Writing Exercise 7 – Extremely short stories

Prompt: Write a complete story of 55 words or less. The point of the exercise is economy of word use and building a scenario with minimal setup.

The door-to-door evangelist stumbled back off the porch steps and fell into a mud hole. The last sight that filled his eyes was impossible, a multi-armed man with an elephant’s head charging in fury.

His last thought was to curse his dyslexia one final time. He thought the sign said, “Beware of dog.”

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Roadblocks – Part II: Once X happens, I’ll write!

This isn’t just a roadblock to writing. This type of thinking can prevent you from accomplishing all sorts of goals. The world is full of would-be writers who are certain they have a novel in them once the kids graduate, or once they have more time to themselves from work, or any number of excuses. I’ll share a secret with you that I’ve discovered over time the hard way. There will always be reasons not to write or accomplish other dreams. Once the kids graduate, you’ll decide to downsize and move. Once you do that, you’ll spend time fixing up the new place, and so on.

Don’t wait. If you want to write and it’s a goal that means something to you, then make time in your schedule to do it regularly. If you can only manage an hour here or an hour there every day, then start there. Find ways to budget your time. Enlist friends and loved ones to help keep you on track with your goals. Explain that you need time free of distractions. Set up call and e-mail free times with friends and family. Create an office space in your house, however small, where you can work without interruptions.

Then do it. No excuses. The only way you’ll improve is by practice, and the only way you’ll succeed is by having completed works, submitting them, and being persistent.  It’s like that CCR song title says. “Someday never comes.” Make today the day you take the first step toward your dream, and once you start, keep going. There is no better time than now, and there never will be. I have written through emergency home repairs, full-time jobs, and am currently writing through a cross-country move. I am finally starting to see some small successes in getting paid for my work. I am determined to have more.

None of it would have been possible if I kept waiting.

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Writing Exercise 6 – Finding Inspiration

Prompt: Visit a garage sale or vintage store and focus on an unusual treasure that reveals something about its owner. Focus on the history of this object. Invent the history behind stains, nicks, dents, and other defects.

The old man almost looked like he was just sleeping, lying across his bed like that with his boot toes pointed skyward. Evan shook his head and rubbed at the messy curls across the back of his neck. Superstitious to the end, but at least he got what he wanted. He died with his boots on.

He was a little at a loss. Was there anyone to call? The old man had never said much about his past and didn’t talk at all about family. All Evan knew for sure was that he was from Big Sky Country–he was fond of saying it just like that–and that maybe he had worked a ranch. The boots were scuffed enough for it. Whatever finish the leather once had was now worn down and soft, creased in so many places it was hard to tell what was damage and what was part of the grain. Evan saw a hole in the right sole just beneath the ball of the foot, patched with something inside. He didn’t want to try to take it off to find out what. He was pretty sure moving a body around was tampering with evidence, or something like that.

He called 911 and then waited for someone to arrive. He only poked around a little with what was sitting out, an old, beat up moleskin journal filled mostly with lists, bill details, and a few little personal notes here and there about the weather or how the old man’s knee felt that day, his wallet, which was thin and had no credit cards, and a small stack of faded pictures with people dressed in 1960’s styles. One of them might have been the old man. If so, he had changed a lot.

The police arrived first, then the coroner. Evan stayed out of their way and answered their questions. Yes, he owned the property, no, he wasn’t next of kin, no, he didn’t know who was. When they wheeled the old man out on a gurney in a body bag, Evan looked around the place again. Strange how it didn’t feel all that empty without the old man, as though he had just been passing through. Evan thought maybe that was appropriate for a man wanting to die with his boots on. It’d be a shame to bury him in them. It was a good pair of boots.

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Writing Exercise 5 – A spark word exercise

In The Writer’s Block, spark words are one or two words accompanied by a photo meant to inspire a story. You can go off the word, the picture, or both, and it doesn’t have to be a literal interpretation. It’s just meant to get the creative juices flowing.

Spark word: P.O.W.

He didn’t like war stories. When his buddies came over and got to drinking, the stories would start, each more outrageous than the last. That’s the only time I can remember my larger than life uncle getting quiet. Sometimes the guys would notice and nudge each other, shoot significant looks, and the subject would change to red haired Gina with the gams for miles, or that catfishing trip that ended with Walter sticking his arm down a hole and coming out of it with two hundred stings and a new, healthy respect for ground wasps.

I asked my Mom about it. “Well, you know, honey, of course he wouldn’t like to talk about it. We thought he was dead for eight months, but they had him. The Germans.”

I didn’t have enough history under my belt to get it, not really, so all I knew of p.o.w. camps for a long time was a furtive, haunted look in eyes I was used to seeing filled with laughter, and by the time I had the context, I was afraid to ask. As far as I know, he went to his grave with those memories unspoken, letting that chapter in his life truly die, a dark shadow in his bright light.

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