Writing Prompt Responses
Writing Prompts #1 6.22
Create a list. It could be a collection of any number of things, such as:
–a To Do list
— things that are alike
— things that are as different as possible
….and so on.
Give it a logic from your point of view. If you spoke it aloud on stage, we would be interested, trying to connect the dots to make sense of why these things are grouped together. You know why, but because it is a list—so economical, so spare!—you do not have to explain. Just be specific in your mind/choices.
If you get inspired, you might make three lists, which would occur at 3 different moments in a piece.
PROMPT #1 RESPONSES
Blue, Shrimp, Fig Tree, Fire, Moosies, Mask, Sagittarius, Leopard Gecko, Piano, Martini, Margarita, Heineken Lite, Phantom, Hand Chalk, Pool, Closet, Marvin Gaye, Melatonin, Love, Growth, Dancing, Chapstick, Puking, Beach, Beast, Future, Brooklyn, Mixed, Forgiveness, Cycle, Cinnamon, Yoga, Eyes, Ludwig
List #1: single impressive beautiful canned funky emotional big still sexy sweet mysterious total wicked yellow magnificent cute ready brave deepest rolling good closer lovely useless amber magic real crazy winding cold bright heavy happy salty last notorious best tall tribal industrial groovy common saddest blue never-ending hypocritical level better best high hungry plush
List #2: ammo ansel atlantis banshee believable berlin bewitching clownfish confetti daisies daguerreotype fang foxy graphic iolite irises jonquil krill lobster-legs mantis mariposa mayhem migration mix-tape outstanding pacifica selvedge silhouette soundscape terra underbrush
Four graduation photos
Disposable aluminum plates
Dreid palm fronds
An extra chair
Unused soap & shampoo
An unwaxed orange
White bits of pomegranate membrane floating in a clear bowl of cold water over heavy red seeds
A yellow car
A polar bear
A small man carved from stone
A ridged glass cube
A sleeping boy carved from wood, sand, no paint
A giant trunk full of toy trains
The leg bones of a goat
Heavy binoculars in a brittle leather case
The sun-bleached wing of a bat
coffee milk blueberries yogurt granola vitamin zoloft water hummus pickles bread dates apple water water water water spaghetti broccoli rapini tofu butter cheese calcium water fiber water water water
It seems there are enough books to go around.
My idea for the living room.
Corner to doorway: 51 inches.
Roller Chair (comfy).
the edge of the rent check
the broken window.
- To-Do List
dentist – done
grocery list for Sat.
move car tonight after class
rtn. lib. bk Fri?
wash mask, shirts
schedule mammogram [ugh :p]
- Word Flow
- Ship Names
The Complicit (wtf?)
The Robert Dalglish
The Safe Return
The San Cristoforo
The High Atlas
The Speedwell Blue
Writing Prompts #2 6.23
Choose one of these as a first line, and then keep writing wherever it takes you:
He said, “Actually, they call me Ebben.”
He opened the trunk and took out her suitcase.
She/He/They leaned back in the chair, her/his/their top button undone.*
* (for the above line, just choose one pronoun)
We ate out, for the first time in a long while.
I’m driving on a gravel road.
I didn’t expect it.
There was only a single bed by the window.
We ate it raw.
They argued in the booth behind me.
It poured for ten days straight.
I asked him to dance.
She collected the suitcase at the station and put it in the back of the car.
Use one of these if it speaks to you. If some other first line occurs to you, go with it. Take a few good breaths and give yourself time to visualize. Once you begin, stay easy
in your neck and face, breathe, and see where it wants to go. Perhaps it is just a segment, just a sliver of a larger piece.
The sense for our future use could be: a simple (very short) story or experience that gets told. It might appear in the middle of a slow tempo piece when we suddenly break out of slow tempo, or we might begin at the top speaking in daily time. Perhaps suddenly everyone starts talking, and then gradually the din softens to whispers and one person keeps speaking on voice, and the audience catches up with a story. Then others would come in.
Or: who knows?
PROMPT #2 RESPONSES
He opened the trunk and took out her suitcase. It was lighter this time. Perhaps she does not intend to stay for long. Not this time, Not like before. Before when time moved apace. Apace. Apace. If only he could slow it down. Just this once. Make it last.
