Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Heffron Prompts: Part II

PROMPT: If you're stuck, consider changing the time of day you usually use for writing.  If you've been putting in an hour on your story before heading to work in the morning, write during your lunch break, or as soon as you get home in the evening.  Also consider changing where you write.  If at a computer, take a notepad to a park or a library.  New times and locations and routines for writing can spark new interest.

PROMPT: Spend at least three sessions practicing the "stay in the chair" method.  Set a timer for your session, and write whatever you want, perhaps responding to a prompt in this book.  Do not for any reason get up from the chair.  Turn off the phone, shut down your e-mail, tell family members that you are not to be disturbed unless someone is facing a life-or-death situation.  If the idea you're exploring stalls before you finish, begin a new one or simply write about writing or describe the room in which you're working.  Your goal is to practice staying in the chair.

PROMPT: Create a new element of the story that is being kept secret by one of the characters.  Allude to this secret somewhere in the first scene.  As you move ahead, slowly reveal the secret, one that adds another complication to the story.  You needn't know the secret yourself when you start writing.  Allow yourself to discover it as you write.

PROMPT: Steal a line from something you've read.  It might only be a phrase, but grab that sucker and plunk it into a piece of your own.  If you don't have a piece in progress, spend a session exploring an idea in which that line or phrase can appear.

PROMPT: Describe a process.  This exercise is a standard in technical writing courses.  Students explain the steps involved in doing something, such as fixing a flat tire or installing a water heater.  Spend part of a writing session describing a process.  Then look for ways of weaving this process into the work in progress.  For example, in her essay on how to write the lyric essay, Brenda Miller describes how to make challah bread.  She uses the process to enlarge the essay and make her points about craft in a more lyric way.  In fiction, describing a process can have the same effect, the most famous being the chapters in Moby Dick that describe the techniques of whaling.  Your fictional character, rather than react to his wife's leaving in the typical ways, might carefully wax his car.  Don't look for obvious parallels when deciding on which process to describe.  Choose one you know well or one you can research.


Prompt excerpts from: Heffron, Jack. The Writer's Idea Workshop: how to make your good ideas great. Cincinnati, Ohio, 2003

For other more prompts from The Writer's Idea Workshop, please check out Heffron Prompts: Part I.

Amanda LaFantasie (Skoora) © 2012

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