Every writing teacher (and every writer, for that matter) will tell you that it’s far more important to write often than to write a lot. So I’m challenging you all to turn the miserable, wet month of March into a time to sit down for a half hour or an hour every day and write a really short piece of fiction. I’m going to give you some help with ideas, of course, but you’re definitely welcome to participate by writing whatever you like. It’s totally up to you. Feel free to send me a message if you’d like to get some advice on your writing or your process. Otherwise, good luck and happy writing. Don’t feel too bad if you can’t make it work every day. Just do it as often as you can — if 31 pieces takes you six months, so be it, you’ll still be proud of yourself for getting it done!
March is a curious month — in the northern hemisphere, it’s most certainly well into the category of winter but we feel it should be spring. It’s an escape from the pain of wind and rain and snow that February brought. But it’s just fiction in most places and those where it’s actually a pleasant experience outdoors, it probably wasn’t bad in January when you think about it. In honor of March as a confused and artificial time, I propose that we think of it as an excuse to write fiction every day. We’re holding it as fiction in our minds and our conversations anyway so why not use it as an excuse to become more prolific writers?
What I’m proposing is this. Each day, we write something short. Really short. Like a thousand words kind of short. Of course, you can (and I might well) write two, five, ten times that if you feel up to it. But there’s no pressure to write even a typical-length short story, much less something extended. And write on anything you like. Pick a new thought every day and run with it. Just write a short work of fiction. This isn’t exactly “flash fiction” since those are usually so short they’re meaningless and poorly executed, giving up detail just to make the things fit on a page or two. But that’s the idea.
I’ll give you three lists to help but don’t feel like you have to follow these as if they were rules. They’re just things to use as starting points if you can’t think of anything. The first list is topics — they’re just items and ideas that might be useful to create a story around. The second list is prompts, the kind of thing I give in my writing classes to start people off. The third list is comparison questions — sometimes I find that thinking of your own position on an issue helps to create and pin down what a character thinks about it. Anyway, there are thirty-one of each of them, one for each day. Again I say, though, these aren’t assignments, just things that might help you if you need a boost to get started.
If there’s anything I can do to help you get writing, of course, you can certainly send me an email. I’m always happy to help people get more into creative writing. Teaching this is, after all, my day-job. And I love it.
You wake up in the back seat of a car parked in a forest clearing and it’s dark outside.
You are staring up at the moon. It’s afternoon. You’re on the grass.
You taste something sweet and look down to find a scoop of ice cream melting in your hand.
You smell burning toast but you know you’re alone in the house.
You walk out of the changing room to find that the entire store is empty and an alarm is sounding.
You hear automatic weapons fire in the distance.
You desperately need to urinate but you’re on a bus on the highway and you don’t know when the next stop will be or where it is.
You’re walking through the woods with a basket but you can’t remember where you’re going or what’s inside it.
You open an envelope and a cloud of white powder explodes into your face.
The hat you just got for Christmas really is too big.
A stranger grabs your hands in hers in the street and there is blood gushing from her wrists.
You feel like you’re falling but you’re sitting on the couch.
You are wearing a wedding ring but you can’t remember getting married.
Your phone rings and it’s one of your relatives on the other end but they passed away years ago.
You are looking down at the ocean but you can’t decide whether to walk into the waves.
You can’t remember anything after your sixth birthday party.
Your train has stopped between stations. It’s been an hour and nobody in your car knows why.
It’s become dark outside suddenly but you’re sure it’s only one in the afternoon and there’s not supposed to be an eclipse today.
You run your hand through your hair only to discover that you are completely lacking in hair.
You are walking home through the park and a violent electrical storm suddenly begins.
You are sitting in class and look down at your watch. You suddenly realize it’s on the wrong wrist and you know you didn’t put it there.
The sky is falling.
You hear dogs in the distance howling. It’s getting louder by the minute.
You have a single chrysanthemum in your hand.
You look in the mirror only to discover that, while your outfit is completely unremarkable, you’re wearing a red clown nose.
You’re in the shower and the water suddenly stops. When you look out the bathroom door, the power is out and there’s complete silence.
You’re surprisingly certain the person sitting next to you on the bus is Jesus.
Your hands are tied together with ribbon.
The words on the page in front of you are written in a script you have never seen before.
You’re shocked awake by the flash of a camera.
You step into the airport and you’re in the wrong country.
These are not prompts in the traditional sense. It’s not something to write about but something to ask from the perspective of your character. These are slightly less direct than traditional writing prompts but more involved than single-idea topics. They’re not meant to give you something to write about but a way to get inside the mind of a character whose story you can develop. There’s no right answer — sometimes one will be clear, other times it may be both, neither or some combination. Your characters are as complex as you want them to be.