It Happened When I was Out Running Errands: Fiction Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #70

I ran errands all afternoon yesterday. I went to a bookstore, a big box store, an office supply store (I love anything related to paper), a restaurant, and a grocery story. I bought: a new Laurie King novel, a cake plate for a wedding gift, a weekly planner, lunch, and groceries (lots of fruits and veggies and some dark chocolate, chocolate chips).


Dream up a character that has to run some errands. Think of at least four places he or she might need to go. Get out a piece of paper and list your four destinations at the top. On the top half of the paper, underneath each destination, brainstorm the kinds of things that could be purchased at that store. On the lower half of the paper, underneath each destination, list the kinds of people or incidents your character could encounter at each location. Go wild. An incident can be as sweet as bumping into your Great Aunt Angie, discovering her cat is missing, and agreeing to come over to her house and help her find it or as wild as blue-eyed zombies addicted to red licorice raiding all the stores in town in search for more.

Once you have filled your brainstorm paper with intriguing possibilities, choose one item each from at least three columns and use these three ideas to inspire a story.


Write your story. Remember to hook your reader by having your main character encounter something puzzling or challenging at the beginning of the story. Include conflict, dialogue, and action. Build the story to a crisis point where a decision must be made or action taken that brings about some sort of resolution—be it good or bad, tragic or sublime, and establish a new normal for your character at the end.

Edit and revise as needed.


When done, read what you’ve written with your writing partners. Compliment one another on the effectiveness of the dialogue and conflict, and the vividness of the settings and scenes.  Share your story as a comment. Though I returned safely from my trek all over town, I am curious to learn what fate befell you characters.


Write a Story with a Focus on Plot, Characterization, and Setting: Play With Your Words Art Prompt #8

I am grateful for the many friends I’ve made through SCBWI Oregon. This month’s art prompt features the work of one of them.

Examine the picture below.

Johnny Raven has gathered a lot of objects in his nest. Choose one object that intrigues you, and write a story about that object and how it came to be part of Johnny’s collection. You might consider how it was made, who made it, who owned it before Johnny, or why Johnny had access to it.

Remember, among the elements of fiction a story needs are plot and conflict, characters to play out the action, and a setting.

When you are done writing your story, revise it to strengthen the plotting, characterization, and setting then share it with your writing partners. Compliment each other on the strengths in the writing and things you liked.

Together, evaluate each story for the various elements of fiction and brainstorm ways to improve it:

  • Does your plot begin with an inciting incident that creates a conflict that needs to be resolved?
  • Do/does the characters/character try to resolve it and meet with obstacles?
  • Does the story reach a climax where action must be taken?
  • Is there some sort of resolution to the story, be it positive or negative?
  • Did you create original characters to play out your plot?
  • Did you show what your characters are like through what they think, say, and do?
  • Does the story take place in a real imagined environment?
  • Do you utilize all the senses in your depictions of place, objects, etc.?

Take your time with this assignment. Work on it, put it away, and get it out to work on it again. Due to the holiday weekend, there will be no new writing prompt next Friday. Enjoy using the extra time to really make your story shine.


Johnny Raven was created by Barbara Herkert. To view more of her artwork, go to

Preschool Literacy:

Sit down with your little one at the computer and show him or her the picture prompt. Identify some of the things in Johnny’s nest.

Open up a word processing file somewhere on the screen where both of you can see both picture and page.

Now ask you preschooler to tell you a story about how Johnny got one the things in his nest. Key it in as the child tells it.

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

Print out the story and, together, make your own pictures for it.

Play With Your Words Art Prompt #4: Midnight Chicken

Whose chicken is this and what is she doing out on her own in the night?

Write a story or scene to accompany this painting, “Midnight Chicken,” by Liz Collins.

Does she possess an odd quirk of character that sends her out exploring alone by moonlight? How will her little expedition end?

Share your chicken story with your writing partners. Compliment the strengths and whatever delights you in each others’ creations.

If you are working with a pre-reader/writer, ask the child to tell you the story and record what he says. Then read it back to her, pointing to each word as you read to reinforce the correspondence between the written and spoken word.

Share your writing here as a comment. I would love to see your chicken tale.

And if you are interested in seeing more of the wonderful art created by Liz Collins, check out her webpage,, and enjoy her whimsical, multi-media work.