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Writing Prompt #8

June 21, 2010

As you’ve seen, I use what I call “story seeds” a lot as writing prompts. The concept is simple: start with a basic story template and fill in the blanks with random elements. What I love most about this technique is the incongruity between the different elements, smashing together two opposing concepts and seeing what falls out.

Sometimes things line up neatly – a treehouse in a forest? Sure, ok. Other times, they don’t – an igloo in the desert? What tha…? Both inspire me. Whereas the sensible pairings grease the rails of my imagination, the really conflicting concepts do something even more important. They challenge me. They crack my mind open and force me to look at things in new ways. Best of all is when both happen at once. I’m led down an intriguing but rational path only to crash headfirst into impossibility. I love that!

This week’s story seeds follow in this tradition. But this time I want to take the challenge of incongruity one step further. Since you’re reading a Clarion blog, chances are that you’re a spec writer. So when imagining what an igloo is doing in the desert, you can spin off in a thousand different directions based on your speculation of choice and comfort. If you write fantasy, then it must be magic. If you prefer sf, then it’s advanced tech, like terraforming.

But for this week, your extra challenge will be to eject yourself from this comfort zone and find non-spec reasons for the incongruities. The desert igloo is an easy one: technically speaking, a “desert” is a region that receives very little precipitation, which includes large portions of the Arctic and Antarctic, including glacial regions with lots of ice and no rain. If you find scientific explanations less than satisfying, then go for metaphor. Perhaps it’s a bedouin with rigid emotional defense mechanisms. Or something.

Whatever it is, make this difficult on yourself. Feel the burn. Challenge your own creativity. And as usual, start by picking a number from one to five.
Story Seed #1
This story takes place IN PRECOLONIAL AMERICA
The story centers on A HOMEMAKER
…who comes up against A STUDENT.
At some point, someone discovers A HEALTH CONDITION.

Story Seed #2
This story takes place IN FEUDAL JAPAN
The story centers on AN ELECTED OFFICIAL
…who comes up against A DETECTIVE
At some point, someone discovers AN UNOPENED PACKAGE.

Story Seed #3
This story takes place IN THE 1700s
The story centers on A LIBRARIAN
…who comes up against A SAILOR.
At some point, someone discovers LIPSTICK.

Story Seed #4
This story takes place IN THE 1800s
The story centers on A MIDDLE MANAGER
…who comes up against HIMSELF/HERSELF.
At some point, someone discovers A PERSONAL SECRET.

Story Seed #5
This story takes place IN MODERN TIMES
The story centers on A MADAME/PIMP
…who comes up against A PILOT.
At some point, someone discovers A CONSPIRACY.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 22, 2010 8:09 pm

    I usually end up with one of the following seeds: A character in search of something to do to them; A situation that needs to recruit some characters to chew up in its maw; A great title which begs for a situation and characters. (grin) Random lists of N story seeds have always left me cold. You mileage may vary… (true)

    Dr. Phil

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