Writing Prompts

The very talented Tom put this together.

I’ve been part of a writing group—a writing workshop, I dare to say—since 2013. I count my years-long participation in this group as one of my bona fides as a writer. “Of course I’m a real writer. I meet with other writers regularly in a bar!” You can’t get more legitimate than that.

The group is run by Stephen Rea, author of Finn McCool’s Football Club: The Birth, Death and Resurrection of a Pub Soccer Team in the City of the Dead. (Thank you, Stephen, for helping me meet my word count goal for this post). Stephen runs several different courses of fiction-writing classes at a lovely bar in New Orleans called Treo. If you’re interested, you can find out more about the classes on Facebook here.

The most recent 10-week session for our particular group will conclude tonight. It’s a little bittersweet, because we stumbled upon a bit of alchemy in this last course. We agreed to do a group project, collaborating on two short stories based on a prompt. The prompts were configured as such:

  • Man lying on the ground, woman tapping on both shoulders
  • Woman lying on the ground, man tapping on both shoulders

Everyone committed to writing 1,500 words. Names were drawn each week to determine who would work on which story. I drew the final chapter for the second story—Woman lying on the ground…

The first prompt became “The Fallen Man,” a tale of a woman named Carol escaping men in hazmat suits while trying to protect a young boy named Matt. There’s also the threat of biochemical warfare, an explosion, possible brainwashing, and Atomic Burger.

The second prompt became “Bai Polar,” the story of a woman named Bai Cavallo, who’s either from another planet entirely, or in the midst of a psychotic break. There’s also Glossolalia, cookies and milk, ectrodactyly, and plenty of references to an alien star system.

Brain injury figures into both stories.

There was a fair amount of friendly rivalry as the stories progressed. One group dubbed themselves “Team Awesome,” leaving the other group to dub themselves “Team Awesome-er.” Since I drew the last chapter, several weeks passed before I knew which team I’d wind up on. (It was “Team Awesome-er.”)

I wrote the conclusion to “Bai Polar” on the plane ride back from Europe, and had more fun doing it than I remotely suspected. I got to draw together all the threads sewn by five different writers, and it was a really awesome(er) challenge.

Writing is such a singular occupation, nearly all of the time. I loved this opportunity to be part of team, rallying behind a character and story that we composed together. If this experience is anything like what it is to be part of a “writers’ room” on a television series, then that is an enviable occupation, indeed.

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