A friend of mine recently demanded I read Susan Minot’s short story ‘Lust.’ It blew me away. The form felt so effortless, but I know how skilled Minot must be to have accomplished such incredible style and prose. I am currently writing a non fiction essay, reading Minot’s story inspired me to model it after ‘Lust.’ I have not been able to find a body for my essay and believe it may find it through the exercise of vignettes The story inspired me in many ways and I hope it will inspire you for this weeks exercise.
First read ‘Lust’ and pay attention to the form, to the seamless shifts in story and tone. She does all the changes without introduction or explanation. Once you have sunk into the short story, try to write a story modeled after this form. Pick a word of inspiration, like Demise or Infatuation, and tell as many vignettes connecting to the title as possible. This week may not produce a work you stick with it, but it should remind you that we have to be as good (if not better) of a reader as we are a writer.