character building

November 23 Prompt – The Business Card

The following prompt is from one of our Writers in the Grove members for our NaNoWriMo prompt-a-day project for November 2016.

Your prompt today is a good challenge for you or your character.

He handed over his business card.

Check out our list of prompts for even more inspiration.

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Prompt: Fear

The prompt today is to write a short scene where someone is afraid.

The example came from Ken Follet’s book, The Hammer of Eden:

Judy had been in one major earthquake.

The Santa Rosa earthquake had caused damage worth $6 million—not much, as these things go—and had been felt over the relatively small area of twelve thousand square miles. The Maddox family was then living in Marin County, north of San Francisco, and Judy was in first grade. It was a minor tremor, she knew now. But at the time she had been six years old, and it had seemed like the end of the world.

First there was a noise like a train, but real close, and she came awake fast and looked around her bedroom in the clear light of dawn, searching for the source of the sound, scared to death.

Then the house began to shake. Her ceiling light with its pink-fringed shade whipped back and forth. On her bedside table, Best Fairy Tales leaped up in the air like a magic book and came down open at “Tom Thumb,” the story Bo had read her last night. Her hairbrush and her toy makeup set danced on the Formica top of the dresser. Her wooden horse rocked furiously with no one on it. A row of dolls fell off their shelf, as if diving into the rug, and Judy thought they had come alive, like toys in a fable. She found her voice at last and screamed once: “DADDY!”

From the next room she heard her father curse, then there was a thud as his feet hit the floor. The noise and the shaking grew worse, and she heard her mother cry out. Bo came to Judy’s door and turned the handle, but it would not open. She heard another thud as he shouldered it, but it was stuck.

Her window smashed, and shards of glass fell inward, landing on the chair where her school clothes were neatly folded, ready for the morning: gray skirt, white blouse, green V-neck sweater, navy blue underwear, and white socks. The wooden horse rocked so hard, it fell over on top of the dollhouse, smashing the miniature roof; and Judy knew the roof of her real house might be smashed as easily. A framed picture of a rosy-cheeked Mexican boy came off its hook on the wall, flew through the air, and hit her head. She cried out in pain.

Then her chest of drawers began to walk.

It was an old bow-fronted pine chest her mother had bought in a junk shop and painted white. It had three drawers, and it stood on short legs that ended in feet like lions’ paws. At first it seemed to dance in place, restlessly, on its four feet. Then it shuffled from side to side, like someone hesitating nervously in a doorway. Finally it started to move toward her.

She screamed again.

Her bedroom door shook as Bo tried to break it down.

The chest inched across the floor toward her. She hoped maybe the rug would halt its advance, but the chest just pushed the rug with its lions’ paws.

Her bed shook so violently that she fell out.

The chest came within a few inches of her and stopped. The middle drawer came open like a wide mouth ready to swallow her. She screamed at the top of her voice.

The door shattered and Bo burst in.

Then the shaking stopped.

* * *

Thirty years later she could still feel the terror that had possessed her like a fit as the world fell apart around her. She had been frightened of closing the bedroom door for years afterward; and she was still scared of earthquakes. In California, feeling the ground move in a minor tremor was commonplace, but she had never really gotten used to it. And when she felt the earth shake, or saw television pictures of collapsed buildings, the dread that crept through her veins like a drug was not the fear of being crushed or burned, but the blind panic of a little girl whose world suddenly started to fall apart.

Why is this so effective? What makes you know a six-year old is terrified?

Create a scene in which someone is terrified.

To Be a Bee in Their Bonnets

This is by Writers in the Grove member, Lorelle VanFossen, inspired by Prompt: The Party Conversation.

She stood up and walked over to the counter with the coffee, deftly avoiding the plastic smiles on watching faces. If I looked closely, I knew I would see white knuckles gripping her full cup, still warm from ten minutes ago when I’d delivered it to her hands. Relaxed, she’d floated across the room, not a care in the world, back turned to the thirty or forty people chatting away behind her. She set the cup on the counter, making no attempt to refill it.

