Writing Prompts Booklet

Target One: Natural Voice

#1 Tell your life story in fifteen minutes.  Follow the writing wherever it goes.  Don’t worry about grammar.  Don’t stop writing for the whole fifteen minutes, even if you have to write your thoughts: “I remember being five years old, but now I forget what comes next, what I did the next year, maybe not too much so I’ll skip ahead to some other time, I remember middle school, that was a trip…”

If you run out of ideas, look at the list below, pick one and start writing about it.  When that one runs out, pick another.  Keep writing.

Best Friends   • Crushes   • Pets    • Injuries    • Bikes   •   Sports    • Hobbies     • Houses      • Vacations      • Schools    • Family       • Holidays  • Schools    Playgrounds   • Birthdays    • Deaths   •

Keep writing on the next page.

Keep writing.    If you run out of ideas, look at the list below, pick one and start writing about it.  When that one runs out, pick another. 

Best Friends   • Crushes   • Pets    • Injuries    • Bikes   •   Sports    • Hobbies     • Houses      • Vacations      • Schools    • Family       • Holidays  • Schools    Playgrounds   • Birthdays    • Deaths   •

Now, put your writing into a paragraph (or paragraphs) but keep your natural voice.  Maybe, focus on one aspect of your life. Or tell a summary of your life.  Whatever you do, start with a topic sentence the summarizes the paragraph and end with a concluding sentence.

For narratives in this class, you will type your final drafts in third-person.  What name will you use? 

Target Two: Sensory Details

#2  In the space below, list your favorite places (homes, parks, schools, yards, hang outs, vacation spots, rivers, lakes, beaches, rooms, etc):

CIRCLE ONE from your list.  This is the place you will write about today.

In the space below, sketch a picture of this place.  (Or freewrite about it.)

Imagine you’re there at a specific time of day and specific time of year.

What time of day:__________________________

What time of year:__________________________

Imagine you are standing still (or sitting) and look around at this specific place at a specific time of day and specific time of year.

If you reached down and pressed your palm to the ground, how would it feel?

(warm cement, cold grass, soft cool sand…)

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If you looked around what would you see?

(colors, contrasts, people, animals, trees, plants, buildings, clouds…)

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What might you hear?

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What might you smell?

(Think about the time of day and time of year)

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What might you taste?

On this page, Mr. Winch will guide you through a writing exercise.  You’ll be writing about the same place you just wrote about.  Fill the blanks:

What is the place?:______________________________

Where are you standing?______________________________

What time of day__________________________

What time of year__________________________

DESCRIPTIVE WRITING TIPS  by Winch

A) Stay focused. You have to transport the reader to a new place.  Have the point of view remain in one place so reader can settle into this new environment.  When you do move, start a new paragraph.  And don’t forget to stop again and describe with the five senses so the reader can catch up and absorb the setting. 

B) Focus on the five senses.  Get used to describing with the five senses so you can give a vivid image and still sound natural.  Sometimes, we can’t include all five senses, but try to do more than just sight.  Not everything has a taste, but if the reader can feel the heat of the flames and smell the leaves burning, she can almost taste it.

C) Show, don’t tell.  Don’t tell the readers that it’s December; instead let them catch the snowflakes on their tongues and feel the chill of the icicles melting in their hands, let them hear the jingle of the Christmas bells, cider bubbling in the pan.  Don’t tell them the season, let them taste the butter on the rolls and smell the eggnog in the cold glass. 

You can often identify when you’re telling instead of showing because the sentences contain a state-of-being verbs such as is, are, am, or was.  This is usually a bad sign.

D) Use the active voice.  Omit needless words.  As with the previous tip, state-of-being verbs (was, is, are) often reveal the passive voice.  Instead of saying There was a bunch of snow lying on the ground just say Snow covered the ground. This helps make your writing direct and convincing.  Less is more.  Also, avoid using the word not.  It was not very cold can be changed to It was warm.

       

E) Describe with action.  Don’t just say she has long dark hair.  Instead, brush her brown hair behind her ear. 