I’m driving on a gravel road. The qualities of objects viewed when driving on a gravel road are misty. There’s a a haze, a feeling of insubstantial there-yet-not-there surprise as you lurch from moment to moment. Of necessity the speed of travel is slower than normal. The surface shifts, is infirm, implanting a small sense of danger inside the bubble of stirred up dust cloud. Headlights bounce around and are lost in layers of trees and brush. Gravel roars beneath your feet instead of the click click click of paved interstate travel. The surroundings close in, and you travel through this tunnel of an unchanging moment in time where it’s just you, alone.
From the right side of the road something whooshes in front of the car and disappears into the brush on the left side. There’s a disturbing impression of dog. It is tall, runs upright on its hind legs and has an overdeveloped rib cage. You can see its arms pumping as it darts across your path. It has an elongated snout and is taller than the roof of the car. There’s a flash of dusty light on gray fur and then it is gone into the brush.
The moment before the creature had been empty, just you inside the tunnel. The moment after the creature is full, with you, and it, inside the tunnel. I am driving on a gravel road and something out there knows it.
there was only a single bed by the window
and anyone passing by
saw straight inside to the corner shadow
and the place where the rug used to lie
the papers called it “Mystery – Vanished!”
but the rest of us knew the truth;
that he left to do what he said he’d manage
and the rug was the price of her youth
who knows what the underworld wants with a carpet
but her Orpheus brought it along
I hope she never looked back for a moment
and together they’re singing their song
I asked him to dance. It felt like hours had passed by in my head before he finally said, “yes.” I couldn’t believe I had the guts to ask this man who seemed so unattainable in my mind to even look at me let alone dance. I had seen this man every weekend at the same club and we had always seemed to lock eyes. I figured he couldn’t really be interested in me as I have been dealing with body issues even before “COVID 15” hit me. Let’s be honest, it has been more like the “COVID 20+” hit me. I wondered if he felt sorry for me? Did he think I had money like a sugar daddy? How could this man with beautiful hair, a beautiful smile, and a beautiful body give me the time of day? There we were, though dancing to one of Dua Lipa’s new songs on the dance floor. I was having the time of my life. I finally seemed to let my guard down and got out of my own head and my own self-doubt. I was having the time of my life with this man though I was really finally having the time of my life being myself. It all seemed to go well until he kissed me. Time stopped. I was…in love.
My grandmother’s house was full of secrets. Inside the kitchen wall was a hidden staircase, its bottom steps cluttered with picnic baskets. If you crawled behind the coats in the ground-floor closet, you could find a low cubbyhole, just the right size for a six-year-old if you were small for your age. The stovetop had a round cavity in which to burn paper, invisible until its cast-iron lid was removed. There was a dimly-lit cellar, unseen except on laundry day. And the ceiling of the second-floor hall concealed a trapdoor which unfolded into wooden steps that led up to the attic. The attic had several rooms, each leading to the next, with an aroma of hot summers and old wood. In some of my dreams, I follow the hidden stairway, not to the upstairs landing where it emerged in waking life, but through a series of rooms reaching further than the waking attics ever stretched; and in those dreams, the attics are part of the Underground Railroad, a long slow trudge past cobwebbed furniture in a silent dwelling place, to the free air.
Tommer Additional Response
It poured for ten days straight. When I wasn’t asleep — I was almost always asleep — I wrapped myself in a blanket and sat by the window listening to My Fair Lady on repeat. Using the wet as an excuse not to shop, I was left eventually with nothing to eat but peanut butter on some stale crackers which honestly was perfectly fine. Really. It was all — really — just fine.
We ate out, for the first time in a long while.
I’m driving on a gravel road.
I didn’t expect it…but suddenly I felt a great welling up of unstoppable emotion. It came in a way I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop…it came like all most important things…like that breath at birth…or before death. I had to take the plunge into the coldest water…and there it went.
I would have supposed that it would release me from previous or future moments…and yet I still had to wonder if it would impress you…if you would think…at last. Maybe I am even wrong to suppose that you think there is something wrong with a person who can’t let their tears flow like this.
I have never been a turtle…I do not let the salt from within go through my eyes…maybe that is why I urinate so much…so frequently I mean.
Even through the torrent I still managed to see the horizon…the colour changing from day to night and perhaps this space of inbetween is the one area that brought comfort to the moment…and that we were there together made it less lonely.
