Friday, July 22, 2011

Writing Prompts: Save a Life Or Makes it More Difficult. It's Part of the Fun

I don't know how many of you follow Donald Maass on twitter but if you're not, go do it. Now.  Every Tuesday, I think it's Tuesday, he posts breakout prompts that you can use to make your manuscript just so much more awesome than it already is.  If you're still busy writing your first draft, this is the perfect time to go through them and see which ones you can use.  Even if you're onto your 2nd draft, you can still implement them for some extra spice.  I've decided to list them here for myself but you can also find it here as well: Donald Maass Literary Agency - Breakout Prompts. Hope you guys find it useful.

Breakout Prompts:

1.  What’s the worst thing your MC does? Whom and how does that hurt? Now work backwards, set it up to hurt even more.
2.  What’s the most selfless thing your MC does? What good change or effect does that have on someone unexpected? Add that in.
3.  Find any violence in your MS. Delete any shock, fear or horror. Replace with two *conflicting* emotions that are less obvious.
4.  Choose a middle scene: What does POV character feel most strongly? Evoke that feeling without naming it, through actions alone
5.  What should your readers most see, understand or be angry about? At what story moment will that happen? Heighten it in two ways.
6.  How does your POV character change in your current scene? Work backwards. Make that change unlikely, a surprise or impossible.
7.  What does a sidekick or secondary character see about your MC that your MC denies? Force a showdown over it.
8.  Over what does your MC disagree with his/her boss or mentor? When does the boss/mentor prove to be right?
9.  What’s a place in your story where something significant happens? Switch two other story events to that location too.
10.  In your current scene, what’s a setting detail that delights or disgusts your POV character? Why? Elaborate & amp; add.
11.  Find a small passing moment in your manuscript. What big meaning does your MC see in it? Add that.
12.  During a big dramatic event, what’s one small thing your POV character realizes will never change or never be the same again? Add.
13.  For your MC, what are the best things about these times? The worst? Create a passage of his/her take on this era.
14.  In your climactic scene, what are 3 details of place that only your MC would notice? Cut more obvious details, replace with these.
15.  What’s one thing your MC hates as the story opens? By the end have your MC love that same thing. (Or vice versa.)
16.  What’s the precise turning point in your current scene? Make its trigger more dramatic—or less obvious.
17.  Who in your story has an ironclad, unshakable belief? Shatter or reverse it by the story’s end.
18.  Give your MC passionate feelings about something trivial: e.g., cappuccino, bowling, argyle socks. Write his/her rant. Add it.
19.  What principle guides your MC? At what moment is it most tested? When does it fail? Put it into action three times.
20.  Cut 100 words from your last 3 pages.You have 5 minutes. Fail? Penalty: cut 200 words.
21.  In the last dialogue passage you wrote double the friction, disagreement, overt hostility or hidden agenda.
22.  In the last inner monologue you wrote insert one insight, question or worry that hasn’t hit you (or your MC) before now.
23.  What does your MC know about people that no one else does? Create 3 moments when he/she spots that in others.
24.  Find a strong emotion and replace it with a secondary one; find a throw-away moment and infuse it with rich feelings.
25.  Before a new character debuts, give your MC an expectation or fear. Make the reality three times better or worse.
26.  Whom is your MC afraid to let down? What is the sacred trust between them? What would cause your MC to break it? Break it.
27.  What secret is your MC keeping? Who is keeping one *from* your MC? Spill the truth at the worst possible time.
28.  Set off fireworks between two characters. What’s the biggest skyrocket you can explode for the finale? Go ahead…kaboom!
29.  What’s the emotion or experience you’re most afraid to put your MC through? Go there. Do it. Now.
30.  What’s the worst thing that happens to your MC? Work backwards. Make it something your MC has spent a lifetime avoiding.
31.  What’s the very worst aspect of the main problem your MC faces? Find one way to make it still worse.
32.  Find a corner, crossroads or dark object in your story. Invest it with eeriness, unknown portent or dread. Go there three times.
33.  Find a small hurt someone suffers. What’s the big principle or hidden injustice it represents? Stir your MC to anger over it.
34.  In your current scene, what’s the strongest emotion? Why is it welcome? Why not? What’s good about it? What’s utterly wrong?
35.  Does the message in your story drop like a rock on the reader’s head? Better is to make your MC sensitive to the morality of small moments.
 36.  Strongest emotion in your current scene. How does your POV char think it looks from the outside? What is now lost or gained?
37.  Strongest emotion in your current scene: How does it change your POV character? How has the world changed too? Elaborate. Add.
38.  Your MC’s worst quality: let him/her struggle with it, provoke it 3 times, make it cost something big, then allow change.
39.  What miracle does your MC pray for? Make it impossible...then make it happen.
40.  What makes your MC unique? What makes your MC exactly like anyone else? For each, show in five additional spots.
41.  What’s the best thing about your MC? Show that in a big (or small) way in Chapter 1, or your MC’s first chapter.
42.  What does your antagonist most want? How is it truly something that everyone wants? Explain & add.
43.  Find three new ways and reasons for your protagonist and antagonist to come face to face.
44.  What does your antagonist believe in? Who else shares those values? Why are they actually right? When does your MC see that too?
45.  What’s the worst thing your antagonist must do? Make it against his/her principles. Make it unthinkable. Then make it imperative.
46.  What’s a foundational attribute of your MC? Create an odd tic or habit that implies the opposite. Add six times. Voilà: a quirk.
47.   What can your MC do that no one else can? What’s one unexpected benefit? What’s the biggest cost? When does it not work? Add.
48.  What does you MC know about himself/herself that’s true? What does he/she *not* see that’s even more true? Hit ‘em with it.
49.  What greater issue or question does your MC puzzle over? Plant it, apply it three times, then find the moment when wisdom arrives.
50.  In your current scene pin down the moment when things change. How does your POV character’s self-understanding also change? Add.
51.  At the top of your current scene what’s the mood? And at the end? Find words to sum up both, give them to your POV character.
52.  In your current scene, what’s the sharpest line? Structure the scene to make that the *last* line.
53.  In your current scene, what’s the outcome? Work backwards until the reader is sure that the opposite will occur.
54.  In your current scene, who’s against your MC? What’s that character hiding? Let your MC intuit, guess or see the truth.
55.  You are you MC’s best friend. Whether big or small, what is safe for your MC to share with you right now? Add immediately.
56.  What do you like best about your MC? How soon can we see that on the page? How often? Add more than you think needed.
57.  What’s the most wonderful thing about your story world? Find ten new ways and spots to delight in that.
58.  Find a dramatic event in your WIP. Create a smaller version of it for another spot in the story.
59.  What’s one way your MC tackles the big problem? Find another character who can do the same thing, or the opposite. Add.
60.  What’s the biggest thing your MC needs to know about himself? Give him five good reasons not to care. Tear each down, in steps.
61.  The thing your protagonist can’t let go: what’s the deeper reason why? Who grasps that reason before your protagonist does?



I'm reading them as I go and if you're a plotter this is awesome.  You can basically have your story and plot all written down, shove these breakouts in everywhere and start writing.  I'm thinking you can use them to write your story too, I can already see my plot weaving together as I read the breakouts.  I'm definitely going to use them when I start writing again at the beginning of August, but a post about that later.

I'll keep adding the prompts as they come, can't wait to start applying them to my writing.  Hope you'll find them as useful as I know I will.

Happy writing.

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