Writing Kindling #8

Writer’s block may seem like a terminal illness, but sometimes the smallest of sparks can “kindle” your craft. Today I bring you a list of ten 1-2 sentence writing prompts that will help build up your white blood cells and give writer’s block a good kick in the pants. Copy them, tweak them, consider them, leave them. It’s up to you!


  1. The audience gasps as one.
  2. I stir the tea leaves furiously.
  3. My old house looks haunted tonight.
  4. That night, I slept under the dead tree.
  5. The steamboat’s engine shuddered to a halt.
  6. My voice rings against the ceiling beams of the church.
  7. I don’t remember the impact, but I remember the pain. And then I remember the black.
  8. He planted a light kiss on the urn, and hid it away under his bed.
  9. “Hail Gary, full of paste,” the little boy prayed fervently into his steepled hands.
  10. I squished the spider in the bathtub with my shampoo bottle, and I’m quite proud of myself.

I’d love to hear what you come up with. Feel free to share your writing in the comments!

Happy writing!:)

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We Must Be Like Song Writers

I’m a bit of an instrumental music junkie, but as a writer, I can’t help but admire a song with really well written lyrics.

There’s more to writing than simply finding the right words for the right context. A well crafted paragraph must contain fluidity, musicality, melody. The sound a word makes must be taken into account when judging how it will flow in your sentence; the syllables and consonance and assonance are subconsciously noted when listening to a beautiful word. I’ve heard it said that the most aesthetically pleasing phrase in the English language is not “love” or “compassion” or “mother” — it’s “cellar door.”

Say it out loud now, without attaching any context or meaning to it. Cellar door.

Of course, we can’t disregard connotation when writing a piece of fiction or non-fiction, so we must be like song writers  — deliberate in our meaning, yet fluent in our presentation.

I’ll throw to the wind an old favorite of mine.

Like faithful oxen through the chalk,
With dragging tails of history walk.
We soon confuse the compass and the cross.
Carefully and cursively we fill our traveling diaries with loss.

The above are lyrics from “History Book,” a song by the (now broken up) band Dry the River. It’s a song about young lovers growing up and carrying the past with them.

Let’s take it apart, shall we?

The Technical: The very first line — Like faithful oxen through the chalk — is iambic tetrameter with consonance on the repeated th– and f- sounds. The second line — With dragging tails of history walk. — follows near suit. We soon confuse the compass and the cross. Carefully and cursively we fill our traveling diaries with loss. — these lines are ripe with alliteration, repeated s- and c- consonants, careful stressing of syllables, and all around listening pleasure. Seriously. Listen to the lead singer open with these lines, and your ears will melt down your neck.

The Connotation: The image of oxen dragging tails through chalk as they migrate for days upon days is a powerful one. Like faithful oxen, the lead singer croons, because he and his lover are akin to those ancient, nomadic beasts. They have travelled far; they have learned much in the ways of love and individuality and life. They have gone on so long, that they can’t tell the difference between the compass and the cross. What is guiding them anymore? Religion or their own intuitions?

I’m not saying you have to make everything a symbol (please don’t do that) or fling alliteration about all willy-nilly (the absolute worst), but writing and thinking like a song writer can help you feel present in your work. By weighing sound and subject, you can tell a story while setting a melody.

© 2016 Stellular Scribe

Music Mondays: Part XVII

Today’s theme: surrealism across genres!

A piece of writing is surreal when it is disorienting and dreamlike — kind of like a fantastic hallucination that feels strangely familiar yet undeniably alien. It transports you to a place that you can picture, but can never in your wildest fantasies imagine existing.

When I think of surreal literature, I think of classic writers like Edgar Allan Poe and modern authors such as Neil Gaiman and Haruki Murakami. Each of these writers practices his crafts in very different genres — from poetry and dark fantasy to science fiction and magical realism.

The following two playlists follow different moods, different tones, different genres. But both are rooted in the surreal, the otherworldly not-quite-thereness that captivates so many readers and writers.