F) Use specific words instead of general ones.  Instead of talking about a car, talk about a ’69 Barracuda, the fresh paint cherry-red, the 340 Mopar rumbling under the hood.  Instead of a dog, talk about a black lab, or maybe a fuzzy brown ball of a mutt–the size of a football.

G)  Endings are important. If you have a good simile, put it at the end of the sentence so it stands out.  If you have a great sentence, make it stand out by putting it at the end of a paragraph.  And finish your piece with something strong.  Light the fuse; keep it burning.  Make sure the reader hears the wick sizzling, smells the gunpowder, feels the sparks.  End with a BANG.    

Rewrite the following sentences.  Work alone or with a partner.

  • It was around noon that summer day.   (Show don’t tell.)

———————————————————————————————————-

  I could tell that Sally was feeling sad.  That made me sad too.   (Show don’t tell.

———————————————————————————————————- 

There were a bunch of people knocking at the door.   (Use the active voice.) 

———————————————————————————————————-

The lemonade was not cold.  (Use the active voice.) 

———————————————————————————————————-

My friend walked his dog to the store. (Use specific words)

———————————————————————————————————-

The car was going down the street.  (Use specific words)

———————————————————————————————————————

Now, apply these concepts to your previous writing (page 8 – 9), both your own and your partner’s.

Targets Three and Four: Specific Details and Contrasts

In the space below, write a few examples of sharp contrasts: colors, temperatures, feelings, textures, weights, smells, and tastes.   (Example: blood on snow)

In the space below, make a list of water places.

#3 In the space below, make a list of memorable water places (beaches, docks, rope swings, fishing spots, swimming holes, rides at water parks, sprinklers, slip-n-slides, diving boards at swimming pools, hot tubs…).  Be specific.

Circle one from your list, and make it into a specific setting–a specific place (try to imagine one square foot of space) at a specific time (year, time of year, time of day).    

Specific Place:

Year:

Time of year:

Time of day:

Your age at this setting:

Write this specific setting as a sentence.  Make sure it has a specific place, specific time of year, and specific time of day (or night).

EXAMPLE: I’m standing ankle deep in the Lake Michigan at Lonely Beach in South Haven, Michigan in the early evening in late June in 1978.

——————————————————————————————————–

Sketch a picture of this setting.  Include yourself in the picture, standing or sitting a specific place but not yet in the water.  And/or freewrite about this setting.

Write this specific setting as a sentence again.  Make sure it has a specific place, specific time of year, and specific time of day (or night).   This time, also make sure it has your age at this time.

Example: I am 17 years old, standing on the end of the dock at Indian Lake, in the early evening on July 4th in 1978.

Imagine you’re at this place.  Imagine you’re standing still, or sitting. You press your bare foot into the ground.  HOW DOES THE GROUND FEEL?  Think about the weather and the time of day.  Is it cold, warm, soft, hard.  Write this as a sentence: I press my bare foot (or toes)…

WHAT DO YOU SEE?  Imagine standing still the whole time.  What color is the sky?  Who do you see?  What are they wearing, saying, and doing?  What buildings do you see?  What plants and animals?  Do you see any contrasts, something dark against something light, oak tree against a blue sky, white clothes on tanned skin?

WHAT DO YOU HEAR?  What’s the main sound?  And what are the far-off sounds?  Do the sounds have something to do with the time of year, or the weather?  Is someone talking?  What are they saying?  If you hear music, where is it coming from, what song is it?

HOW DO YOU FEEL? How do you feel inside your belly?  What do you feel on your skin?

WHAT DO YOU SMELL? Be specific.  Don’t say you smell breakfast; instead say you smell bacon.  Think about the time of day and time of year, what would you smell, firecrackers, the sun baking the asphalt? WHAT DO YOU TASTE?

On this page, Mr. Winch will guide you through a writing exercise again.  You’ll be writing about the water place from the previous page.

Look through today’s writing and make sure you’ve used specific words rather than general ones.  Also make sure you’ve included contrasts, or add contrasts.

# 4 Homes.  List the memorable houses from your life (homes, relative houses, friends’ houses, etc.) 

Circle one and draw a picture of it and/or free write about it.

