Writing Prompt Friday

April 30, 2010 · 3 comments

Oh. My. Goodness! Is it Friday already? I suppose I could blame my lack of posts on my Internet connection which has been giving me fits lately, but really, I think I just had too much fun at the Whitney Awards last weekend. It’s taken me this long to recover.

So. We’re back to Writing Prompt Friday. Here is your prompt:

Your MC is just back from the gym (or a jog) and is going to take a shower.

From this angle, everything in their bathroom looks perfectly normal.

But when they pull aside the shower curtain…

Write up to 1,000 words inspired by this photo/scenario.

If you post your story on your blog, feel free to leave a link in the comments section.

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Info-dump: Large chunk of indigestible expository matter intended to explain the background situation. Info-dumps can be covert, as in fake newspaper or “Encyclopedia Galactica” articles, or overt, in which all action stops as the author assumes center stage and lectures. Info-dumps are also known as “expository lumps.” The use of brief, deft, inoffensive info-dumps is known as “kuttnering,” after Henry Kuttner. When information is worked unobtrusively into the story’s basic structure, this is known as “heinleining.”

from Bruce Sterling, “The Turkey City Lexicon”, Paragons iteration.

Perfect examples of info dumps done wrong can be found on CSI shows—where one character explains the scientific details of an experiment to another character who should already know that information.

Sometimes you have vital information that you need to weave into a story. The temptation is to just tell the reader the details and get if over with. This can lead to long passages that stall out your story. Too many of these, especially in the beginning, will stop the reader completely and they’ll never get around to finishing the book.

The trick is to determine which details are vital and which are fluff, and to weave those details into your story in a way that moves the plot and action along.

Here is a good example of how to do that.

Another good discussion of how to avoid info dumps is found HERE. I recommend you read the entire article because she has some good ideas on avoiding the info dump. However, I’m reposting an excerpt as your writing prompt/excercise for today:

Too much background? Do the Q&A test.

A test to find out if you’ve put too much data in the story is to read it yourself and, paragraph by paragraph, underline any background information and write in the margin what question it’s intended to answer.

After doing this, look through the questions. Are some listed more than once? If your protagonist keeps flashing back on degrading episodes he’s suffered because he’s illegitimate, perhaps most of those flashbacks can be taken out — your reader is screaming, “I got it, already!”

Also, are all of the questions important to the story? The history of the Fifth Dynasty may be a fascinating tale in itself, but perhaps all the reader needs here is to see a portrait of Emperor Archibald IV hanging over the current emperor’s throne, a daunting presence overlooking an insecure ruler. (Question: Why is the protagonist’s father unwilling to admit he made a mistake?)

from Finessing the Infodump by Paula Fleming

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Writing Prompt Friday: Showing

March 5, 2010

The two main weaknesses in the stories submitted for the Book of Mormon contest were too much telling and info dumps. This week let’s focus on showing vs telling. (Next Friday, we’ll deal with info dumps.) Go read this short tutorial on Showing vs Telling. Rewrite the four sentences at the end of the tutorial […]

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Writing Prompt Friday: Short Stories

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WHY are you wasting your time looking here for a writing prompt when you should be finishing up your Book of Mormon short story??? One week left to submit your Book of Mormon short story! Deadline is next Friday, February 19, 2010. DETAILS HERE. I will start posting stories on Monday. Voting will start on […]

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Create a character with an unusual phobia (like chocolate or purple socks or whatever). Write a scene in which this character must face their phobia. What do they do? How do they respond? Do they fight through and overcome? Or do they lose their battle? Limit: 750 words. If you post your story on your […]

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Writing Prompt Friday: Photo Prompt

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They say “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but it can also inspire a thousand words. That’s your prompt for today. Write up to 1,000 words inspired by this photo. If you post your story on your blog, feel free to leave a link in the comments section.

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Writing Prompt Friday: Let’s Practice Swearing

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Since swearing, or rather, not swearing was a hot topic recently (see HERE and HERE), let’s practice creating a sense of swearing without actually doing it. Here are the specs: Set up a scene/situation, with a character(s) who would swear. Do not use actual swear words. It must be believable. Keep it short, 250 words […]

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Writing Prompt Friday:

January 15, 2010

Start your story with this: She touched the blue and pink silk scarf in her pocket and smiled. She cannot be thinking about her boyfriend/husband nor about a baby. If you post your story on your blog, feel free to leave a link in the comments section.

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Writing Prompt Friday: The List

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Lists are a good start to writing. Pick one of the following and make a list of at least 20 items. Things to do before I turn [your next birthday]. . . Ways to entertain yourself if you were stranded on a desert island. . . Reasons to turn down a marriage proposal. . . […]

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Writing Prompt Friday: Let’s Write a Poem

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Based on the questions and comments I receive, I’d guess that 90% of the readers of this blog are primarily focused on writing fiction—as in, novels. The other 10% are a mix of non-fiction, short stories, and other types of writing. It’s a good thing to stretch out of your comfort zone every once in […]

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Writing Prompt Friday: Thanksgiving? No Thanks.

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Since I will be taking next Wednesday through Friday off from the blog due to the holiday, today’s writing prompt is centered around the American holiday of Thanksgiving—although non-Americans may participate as well. Write a short-short story (2,000 words or less) that has to do with Thanksgiving WITHOUT using any of the following words: thankful, […]

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Writing Prompt Friday: Speaking of Shakespeare

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Many of Shakespeare’s plays are absolutely timeless because they deal with basic human emotions that have been around since the dawn of time—love, jealousy, prejudice, suspicion, remorse. You can take one of Shakespeare’s basic plot lines, tweak it a bit, and plop it down into any setting you like and it will work just fine. […]

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Writing Prompt Friday: Changing POVs

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By this, I don’t mean changing POV within your story. I mean, looking at a situation from your character’s perspective. This exercise will help you learn to see from other people’s POVs. If you can do this exercise well, using real people, you can do it for your various characters. Prompt: Write about a disagreement […]

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WPF: Boo!

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First, thank you so much for sending questions. I love you all—but especially one of you who sent me a “book” of questions. I’ll answer timely/urgent ones first, then answer the rest in the order they were received and/or the order I feel like answering them. So check back daily. You never know when I’ll […]

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