You said “oh”
I remember…and I thought…she wasn’t expecting all this.
This too added to the middle space and there we were wondering how we got to right now…and yet somehow also not not-knowing.
There is something also delightful to the sound of tires on gravel…like foot falls in the crisp snow…it lets you know that you are slowing down.
The car stopped…the sound of the motor a drone filling space…and our breath catching up…and then I asked because in the moment I didn’t know how to tell
“We should go outside and look at the light?”
You have a lot to lose, balanced on that point after before but still before the after. When you sit quietly you notice the expanse and hear the taps of hammers from the workers next door. Is he still alive? The one who carved that small figure—a woman, left hand on left breast, long fingers and earlobes. Grain of dark brown wood spotted by sun and age. Will you ever go to Africa? Did you deserve this precious gift? When will it.. could it ever be clear? Curled on the sofa on a mild winter mid-morning, it doesn’t seem to matter. You have a lot to lose but you are not alone, even when it feels like you are. You could take another breath and wait a little while before the after bit arrives.
A theatrical arrest
It will probably be okay, but you have a lot to lose.
The after bit—
…in the beginning was the car, original eco-sin. What does enough look like? Feel like? How will global financial structures cope if you ever figure this out?
You have a lot….
You have nothing…
You have enough to lose.
In an old used book of Walt Whitman poems, I found an old postcard of bright orange tropical flowers. “Plumeria” was written at the bottom edge. The postmark read Honolulu, Hawaii. December 19, 3:30pm, 1941. It was addressed to Miss Alice Grabner, Redmond, Washington. Route 1. Postage was 1 cent. The machine stamp across it read “Schofield Barracks Station.”
“Dear Alice: Received your letter and was glad to hear from you. Thanks for the
slips (slippers?). Try to excuse these few lines to you as I want the card to catch the mail—boat going out. Everything is O.K. here now. Hoping it stays that way. As always, Mac.”
Write a postcard, springing from the idea that you found it in an unexpected place.
PS: Consider how the present tense changes it:
In an old used book of Walt Whitman poems, I find an old postcard of bright orange tropical flowers. “Plumeria” is written at the bottom edge. The postmark reads Honolulu, Hawaii. December 19, 3:30 pm, 1941. It is addressed to Miss Alice Grabner, Redmond, Washington. Route 1. Postage is 1 cent. The machine stamp across it reads “Schofield Barracks Station.”
See which you like: telling it in the past, or in the present.
As always, be open to how long or short it wants to be.
Prompt #3 Responses
I pray to god you receive this note as I have not stopped thinking about you and how lucky I am you are in my life. I am alive but still traumatized. The attack has taken many of us not just physically but mentally. I am lucky to still be standing. Many of my mates were not so lucky. I think about them and their wives and children now left behind without a husband or a father. We must not take any of these moments on earth for granted. This has surely caused war and it is my duty to be here and continue serving. I have a higher calling now. I feel I was spared and must do right by carrying on with my assignment and do whatever it takes to help win this war. Do me a favor, Alice, darling please, when I return, do me the honor of marrying me. I can’t spend one more day without being your husband. Life is too short. Until I am back, my heart is yours always and longing for you. I love you, Alice. – Cole
While examining my new finds from the record store, I pull Heart Like A Wheel by Linda Ronstadt out of the sleeve and, as I do, a postcard falls out. One side has mountains and flowers while the other side has an unfinished letter…
Thank you for everything. I had to leave. I’m sorry. If you stumble upon any of my things please “
I drop the needle on the record and put the postcard back in the sleeve as “You’re No Good” begins to play. I wonder what the rest of the sentence was meant to say. I hope it was “burn them.”
Thank you for all your work this week and always. Appreciate you!
In a decommissioned library copy of Jack London’s novel Burning Daylight, I find a postcard addressed to my mother’s father, E. Paul Dunbar. The Postmark stamp is difficult to read and I have to wait till morning to get a better view. I finally make it out to be Paris, France, March 20, 1919.
I prayed we might be together by your birthday, but God and the U.S. army have made other plans for me. My leg is healing well. Take good care of your mother.
Yours in Christ, Father
Instructions and/or Silent Action
Choice A: Instructions
Teach some listeners/watchers how to do something.
