Lou Harry, on the faculty for our Super Mini-conference, offers this week’s writing prompt to get the gears turning in your head, to maybe force you to take a premise and find creative avenues to turn it into a story.
WRITING PROMPT #2 ~ Set your timer for 30 minutes. Ready, set, write!
From Lou Harry
Don’t think about plot. Don’t think about action. Don’t even think about character. Just start a conversation between two new characters and let it go where it goes, taking as little thinking time as possible. Keep your fingers moving on the keyboard. You are likely to be very surprised with what they say to each other. And if you surprise yourself, you are more likely to surprise the reader. (Of course, you will end up cutting much of this, but you don’t need the road once you get to the destination.)
So I started at 1:14 p.m. and stopped at 1:47 p.m. I don’t know where it came from or what to do with it, but here it is:
“I told you not to do it.”
Mary Beth Allison twisted the ends of her medium-brown hair into a knot, let the strands drop through her fingers onto her shoulders, and let out a sigh of exasperation.
“Now go to your room and think about how you should treat your only sister.”
Her 8-year-old son, Trevor, his blue eyes brimming with tears and his red hair askew, turned and stomped down the hall.
“And don’t slam the door,” Mary Beth added in warning.
Trevor disappeared, leaving his 6-year-old sister, Cynthia, crying quietly on the couch.
This latest incident was all about Legos. Cynthia had built a tower of the little plastic pieces on the black vinyl ottoman they used as a coffee table. She had stretched high to put the last piece on top and was about to enjoy her masterpiece when Trevor burst into the room through the sliding glass door separating the living room from their deck. Mary Beth saw the look in his eye and called out to him to behave, but he had ignored her and knocked the tower down. Cynthia had burst into tears immediately, but was quieting down now.
“Cynthia, you can build it up again,” Mary Beth suggested.
Cynthia was having none of it. She just lay on the couch instead, pulled her favorite blanket towards her chest, and began to suck her thumb. She was a strawberry blonde. Her hair would be as messy as Trevor’s if it wasn’t in pigtails.
Mary Beth went back to unloading the dishwasher. She only had a few more minutes before she had to start supper. Her husband, Rick, would be home promptly at 5:45 p.m., and she needed to be out the door by 6:30 to take both kids to their piano lessons.
“I wonder if it’s even worth it,” she muttered as she stretched to return the clean glasses to their place in the cupboard. She put some right back on the dishwasher’s plastic pegs due to water stains. The water in central Pennsylvania was full of limestone, but there just wasn’t enough money in the household budget for a water softener.
She set the table and thought back to her own youth. Her mother had scrimped and saved to give both Mary Beth and her sister, Ellen, piano lessons when they were about the same age as her kids were now. Ellen had some musical talent, but Mary Beth hated to practice and her own lessons had been money down the drain.
“The mistakes of the past continue on to the next generation,” Mary Beth thought as she pulled some paper towels off the dispenser on the wall. She had forgotten they were out of napkins, so the paper towels would have to do.
At least with Trevor in his room and Cynthia quiet for now on the couch, Mary Beth could work in peace. She knew her punishment of Trevor wasn’t much punishment at all; he’d be playing video games by now. But at least it kept her son and daughter apart for a while so she could work.
Mary Beth’s thoughts drifted to her own sister, Ellen. They were as different as Trevor and Cynthia were, and they hadn’t been close as children. They were closer now as adults, even though Ellen lived two states away. Tragedy had forced them to reach out to each other when their parents were killed in an auto accident while they were both still in college. Mary Beth had dropped out so Ellen could graduate. She didn’t really regret it. Ellen had always been better in school than she was. She could go back and get her degree now if she wanted to; her husband had even encouraged her to think about it. But college always seemed to Mary Beth like too much work, both then and now.