Stand still in a specific place and describe with the five senses, including touching the ground with your hand or bare feet.

#5 Cars and trucks.  List all the cars and trucks from your life (family, friends.) 

Circle one and draw a picture of it and/or free write about it.

Stand still looking at the car or truck and describe with the five senses. 

Then, starting a new paragraph, open a specific door and sit in a specific seat and again describe with the five senses, reaching out and touching something–radio, dash, rolling down window, etc. 

For the third paragraph, take us for a ride down specific streets and sights, and ending at a specific place.

#6 Rooms.  List all the favorite rooms from your life (bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms, basements, tree houses, forts, classrooms.)  Circle one. Stand, sit, lean, or lay down at a specific spot in the room and describe with the five senses.  Use specifics and details so that the reader knows the setting (place, time of day, time of year) without being told.

#7 List all the things you’ve owned with wheels–bikes, dirt bikes, scooters, tricycles, Big Wheels, toy cars, skateboards, quads.

Circle one. Stand still a specific setting (place, time of year, time of day) and describe with the five senses. 

Then, starting a new paragraph, jump on it and describe the colors and feelings of the parts of the vehicle you’re touching…I wrap my gloved hands around the rubber grips, kick up the kickstand. 

For the third paragraph, take us for a ride down specific streets and sights, and ending at a specific place. 

#8 What are your favorite holidays?  Write down all the words that come to mind when you think of this season and this holiday.  Next, imagine you’re standing still at one specific place.  Tell a story.  Describe with the five senses.

#9 Sketch (and/or describe with words) yourself in the evening, on the Fourth of July, 2016 (or whatever would be the first summer after graduating from high school).  Where are you standing?  Where are you living?

  

Sketches show visuals, but…What SOUNDS would hear in this time/place in the future:

What SMELLS and TASTES (wind on your arm, growl in your belly…):

What FEELINGS?   What are your thoughts?  What are your plans for the rest of the summer and the rest of your life?

Write a story about July 4, 2016:

10) Sketch (and/or describe with words) yourself in the year 2029.  It’s Friday evening at 5:30 PM, in the beginning of the fall. How old are you?  What state or country are you living in?  Are you driving home from work?  Where do you work?  Do you have a spouse and/or children at home?  Maybe you’re headed out for the night.  Where are you going?  What are you driving?  A brand-new 2030 Chevy Nova? Does it fly?  Does it run on gas?  Or an old 2020 Mercury with 300,000 miles on it?  How has the world changed and how does that affect your life?  What are you wearing?  How does your hair look?  How do you communicate? 

  

What SOUNDS would hear in this time/place in the future:

What SMELLS and TASTES (wind on your arm, growl in your belly…):

What FEELINGS?

Write a story about 2029:

HOW TO WRITE A POEM from your narratives  by COACH WINCH.

1) Copy and paste your narrative so you have two versions, version A and version B.

2) With version B, put each sentence into a line

I am standing on the sidewalk in front of my grandparents’ house on a sunny July day.

My grandma is in the kitchen cooking some lunch, making some salsa.

While she cooks some mole with chicken, she turns on a radio and sings along to Mariachi songs.

Now that I’m in the United States, I miss this place, the smell of my grandma’s salsa and looking at the window while my grandpa is looking out.

3) Make further line divisions, slowing the reader and creating rhythms, typically making each line just one thing or one action.

I am standing on the sidewalk

in front of my grandparents’ house

on a sunny July day.

My grandma

is in the kitchen

cooking some lunch,

making some salsa.

While she cooks some mole with chicken,

she turns on a radio

and sings along to Mariachi songs.

Now that I’m in the United States,

I miss this place, the smell of my grandma’s salsa

and looking at the window

while my grandma is looking out.

4) Get rid of more lines so only the best remain. It’s like cooking a steak.  Cut out the fat until it’s just a few juicy bites.  (And make sure the last line is a great–perhaps the best.)

My grandma

in the kitchen

making some salsa

she turns on a radio

and sings along to Mariachi songs.

Now that I’m in the United States,

I miss this place,

the smell of my grandma’s salsa

and looking at the window

while my grandma is looking out

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