I knew the moment the two sat next to each other that this was an oil meets flame moment. Side by side on the black leather couch, her swept-up blond hair back-lit by the orange glow of the porcelain lamp behind them, white silk blouse shimmering around her bare neckline, tinged gold in the amber lighting, contrasted against his dark curls, evening shadow along cheeks and chin above the freshly ironed, crisp linen long sleeve shirt. Beauty and beauty, I thought. That is what others will see. The perfect couple. But I knew them. Beauty and the beast with no happy love song or shared interest between them.

He was the gentle one, razor sharp on the outside, marshmallow opinions on the inside. Nothing Ray ever did in his life caused conflict or disorder. It was all about order, precision with self, never others.

She was all angles, knives and changes in her soul, soft and wispy on the outside. Her tongue left bloody slices on the delicate in her wake.

A small part of me was excited, intrigued to see the fireworks these two could spark, yet terrified a real showdown could happen right here in front of everyone. The only saving grace and commonality the two shared was decorum, spelled with a capital D. This wasn’t just a noun to them, it was a law.

“Let no one see you sweat,” was her motto, and she meant it in life as well as exercise. A hard-boiled attorney, she could make knees quake the moment she stepped into a court room.

“Never let them see your pain,” was his mantra, determined to not let anyone feel, see, or experience pain, and never to share his own as well. Pain was for wimps, those not strong enough to endure. As a doctor, he’d listen but never absorb their experience. Sympathy, yes, overflowingly so, but empathy was lacking in his psychic gene pool.

Introducing Callie to Ray, I stepped back, wine glass in hand, and watched, drifting back into the shadows of the party’s energy, my specialty. “Never let them see you,” was the invisible line on my calling card.

They were casual at first, toes dipped in the pool of conversational politeness. I knew Ray would never touch politics or religion, so they were safe there, but I also knew Callie hated small talk, not caring about weather, sports, modern entertainment, or gossip. She was a political body, a raging Democrat from hair follicle to toe nail. He was a soft Republican, not religious, not greedy, just determined to keep his own.

I couldn’t tell what lit the embers to a slow burn, and I thought a coffee interruption would part the stormy waters, but clearly it didn’t. Both had smiled at me, fury in their eyes, but welcoming smiles. I’d greeted both with an equally welcoming smile, passed the full coffee cup to Callie, then faded back into the crowd.

By the time she stood up to walk away, ten – I counted – minutes later, her cheeks flamed, hand gripped the coffee cup to breaking, and his face was white, teeth clenched.

Ah, to have been a bee in their bonnets. I watched and licked my lips, eager for more.

November 30 Prompt – WalMart

Writers in the Grove NaNoWriMo Prompt a Day badgeThe following prompt is by Shannon, a Writers in the Grove member, a part of our Prompt-a-Day project to support NaNoWriMo during November 2015. Each prompt was generously donated by our Writers in the Grove members. You are welcome to take this prompt in any direction you wish.

Your character is waiting outside a WalMart. Describe the people they see coming out of the store.

Place them outside a Nordstrom department store. Describe the people they see coming out of that store and compare them.

November 29 Prompt – Shopping

Writers in the Grove NaNoWriMo Prompt a Day badgeThe following prompt is by Chuck, a Writers in the Grove member, a part of our Prompt-a-Day project to support NaNoWriMo during November 2015. Each prompt was generously donated by our Writers in the Grove members. You are welcome to take this prompt in any direction you wish.

Take your character to the grocery store. How do they see and experience the store?

November 26 Prompt – Body Parts

Writers in the Grove NaNoWriMo Prompt a Day badgeThe following prompt is by Susan Schmidlin, member of Writers in the Grove, a part of our Prompt-a-Day project to support NaNoWriMo during November 2015. Each prompt was generously donated by our Writers in the Grove members. You are welcome to take this prompt in any direction you wish.

Have a discussion with a body part.

The character just stubbed a toe, sliced a finger when making dinner, or fell off a step and twisted an ankle, broke a bone, etc.

Write the dialogue between the character and the body part.