Posted by: Betsy Devany | October 22, 2010

Free Fall Fridays and My Approach To Prompts

In the past month, I have won two first-page contests. One for Searching For Big Meanie, and the other for Majestoral Dragon. The contests were ultimately judged by two editors and it was exciting to have my pieces stand out. But in truth, I had already won something. I have two new story beginnings, actually, more than that. I have characters with voice who I long to follow. Would they have risen to the surface without the prompts? I don’t know. People have asked me whether I will continue writing past the first pages, and I will, in time. But until then, I keep these characters close at heart, protecting the energy surrounding their stories, even though I know what lies ahead for them.

The prompts which led me to these pieces, and many others, came from Kathy Temean, and for this, I thank her. In the beginning, her challenges terrified me, particularly when I was in a room with other writers and writing cold.  But then, I put aside my doubts and let go. I made a commitment to believe.

I believe in prompts. I believe in plunging into cold water from fifty feet above, even if I do not know how to swim. Even if I am terrified, and filled with self-doubt.

I believe in falling on my face and writing words that make no sense; in filling a page with crappy writing. I believe that out of this, good writing can blossom.

 I believe in practice and patience and pushing myself beyond the safe zone.

I believe in the challenge of following a prompt.

Once I have stated my beliefs, I read the prompt at hand. If there is an accompanying picture, I study that, looking for details and specifics, which might propel a story. If the prompt starts with a particular sentence, I repeat this over and over. And then I wait, allowing time to pass, so my mind can chew on the inspiration while I go about day-to-day living. Other times, I lie on the floor of my writing room, turn on some music, close my eyes, and concentrate on breathing. I try to picture the characters starting to develop in my mind. How do they relate to the prompt? What do they want, and who, or what, gets in their way? Are they in an active scene? Are they alone in their head, thinking? Where are they?

As I drift to the place of imagination, my two cats find me lying on the floor. They hiss. They shove each other. Tails whack my face. Finally, one claims a spot on my chest, while the other plops on my belly. Breathing becomes more challenging than thinking about the prompt. Within minutes, the dog appears. He licks me uncontrollably. My concentration gone, my face coated with slobber, I get off the floor and . . .  go for a walk or play catch with the dog or  do the dishes or start a load of laundry.  All the while, I think about the prompt. I ask myself questions, such as the examples below.

When you study the photos for this week’s prompt ( http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/announcing-free-fall-fridays/) consider:

  1. Is your mc alone or is there someone walking ahead of them up the stairs?
  2. Does your mc want to return to the ground level to engage the child?
  3. Does your mc want to ignore the child and the man?
  4. Who is the man? Is he the child’s father? Are they working together or separately?
  5. How does your mc feel about seeing the young boy beg?
  6. Will the person with your mc (if there is one) create conflict, and why?
  7. Are there other people around, reacting to the child?

Typically, within a few hours, ideas begin to spark. Energy flows through my veins and propels me to write. Once I start, I do not stop until the one page is completed. This is how Majestoral Dragon and Big Meanie evolved. Both were total surprises to me, once I read what I hadwritten.

The more you let go and think of plunging through the air towards the page, the more you will surprise yourself with what you can write. Sometimes for fun, I respond to a prompt immediately after reading it, and then go through my regular routine (as stated above).  It is always interesting to see how similar or different the two pages are.

I look forward to hearing from you, and welcome any suggestions for Free Fall Fridays. May you have fun!

If you would like to read my winning pages, go to 

http://wp.me/pss2W-1Oi

http://wp.me/pss2W-1RG

Thanks for stopping by!


Responses

  1. Congratulations, Betsy! You’re not falling, you’re flying high ❤ Continue to soar. Hugs!

    • Thanks, Lynne!
      Norman has been bugging me to use the computer to write to Spike.
      Hugs, Betsy

  2. These are wonderful tips, Betsy, and I love the idea of weekly prompts. Sometimes that is the best way to allow yourself freedom as a writer to just let stories come.
    I wrote a first page and posted it on my blog! http://faithehough.blogspot.com/2010/10/free-fall-fridays.html

    • Thanks, Faith!
      I totally agree that to be free as a writer, you have to let go and let stories come.
      Here’s to letting go every Friday!
      Hugs

  3. […] October 22, 2010. Free Fall Friday Prompt from Kathy Temean & Betsy Devany […]

  4. Betsy – I wrote my page! I doubt it could win any contests… but here it is: http://visiblethought.wordpress.com/2010/10/23/many-pennies/

    I’m excited for next week!

  5. Prompts are a great way to get the juices of writing flowing. Once you have a beginning…it can be fun to see where it leads. I’ve signed up for NANOWRIMO next month. Are you going to try it? One of your winning first pages could end up a winning first novel. Always good to hear from you, Betsy.
    Darlene

    • Hi, Darlene!
      It is great to hear from you, too. I haven’t decided about the November challenge since I am trying to finish a middle grade novel, which takes precedence. I hope your writing is going well!

      Betsy

  6. […] October 29, 2010 Free Fall Friday Prompt from Kathy Temean & Betsy Devany […]

  7. […] November 19, 2010 Free Fall Friday Prompt from Kathy Temean & Betsy Devany […]

  8. […] April 8, 2010 Free Fall Friday Prompt from Kathy Temean & Betsy Devany […]


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