Wednesday Writing Prompts XVI

1. Come up with an ingenious way to make the world a better place. Think about some of the unique ways that waste can be turned into usable material (consider piezoelectric floors in a subway terminal to generate electricity or some kind of inflatable automated facility that purifies water through natural forces and channels it to those in need) and then write a story that incorporates this brilliant idea. In truth, it doesn’t even have to be limited to our world or our problems (think “cloudy with a chance of meatballs” ) and as such, you could take the idea to some really incredible heights. Experiment, have fun, and see what comes to you.

2. Science is an ever-evolving machine of human intellect. Consider for a moment, how far we’ve come since the days when man thought the sun revolved around the earth, when doctors believed that health was governed by the four humours, and Einstein made the statement that nothing could travel faster than light. (We now know that radio waves, among other things, can be made to do so.) Consider a barrier, a theory, a “magic” or anything else that stands today with the staunch support of people with degrees or titles. Now, write a story about how that thing is either proved, reworked (as a new theory) or thrown out altogether. It can be dramatic, fun, or be played out in any other way. Feel free to name toss– Einstein, Sagan, Hawking, James Randi, Oral Roberts, the Pope– have fun, make it real, and topple some giants with possibilities that would leave the men in the know utterly speechless.

3. Usually when we say “mankind” or refer to the “men” that do something, we use it ambiguously. The people referred to as “the men” could be male, female, hermaphrodic, alien, or anything else other than “men.” Sometimes when people notice this, it irks them. Now, considering all this, write a story that addresses these points or at least incorporates them. How would, say, asexual amazon bodyguards of a diplomat from Alpha Centauri respond to being referred to as the diplomat’s “men”? Would they even care?

4. Growing up, you probably heard the saying “When I was a kid, we had to walk to school and it was uphill both ways!” or some other derivative of it. Sticking with the humorous nature of this statement, write the story of what it was like “back then.” What did you have to get along without? A great one of these I heard once was: “When I was a kid we didn’t have feet, we had to walk to school on our hands!” Even if you never show it to anyone, have fun with it. Use it as a chance to practice, relax, and most of all, have a blast. It might give you something to tell your grandkids someday.

5. Thinking about the previous prompt from a different angle, consider what life was really and truly like say... fifty years ago (or more.) What would happen to the average, hat-backwards, low hanging pants, rap-loving young adult of today if he or she were suddenly shifted backwards in time to that point? One great thing that comes to mind is the leniency of the school system today toward students (but not teachers). Fifty years ago, corporal punishment and pop essays were ways that order was kept in the schools, but in the education system of today, even teachers who do not stick 100% to their syllabus are fired and blacklisted the moment a student complains. The generation of today has been referred to as the “entitlement generation.” How would that sense of entitlement work out for them in say, the twenties?

6. Pick up a book. Any book. It could be a random book, the nearest book to you, you’re favorite book, or just a plain old dictionary. Now, open it up to about three quarters of the way through. Pick the eighth word (or the last word on the page) and write it down. Now work backwards by eyeballed tenths of the distance between that page and the start. Do the same thing (Write down the eighth word). Now, look at the words you’ve got on the page (for me, it was: “Things, velvet, horrors, seldom, less, significance, mankind, Brown’s, Dunwich, and putrid.”) and rearrange them until they speak to you, until you can see the seed of a story within them. Now, write that story.

7. Go out dancing, even if it’s only by yourself (especially if it’s only by yourself!) and do things you wouldn’t normally do (that aren’t against the law, etc.) If you’re normally quiet and shy, be someone else for the night, give a different name, and play the role of someone who is an extrovert in the extreme. On the other hand, if you’re normally an extrovert, take on the role of someone quiet and shy. Sit in the corner and truly experience what it is like to feel the grip of fear holding your feet to the floor like concrete and steel. Whatever happens, try being someone else. Make some memories. The next morning, take some time to write about it. Turn it into a story.

8. The study of the world of the atomic and the subatomic has led some scientists and writers to joke about how each atom is like a universe, and how our own universe might be like some atom in some greater universe. Think about that for a moment, consider this idea of universes within universes, of the great and impossible distances between stars, between galaxies, between galaxy clusters... and now think of the gulfs of energy and void between the atoms that make up something like, say, the computer you’re sitting at right now. If you’re not brainstorming a story already, consider your place within that world of atoms and universes, how small and yet how large you are, how close, and yet so far. Even if your tale has no characters and no plot, speak to this fact anyway. Breathe life into it and see where it goes.

9. Write a story about a person who is neither really good nor evil, but whose many minions act as an independent entity perpetrating crime after heinous crime in the name of him or her. You can go a number of ways with this. Is the central theme of the story that the person whose image is being connected with ceaseless horrors finally sees what is going on and aims to stop it, or is it something else? You could even bring it down to the level of just a few individuals, with the “crimes” being things such as gossip or smaller acts of violence and thievery. Be creative– see where the story takes you.

10. Write something truly sappy, like the story of the birth (or rebirth) of a people or a world heralded by the birth of a child or– aging gracefully into inescapable death as a metaphor for life and living. Make it happy, make it sad, give it life and smiles, tears and the lamentations of women. Use emotion as the primary driving force behind the story, and most importantly, give it life, if only through the images and ideas that have come from profound moments in your own life interposed with beautiful and magical flights of fantasy.

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