Play With Your Words #85: More Fortune Cookie Writers’ Prompts

searchToday my husband and I had lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant, “China Faith.” If you live in Salem, Oregon, or visit Salem, Oregon, it’s the best! It’s located on North Lancaster.

As usual, when done (and the servings are so large I brought some home to take to work for lunch tomorrow) I eagerly waited for our bill and fortune cookies. Why? Because fortune cookies provide great writing prompts.

Here is mine for today: “An alien of some sort will be appearing to you shortly!” (The exclamation point came with the fortune.) Hmmm. Do a smell a science fiction or fantasy story brewing here?

My husbands: “Be generous, and the favor will be returned within the week.” Again, oodles of story possibilities.

Try one of these out and enter your title and a short summary of your story in the comments. I’d love to see what these prompts inspire.


Write a Scene, Nautical or Otherwise: Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #82

The boat slowly pulled away from the shore…


What could happen next? Brainstorm a list of possibilities and pick the one you like best.


Write a scene for a story beginning with the words, “The boat slowly pulled away from the shore…”

Remember, a scene features characters acting out their story. Be sure to include:

  • a setting
  • conflict (character vs. character, character vs. self, or character vs. the environment)
  • dialogue
  • the thoughts of the point of view character.


When done, revise and edit what you’ve written. Be sure you include plenty of sensory imagery to lend your scene an air of reality. Now read your scene to your writing partners. Compliment one another on the strengths of your setting, conflict, characterization, and dialogue.

Please feel free to share your scene here as well. I am eager to discover whether your characters are setting off on an adventure or watching a loved one depart. Either way, I’d love to read your scene.

Wonderful Words on: Speculative Fiction

I love speculative fiction. (Why else would I write folk tales, historical fantasy, and YA/MG fantasy.

Strange Horizons is an online magazine that features both speculative fiction and articles about the speculative fiction genre. I loved this quote from their “About” page:

Speculative fiction has a vibrant and radical tradition of stories that can make us think, can critique society, can offer alternatives to reality. Speculative fiction stories help us to understand our past and imagine our future. They show us how it could be otherwise, for better or worse.

In case you want to check Strange Horizons out, here’s their home page.

Plot the Myth of a Word or Name: Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #76


Get out paper and a pen or pencil and brainstorm words or names that you like or that intrigue you for 1-5 minutes (enough to generate a good-sized list) . For example, on a road trip I saw a sign for a city named Appledore. I carried that name around in my head for a number of years before it appeared in a novel I was working on. One year at graduation, I discovered one of my student’s middle names was Lillianna. That stuck with me. I love the words serendipity, gleaming, sparkle, and sunlight. Any of these could be a viable candidate for my list.

After you have generated your list, choose one word or name from it and jot down some ideas for how this word or name could have come into existence.


Now plot a story explaining how this word or name came into existence. Remember a good plot contains:

  1. A beginning–a brief introduction to who the main character is and the initial circumstances or situation in which he or she exists. (This usually includes some depiction of the setting.)
  2. An inciting incident—some problem or challenge that intrudes on the main character’s “normal” life.
  3. Rising Action/Conflict—attempts, failures, and learning experiences the main character takes part in while trying to resolve the problem/challenge.
  4. A climax—one last trial the main character faces where he or she must make a decision that will change his or her life forever.
  5. A denouement—where the consequences of the character’s choice play out.
  6. An End—showing the main character experiencing a “new normal”—and in the  case of this writing prompt, the audience understanding how the word or name that is the subject of the story came into being.

After devising your plot plan, write one page of a scene from your story and revise as needed.


When done, read what you’ve written to your writing partners (both the plot plan and the scene to accompany it) or share these here as a comment. Compliment one another on how well the basics of plot were included in the tale. And of course, tell the author what you liked or what delighted you in each tale.

Have fun on this plotting adventure!

Descriptive Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #56: Three Wishes


  • List three wishes you would like to make.
  • Get out a piece of paper and divide it into three sections.
  • At the top of each section, write one of the wishes.
  • Within each section doodle, list words, make outlines or timelines, even stick figure comics that will help you to imagine what it would be like if that wish were to come true.


  • Pick just one of the wishes.
  • Circle or highlight ideas you want to use.
  • Describe in detail what it would be like if that wish were to come true.
  • Practice being descriptive—using specific nouns and verbs, using precise adjectives when needed
  • Craft a setting and mood in which your description will take shape.
  • Proofread.

When done, read what you’ve written with your writing partners or share as a comment:

  • Consider how easy or difficult it is to envision your partners descriptions.
  • Note the use of sensory detail: sight, sound, taste, smell, touch.
  • Compliment one another on the vividness of your descriptions.

Preschool Literacy:

Get out writing materials.

Ask your preschooler what she would wish for if she could wish for three things.

Divide a piece of paper into thirds and list one of each thing in each section.

Ask the child to tell you a bit about each thing. Allow him the opportunity to draw a picture of each.

Ask: If you could only choose one wish, which one would you want to come true?

Get a new piece of paper and write this wish across the top.

Ask your preschooler to describe what it would be like if this wish were to be granted.

Write down what she says. Ask further questions like:

  • What will you do with it?
  • What does it look like, sound like, et cetera?
  • What happens next?

When you are done, read back what he or she has said, pointing to the words as you say them to reinforce the one to one correspondence between written and spoken word.

