Write This! – March’s SCBWI Writing Prompt

Every month, SCBWI provides a writing prompt for its members. The top entry is chosen to be featured in their monthly magazine.  Maybe it was the inspiration from the recent conference I attended, or maybe the connection I have with my pets, but I felt compelled to enter.

This month’s writing prompt was to convey the bond between a child and an animal in 100 words (or less). Here was my submission:

I told Dad I’d be brave for Oscar.

Every night, Oscar would lay by my pillow, his paws around my wrists. He’d purr until I fell asleep.

Now, he lay under fluorescent lights on a steel table, about to sleep forever.

“Time to say goodbye, Casey,” Dad’s whispered.

I leaned close to Oscar’s face, his clouded eyes focused on mine. I stroked his fur softly and sang “Three Blind Mice” one last time. As I pulled away, Oscar wrapped his paws around my wrist and lick my thumb. The tears fell, but my smile was the last thing he saw.

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What’s In a (Character’s) Name?

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There is a phrase misquoted by many that proclaims that a rose by any other name is still a rose. While it isn’t quite what Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet, it still is a valid point.  You can call a rose a banana, but it wouldn’t change what it truly is or take away from its beauty.

Does this hold true for literary characters?  Let’s look at a few examples. Would Severus Snape seem so mean when we first met him if his name was Bill Jones? Would we care as much about Katniss Everdeen in the beginning pages if her name was Ruth Schwartz? The right name helps define a character and forms an impression on the reader. Continue reading

Fueling your Creative Engine

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Occasionally, life provides enough distractions, obligations, and crises that my writing becomes that thing I really want to do/need to do, but can’t seem to get to. When this happens, all the momentum and mojo that was once flowing from my fingers onto the computer screen gets lost.

At times like these, I find myself typing and deleting, staring at the screen like it has betrayed me. In order to move forward, I have to find something to supercharge my creative juices. While I have yet to find a vitamin supplement or super food to provide that spark, I have discovered two things that inspire me to get back on the proverbial horse. Continue reading

Idea Harvest

The more I work, the more my mind is open to ideas.  I have found it important to harvest these ideas and make sure to spend a little time fleshing them out a bit before they are forgotten.

While some of these stories will never be seen to full development, getting them down on paper allows me the freedom to read back through each concept and see which one calls to me as something that needs to be written.

Some ideas evolve and others will fade away.  Either way, the act of creation is an exercise that keeps my mind from growing stale.  It has also benefited me by taking my existing stories to new places or freeing me from a writer’s block.

I recommend to anybody who is writing to open their minds to whatever comes their way. even if it does not relate to your current project.  The next story just might just find you.

Imagination Workout

I have come to believe that imagination and creativity are muscles deep in the brain that tend to atrophy if not exercised regularly.  As adults, we lose touch with the part of us that sees  a box as a fort, rocket AND a time machine.  Now we see a box as something that can be recycled or used to store things.  Our lives become consumed with work, bills, chores, etc.  Stress and worry have replaced imagination and creativity.

Growing up, my world was full of magic and possibilities.  I grew up on a farm and my school friends were not living next door.  This meant that I had to rely on my imagination for entertainment.  In those days, I would create worlds where Super Bowls were won, dragons were slayed and treasure was found.

Today, I am a father of two incredible boys.  They have become my imagination professors and play is our classroom.  An example of an imagination lesson came in the form of a text from my son’s preschool teacher.  She sent me a picture of my five-year-old wearing a Mardi Gras mask, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume and a tutu. He was full of pride and joy with his creation.

I am inspired to write my story from moments like that.  It helps me get in touch with my inner child and create characters that still see the box as a rocket ship and believe they will grow up to be a fire fighter and a football player.

So, whenever you need to workout your imagination, watch kids play, there is so much we can learn.