Happy writing!:)

Music Mondays: Part XVI

In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde famously says that “those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty.

In writing, there is no ugly meaning — even if the meaning is to expose the ugliness of moral corruption and vanity. Exposing, revealing, and reflecting can in no way indicate an ugly purpose; in fact, by Wilde’s standards it would be considered a beautiful meaning because it is composed as art for the sake of art.

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.” This rings true for all art. A piece that deals with themes of depravity or devolution is not morally corrupt; it is quite noncombatant. Art serves as a narrator, a biographer of what the world might be or could be.

Allow this playlist to serve as your narrator. Find out what your writing might be.


Happy writing! 🙂

Music Mondays: Part XV

From the moody to the broody to the downright angsty, writing can come with a lot of er…darker moments. So what better way to fuel your somber tragedies than to listen to some equally somber playlists?


Ah, the apocalypse. Ash. Dust. Wandering around wastelands. Trying to build a civilization from the ground up takes a good deal of sweat, blood, and wayward emotions, and this gem of a playlist will be your righthand man the day after the end of the world.


So you think the apocalypse is bad? Ha. Ha. Ahaha. Try hell. With this playlist, the most dire fates of your most devious characters will be made fiery, fierce, and undeniably excruciating.


Happy writing!:)

 

 

Should Great Writers Steal?

You’ve probably heard the famous quote “good artists borrow, great artists steal” (commonly attributed to Pablo Picasso, but most likely originating from T.S. Eliot).

Before you sound the alarms, there is a world of difference between creatively copying and blatantly plagiarizing. Plagiarism, at least in the context of writing, is the act of taking another person’s work, word-for-word, and passing it off as one’s own. It is never acceptable, excusable, or, in the simplest of terms, ok.

What I like to call “creatively copying” would probably make more sense if I used the analogy of walking down an art museum hallway. You’re surrounded on all sides by splendidly crafted paintings of every era, of every classical artist. Clearly, these are all masterpieces. Then, just as you think you’ve seen it all, something catches your eye, something that stands out from the rest. For you, it might be the extraordinary pointillism in Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte or that singular, swirling gold moon in Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night.

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You find an element that speaks to you, and from there are inspired to create your own pointillistic piece or painting themed around that luminous, eternal moon.

I believe that the same principle applies to writing.

For example, I first read George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones three years ago. As I read, I kept coming across small, striking descriptions that arrested me with how vividly they popped off the page into my mental image of the story. Every time I found one of these extraordinary wordings I would dog-ear the page, and by the time I got to the middle of the book I realized that there were just too many gems to continue damaging the paper. So I started to write them down.

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This is just a small sample from my collection of descriptions.

What did I do with these phrases? Many remained untouched, isolated from their original sentences in the crumpled pages of my notebook. But I always kept them in the back of my mind, and as I was writing my novel I would suddenly remember the perfect pair of words for the perfect situation. I wouldn’t copy them directly, of course. “A reptile stare” became “a reptilian glare.” “Pale moon face” became “sunken, moon-shaped cheeks.” “Frog-faced” became “frog-like lips.”

I used the same technique for the rest of The Song of Ice and Fire series, and for many other books that stuck with me: Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind, Nicola Griffith’s Hild. They were just bite-sized, beautiful phrases, but one by one, they helped me to learn to look for remarkable qualities in simple descriptions.

I’m a firm believer that great writers must be great readers. And, by nature, a writer who reads is a writer who steals.

© 2016 Stellular Scribe

Music Mondays: Part XIV

Fantasy is uni-age. You can start it in the creche, and it follows you to death.

― Terry Pratchett

In honor of Terry Pratchett, I’ve hunted down some of my favorite instrumental fantasy mixes on 8tracks. These three playlists will take you from snow-capped mountains and veiled northern lights to the clink of mugs and smell of woodsmoke in a lonely tavern. As you write, follow the wise words of Mr. Pratchett: start in the creche, and strike your journey until death.


Happy writing!:)