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Sunday, November 1, 2009


"There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

I think that perhaps the worse crime is not writing them. How many of us have so many ideas for stories to write, but when we sit down (or maybe even before we get to the chair), something stops us? Sometimes, it’s a lack of ideas for how to get started. “What do I write?” is a common thought for some of us.

On the other hand, there are some great prompts out there! The internet is a terrific tool – in fact, my personal theory is that it was developed by writers. Don’t laugh! Where else can you go that’s a data repository of all the weird, wild, and wonderful facts you could desire? Where else can you go to procrastinate so productively? Where else can you go to publish blogs, and tweets, and facebooks, not to mention websites, myspaces, and all the other accumulated outpourings of a people who must, simply, write?

So, what do I write?

Let’s share some ideas in this column and develop, over time, a basket of prompt ideas so that we never have to sit, answerless, after asking that question.

To begin:

You are a thirty-year-old woman. You are wearing black. You are in New York’s Central Park. It is six o’clock. Who are you and what are you doing?

Describe a natural setting, a park or a forest, in as great a detail as you can. Strive for at least two pages of description, using all the senses, not just sight – what do you hear? Smell? Can you taste anything from the air, or perhaps a stem of grass? Do you feel anything, heat, a breeze? Do you ‘sense’ anything like menace? Joy? A sense of general foreboding that nothing in the scene immediately makes apparent, but is nonetheless clear to you?

Sniff a bottle of perfume, either someone else’s – a spouse or lover, roommate, or even a coworker. Close your eyes and inhale the scent. Now write.

What are your favorite prompts? Share them with us! We’d love to know!

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