Monday, November 30, 2009

A month of NaNo prompts

Last prompt before the end! Hope the light at the end of the tunnel is closer than you expected. (I have about 3000 words left to do.) Or that you at least had fun this month! :-)

I had a last minute NaNo inspiration that will help me. I tend to skip over description. So for each day of NaNo month I'll send out a prompt to focus your attention on something you might not ordinarily notice in whatever scene you're working on. The intent is not to generate great prose but to force you to expand your vision of what's going on around and inside your characters.

Write at least one paragraph for the day's prompt:
  1. Describe your point of view (POV) character's current emotional state and how it affects him or her from head to toe.
  2. Describe the shoes of the next character that walks into the scene and what they remind the POV character of.
  3. Describe the weather (or environment if weather isn't relevant to your story) in the scene you're writing right now. Involve all 5 senses.
  4. Relate something in your current scene to a toy from your POV character's childhood. Dig deep and make emotional connections to then and now.
  5. The current situation to your POV character is [fill in an animal]. Extend the metaphor. What in the situation are the teeth? Why is something like the breath? How does it relate to the sound the character makes? (And whatever else you can come up with. Use all five senses!)
  6. It starts raining (or stops raining). Describe the emotions *and* memories this evokes in your POV character.
  7. In the next conversation, describe something the character is doing as they speak each line of dialogue.
  8. Relate your POV character's best friend (current or childhood) to one of the characters they're with right now. Likenesses and differences. Relate both physical traits as well as attitude, temperament, life story ...
  9. Describe your POV character's inner state in terms of one of the seasons, that is, the seasons that are relevant to your story.
  10. A bug is in your current scene. Use the bug's actions as a mirror of what's going on with the situation or inside your POV character.
  11. Pick one object in your current scene and describe it fully, using all five senses. (Yes, taste and smell can be a challenge sometimes!)
  12. My daughter's favorite: Food descriptions! For the next meal your character has, describe, obviously, taste and sight and smell, but also texture, presentation, how the colors work together, emotional reactions, physical reactions, memories.
  13. Something in the current scene transports your POV back to a place they frequently played (playground, tree house, junker car behind the shed, mom's closet ...) Pay particular attention to the resonance of the emotions between the two places.
  14. In the next populous area your character visits, sum up their impression with one word. Rather than agonizing over the right word -- which wastes valuable NaNo time! -- use the first word that comes to mind. Then take that word and run with it as a metaphor or analogy. How does the word relate to the people, buildings, atmosphere, smell, colors, sounds ...
  15. Relate the current situation the character is in to a game, like chess, dice, Monopoly, dominos, poker. Even if your setting isn't contemporary it's likely every culture will have games of chance involving dice-like objects (bones for instance) or strategy board game (like chess or go or parchisi).
  16. Describe the next store your POV character visits. How are the proprietor or associate like the store? How do the appearances (dirtiness, cleanliness, order, chaos) relate? The voice and speech mannerisms?
  17. Relate your POV character's current emotional state to a storm. It might be the anticipation of an approaching storm, the middle of the storm, or the relief or aftermath of a storm. Work the metaphor for all it's worth to gain you lots of NaNo points!
  18. Another character is fiddling with an object -- jewelry, something in or from their pocket, something they picked up. Use the manipulations as a window in the character's fluctuating emotional state.
  19. If the current situation continues, how does your POV character envision himself or herself and the important players in their life in the future? You can get detailed down to pets and number of children (like a drunken ramble). If they envision them all dead, what level of Hell is being readied and what special tortures await? (Then have another character bop them over the head to get them out of their funk ;-)
  20. In the current scene, some skill your character is using she picked up somewhere from somebody during the course of her life. Reflect on that, particularly the emotional resonance the experience has for your character.
  21. Rather than expand, synopsize. Someone new enters your story, or your character needs to relate what's been happening since the beginning of the story on a post card or Facebook update. Make each word count for dozens.
  22. Your POV character hears a song and it evokes strong memories full of emotion and sensory detail.
  23. Something repulsive happens to your POV character. Maggoty food? Slops dumped on them? Being sneezed on if they're germophobic? Describe it in all it's gory disgusting detail.
  24. Have your POV character imagine what it's like to be another character. What it literally feels like to walk in their shoes and see the world through their eyes. Most interesting will be to explore someone whose values and preferences and personality are most different from your POV character's.
  25. Your character's shoe (or body part or other abused, neglected piece of equipment for the shoeless) has been through hell the past few hundred pages. Let it vent. (It can be your POV character's dream so you can fit it into your Nano ;-)
  26. Your POV character watches something break as though it were happening in slow motion. Use this as a metaphor and relate the sensory details to the worst thing that could happen to shatter the goal the character is working toward.
  27. Is there lack of care for what kind of impact people are having on their world? For a moment some uncaring, thoughtless act of disregard for the world strikes a personal note for your POV character. Bring the details to life and, if you can, tie it into the greater goal the character is working toward. Let them rant <eg>.
  28. Your POV character is drifting off to sleep, but The Big Problem still hasn't been solved and is pulling one way while the body is pulling the other way to get some much needed rest. Describe this mini-war as well as the character's feelings as they're torn between a need for action and a need for rest.
  29. For a moment your POV character wishes they had some power that would fix the situation. Invisibility? Laser-beam eyes? Level 16 Charm? Let them fantasize and feel what it would be like.
  30. Have your POV character describe their ideal world (or ideal time off for when this is all over) in all it's sensory glory as they seek the strength to keep going.
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