Prompts

Prompt: From Within Their Skin

The discussion and prompt today was on diversity in writing. The discussion was inspired by the New York Times article, “I’m Indian. Can I Write Black Characters?” by Thrity Umrigar:

I’ve always thought about it this way: If men can write about women and science fiction writers can write about space aliens, surely I can write about someone from a different race. And I have spent my entire adult life in the United States. Why shouldn’t I write about that most American of topics — race and race relations?

The debate about whether writers should create worlds and characters based in cultures other than their own is an important one. At its core, pushback in this area serves as a corrective to centuries of colonialism, stereotypical portrayals and racist caricatures. But I worry about how we balance pertinent questions about appropriation with the creative freedom to push boundaries and take risks that are essential to good writing.

To add another wrinkle to this debate, I have never been asked about the appropriateness of creating white American characters, as I did in an earlier novel, “The Weight of Heaven.” Of course, this probably has to do with our country’s ignoble history of racism and racist stereotypes, especially about African-Americans. There’s justifiably less concern about misrepresentation of white Americans.

We talked about how the industry whitewashes the characters we write about, and the confusion from the writers and publishers about the growing demand today for diverse characters. We discussed the struggles and challenges associated with writing a character unlike the author, and techniques to see the world through different eyes.

The prompt is to get inside the skin of someone not like you and write from that perspective.

As Umrigar wrote in the article:

I have made my peace with the fact that I have to defer to the publisher’s expertise about the realities of the marketplace. But to limit myself to write books only about India is to condemn me to tell the same stories. And that kind of pigeonholing is a creative death.

So, I will continue to tell the stories that I am called upon to tell. I know I’ll spend many more interviews explaining the characters I create, and that this tension contains its own revealing, dramatic and painful story about our culture and history.

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Prompt: Success from a Dog’s Point of View

The prompt this week was to write from an alternative perspective. The quote to get us started was:

The man is a success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who leaves the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty or failed to express it; who looked for the best in others and gave the best he had.

Robert Louis Stevenson

The prompt is to use the above to write from the perspective of a dog.

Prompt-a-Month: Telephone

Writers in the Grove Prompt-a-Month badge.The October prompt-a-month for our Writers in the Grove members is:

Telephone

The deadline for submissions is 11/1/2017. Submissions will be published during the next 30 days.

Writers in the Grove members may hand in their submissions during the workshops or use our members only submission form. Check out the guidelines and instructions for submissions in the announcement.

Prompt: The Wind Telephone

Today’s prompt was inspired by the NPR This American Life’s story “Really Long Distance.” A survivor of the Japanese Tsunami rebuilt his home and added a disconnected payphone to his garden. People come from around the country to “talk” to those they’ve lost. Called the “wind telephone,” mostly men use the phone to say the things they feel they can’t say to others.

Take this in any direction you wish.

Prompt: The Treasure of an Object

One of our members related the story of having recently discovered and purchased a beautiful handmade shawl at a yard sale. She inquired of the seller to tell her as much about its background as possible so the story of its origin could continue with it. It turned out to have been made in Ecuador and was originally purchased by someone working with an aid group, who bought it from a local woman who had several young children.

Write a story of an object and the connection it has to the owner as it moves through time.