Imaginary Traveler Pre-Write: Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #53

Stretch your “pre-writing” muscles with today’s exercise. Choose an object from the list below or imagine one uniquely your own that might travel or be “carried away”:

  • A bottle in a river or on the ocean
  • A feather or scrap of paper in the wind
  • A small insect or animal on a ship, or in an airplane, or on a truck
  • An object left on a bus, train, or a plane

Web your ideas for the journey this object might take and the ways it would interact with people, animals, or its environment along the way. Do not limit the ideas you put down; this is an idea generating exercise. Remember, you don’t have to use every plot point you come up with. You just want a good selection of ideas to support your story of adventure.

Look over your web and decide how you want your story to start. (Keep going and figure out how you want your story to proceed and end if you want to.) Write the opening paragraphs of this travelogue.

When done, share your web and read what you’ve written with your writing partners or post them here as a comment. Compliment one another on the creativity and twistiness of the plot ideas. Brainstorm more adventures for each other’s webs.

Have fun imagining a tale of wonder, excitement, and adventure.

NaNoWriMo: The 2011 Challenge

This summer, I decided I would participate in NaNoWriMo this year. What’s NaNoWriMo? It’s both an oraganization that promotes and the actual act of taking part in National Write a Novel in a Month month.

Up until just a week or so ago, I was VERY excited. I planned to write the rough draft of a novel for which I’ve been gathering ideas for several years. (Maybe more than several?) Recently, say the last two years, I’ve been living in Revision World, focusing on revisioning and preparing for submissions novels I had previously been content to stuff in drawers so I could just write another one. But this November, I decided, I would let myself write something new.

Then a funny thing happened. Week by week, day by day, as November 1 has approached—Day 1 of NaNoWriMo— frantic thoughts flash through my mind. “Am I ready? I haven’t developed the character of my protagonist yet! I haven’t done enough world-building! I haven’t made a map—a massively time-killing, awfully fun activity! Yikes! Just one week to go!”

Now here I sit, less than 1 week to go and I’m wondering, “Can I do it? Do I have enough ideas? Can I do a good job?”

Why do I keep forgetting that I usually write my rough drafts in four to six weeks? Why should I feel troubled that I might not get it done by the end of November? Do I have some kind of vindictive boss standing over me with a whip? Have I ever not finished a novel I started and believed in?

Silly, silly me.

I’m going to participate in NaNoWriMo, but a good friend has reminded me quality writing is not quantity of pages finished in x amount of time. Can I write my rough draft in a month? Maybe.

Do I need to beat myself up is I don’t? Nope.

First and foremost I need to serve the story. If I can finish my rough draft in a month, great. If I don’t, it’s not like I can’t keep working on it December 1 and any day I wish thereafter.

Thus, I am at last ready to embark on the writing adventure of NaNoWriMo, and the only thing that matters is that I stay true to my vision for the novel and enjoy the journey.

What about you? Anyone out there going to try their hand at NaNoWriMo?

Tell Me a Good Dog Story: Play With Your Words Art Prompt #7

What’s this pair up to, and who are their furry friends?

Write a story about these dogs. It can be from the dogs’ point of view, an owner’s point of view, their toys’ point of view, or anyone else’s.

When done, share what you’ve written with your writing partners. Compliment the strengths in one another’s writing. Share what you enjoyed most about the story. And please, share your story as comment. Who knows? You may inspire someone else to give it a try.

Preschool Literacy:

Show your preschooler the picture of the dogs on your computer screen.

Ask your child to tell you a story about them. Help him to get started if he needs it. Type out the story as she dictates it. When you are done, read back what he or she has said, pointing to the words on the screen as you say them to reinforce the one to one correspondence between written and spoke word.

For fun, print out the picture and the story and post them somewhere others can enjoy them.

This picture was featured in the Martha Stewart Pets/PetSmart ad in the October 2011 issue of Ladies Home Journal.

Best Book of August

It’s the end of August and I’ve only finished reading two books! In my defense they were both very long, and I’m reading two others as well which I just haven’t finished.

So—drum roll, please—the best book I’ve read this month was Alison Croggon’s The Crow. I tell you, this series has me by the throat!

Although The Crow features a different set of protagonists from the previous two novels, I loved these characters just as much, and their story is gripping.

If you haven’t checked out Croggon’s “Books of Pelinor,” I recommend you get to it. Start with The Naming. You’ll be caught up with me in no time!

Play With Your Words #39: A Birthday Party for Someone you Love

Today is my oldest son Jeremiah’s birthday. Over the years he’s had a lot of fun birthday parties. Some of the most memorable included a big splash contest in my parents’ pool and a food fight in our back yard… (Deck the boughs with strands of pasta, tra-la-la-la-la tra-la-la-la.)

It’s fun to plan a party, be it a child’s, a grandchild’s, or my mother’s seventieth.

Think of someone you love and dream up a fantastic birthday bash you wish you could throw for them. Money, even reality, is no object. Write out the party like a scene from a novel. Include dialogue, setting, characters—guests and the guest of honor.

When you are done, share your party with your writing partners. Compliment  the strengths you see in each others’ writing. Particularly note vivid details and original thinking.

If you are working with a preschooler, ask him to choose a guest of honor he loves and tell you about the party he would give. Write down all she says.

When you are done, read back what he dictated, pointing to the words as you say them to reinforce the one-to-one-correspondence between the written and spoke word.

And please, share your parties as comment. Who knows what the next party I throw will look like with a little inspiration from you?