This month, I have the privilege of teaching in the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, a non-profit started by Masha Hamilton, a dear friend (and wonderful novelist!). I’m giving the students a writing prompt each Monday, and, as I’m trying to find my own way into a new novel, I plan to do the prompts myself. And thought I’d also share them here for 1st Books readers who might like to jump start their writing, too. This also gives me an excuse to draw some attention to this wonderful organization; do read the blog of their writings – these women have amazing stories to tell, and so appreciate your comments. If you’re a writing teacher, consider volunteering, and if you have some spare change around, consider making a donation. Happy writing! – Meg
I started to say good morning, everyone, but then I realized it is evening for you: we are truly on opposite sides of the world. I hope you have had a good day, and now that I have focused on the time difference I will try in the future to put up the week’s prompt Sunday night before I go to bed.
For this week, if you would like a place to start, try this four paragraph exercise. Write each paragraph before reading the description for the next paragraph:
1. Look closely at one physical feature of a friend or a loved one – their eyes, perhaps, or perhaps the dip in their throat or the curve of their ankle, the veins on their hands. Describe that feature for a full paragraph.
2. Write a second paragraph expanding your description to explain how that feature reflects what kind of person they are.
3. Now pick something you do not like about yourself and imagine them having that feature. Write a third paragraph describing that feature as part of them.
4. And write a fourth imagining how that new trait might reflect something about them that you have not yet realized.
Done? If you are, read on. If not, got back and finish! For me, starting any writing is the hardest part – which is why I love writing prompts. And finishing is the second hardest.
This exercise has several purposes. One of them is that in writing both fiction and nonfiction it is often hard for us to remember that our heros are more interesting if they are imperfect. So I hope you will see that adding an imperfection makes the character you are describing more interesting rather than less.
It also prompts us toward two things that are very important to writing: trying to understand those around us more completely, and better coming to know ourselves.
I am so looking forward to reading your writing! I hope it goes well.