by Deb Norton
from Part Wild: A Writer’s Guide to Harvesting the Creative Power of Resistance

  1. Make a list of “Things I Would/Will Never Do.” Get everything on the page that you consider to be out of bounds, off limits, or out of character for you. If it’s easier, just finish the sentence, “I would never . . .” as many different ways as you can, from the obvious to the shocking to the embarrassing: I would never spit on another person; I would never eat a bug; I will never forgive my sister; I will never find the courage to ask that girl out.
  2. Read through your list and underline the things that have a little heat around them. Choose one to explore, and entertain the notion of doing that thing you would never do. Write about what it would be like.
  3. Make another list of “Things I Would Do in a Second, Given Half a Chance.” All limitations are removed—fear, time, responsibility, morality, the laws of physics—and the sky is the limit. Really let it rip. Reach for all those unrealistic, impractical fantasies, travel, love, adventure, achievement. Maybe you would learn trapeze, start your own circus, marry a certain movie star, sit down with a certain world leader. Maybe you would become a world leader. Don’t try to be deep. Write the exhilarating and the ridiculous.
  4. Read through your list and underline the things that have some energy to them. Choose one that’s good and charged and write about what it would be like if you got the chance to do that thing.

Alternative Prompt: Hot Tempers
from Poets & Writers: The Time Is Now

Though many of us look forward to the higher temperatures and longer daylight hours of summer, studies show that particularly hot and humid days often coincide with higher incidences and expressions of anger, frustration, and irritation. Many elements may factor into this correlation, including people spending more time outside in crowds, an influx of adolescents and tourists during the summertime, increased heart rates because of the heat, and discomfort from dehydration and lack of sleep. A feeling of helplessness or lack of control over the weather may also contribute to snappish behavior. Write a short story in which your main character struggles to keep calm on one of the hottest days of the year. What is the catalyst that drives your character to lose patience or keep cool?

by Deb Norton
from Part Wild: A Writer’s Guide to Harvesting the Creative Power of Resistance

  1. Make a list of all the smells you’d want to remember forever. Freshly baked cookies, the chlorine of the neighborhood pool, your first girlfriend’s perfume.
  2. Choose a smell from the list to work with.
  3. Still working with that chosen smell, answer the following bulleted questions. Remember, memory is fluid, so there is no “correct” answer. Throw the net wide. Make crazy guesses and write things that make no sense. Don’t think. Just hold the smell in your nose and move your pen.
  • If the smell had texture, what would it feel like? Fine grit? A thick, soft blanket?
  • Where is the smell coming from? Who or what is making the smell?
  • What is it doing to you?
  • What does it make you want to do?
  • Is it associated with a time of day? What season? What weater?
  • Is it associated with a time of day? What’s the light like? What angle does it come from?
  • Is it associated with a place? Where are you most likely to smell it? Indoors or out? What’s around you?
  • Is it associated with a person or people? Who’s around when you smell it? How do you feel about them?
  • What does it mean to you? When you smell this smell, what’s going to happen?
  1. Use these answers to start a poem or story about the smell.

Alternative Prompt: What Lies Beneath
from Poets & Writers: The Time Is Now

Beneath the streets of San Francisco lay the remains of dozens of old ships left over from the Gold Rush in the mid-1800s. The ships transported prospectors hurrying to California, but eventually most were abandoned and buried under landfill as the city grew. Write a short story in which something monumental, such as abandoned vessels, secret documents, or mysterious remains, lies beneath the streets of the city. Which character becomes privy to this once hidden information? How can you be experimental or playful with the evocative image of a city built on top of layers of history?