Give instructions, step by step.
How to build a shed
How to assemble a child’s tree house or playhouse
How to cook something
How to shop at a flea market
Choice B: A Silent Moment of Action
Write a moment of silent action. What we sometimes call “a silent narrative (In our training “The Station” is an example).
Imagine and then capture in words: someone (or several people) doing something, then doing something else, then making an exit, running off, as someone else enters from elsewhere. And then this thing happens, and then that occurs, and so on. Or it might be quite stationary, one or two or three people doing something that is quite still.
Add technical stage directions if appropriate (It begins to rain. There is the sound of coyotes.)
It does not have to be in slow tempo. Or it might have changing speeds.
It may help to imagine a public place where strangers come and go. Visualize that and then describe it.
Prompt #4 Responses
Since my parents worked full time when I was a child, I was always taken to a babysitter’s house which was right around the block from where I lived. Her name was Madeline Knabe, and I vividly remember her being a heavier woman with big glasses and whitish hair. I always remember feeling that her house was huge but since it was in the same neighborhood as my house and I was just a kid, it couldn’t have been much bigger. I remember Madeline used to babysit quite a few kids at the same time. I would say at least 10-15 of us at a time, maybe more…that must have been insane for her. Well, I remember a young girl who was always very playful with me outside in the backyard and inside the house. We played games and horsed around as kids do. I wish I could remember her name. One day, she insisted on me coming into the little playhouse that Madeline had set up in the living room close to her reclining chair where she liked to watch TV..possibly more TV watching then watching us kids… I think I remember being very resistant to going in this little house with her but man oh man she was persistent. I recall her, as an actor does, trying different tactics to have me come inside. Well, I finally let my guard down and went inside this little playhouse with her. I wondered if I really was resistant or just liked the attention? Finally she had me in the corner of this little house, giggling with her about gosh knows what, and she slowly came up to me and kissed me straight on the lips! Totally took me by surprise! So this is why she wanted me to come into the house! So no one could see! I think we smiled, giggled, probably turned red, who knows if I even knew what kissing really was at that age. I do remember I liked it and we kissed again, and again, and again! Kissing pretty sloppily I am sure. All I know is something special happened in that playhouse that day, I had received my very first kiss! I also know she was the cutest girl in that house and popular among the kids. I was one lucky guy! After that happened I don’t recall if we ever kissed again. I have a big smile on my face right now as I am sure I did then. Man, I wish I could remember her name…
I feel the cool grass blades on my bare feet as a run through the lawn to the jungle gym. A big, metal, geodesic dome. They put it together inside the house for my birthday. But now we have a real yard and it can live free in the wild. I climb to the top and then negotiate through the bars and gaps to hang from my knees. I feel the pressure and pull on my knees. I feel the blood rushing to my head. I pump my muscles and start to swing upside down. Little sister toddling. She can’t get up here yet. Parents working in the garden. With an ominous creep, it gets very dark, but it is early in the day. There is a sense of urgency as we all get inside the house. When we come out later, there is a fine white dust coating everything. I press my finger into the top of the flat fence line. It leaves a fingerprint and my finger comes away coated with dust. I drag my finger across it and it leaves a trailing line.
When I was 7 or 8, one of my favourite things was to put a Monkees LP on the turntable then slide my face inside the cardboard sleeve and sing along. It was dark and cosy, and my voice sounded….I can’t remember. Was I any good? My sister became the singer—but I liked the vibration of the cardboard against my cheek and the intimate sound of my own voice coming to my ears in a new way. “Through the endless days and nights, she could not help but wrap herself in sorrow. Through the endless days and nights, we waited for a shiny new tomorrow. Love was sleeping, only sleeping (sleeping, sleeping)”.
Writing prompt #4 Childhood memory
Think about something that happened to you when you were a child. It could be quite innocuous, but for some reason, you have remembered it to this day. Sit and breathe for a moment and see what comes. Be as specific as you can. Enjoy yourself.
As we know, memory degrades over time, even every time we repeat a story. All our stories (of What Happened) are amalgams of “the truth” and of the continually evolving memory of events which changes as we change. Free yourself from trying to get it right. No one will ever know exactly what happened. Just do your best to be faithful to what you see today, what you re-collect, and allow yourself to give value to the specific details as they occur to you.