Category: fiction writing

Creative Writing Prompts for High School Students

Creative Writing Prompts for High School Students

So, you’re halfway through the summer break, you’ve made good headway into your summer reading list for high school, and you’re itching to write but you don’t know where to start. You’ve always been creative, but you know that when school starts in a few weeks, your afternoons will be filled with required reading, exhausting math homework, persuasive essays, perhaps jobs, and all sorts of extra-curricular activities. Now is the perfect time to get some writing done. Check out these fun, inspiring creative writing prompts for high school students.

As a professional writer (see my books here), I can tell you from experience that the more you write, the easier it gets. Writing is just like any other useful activity: when you make a habit of it, it begins to come more naturally. The summer–when you’re free from most of the pressures of school–is the best time to begin the habit. Choose your spot for writing–whether it’s a favorite chair, the couch, the bed, the park, or a coffee shop you love–and create a habit of writing in that spot.

When I was in high school, I would spend hours in my room, journaling or reading or writing poems and stories. It wasn’t until my senior year at Murphy High in Mobile, Alabama that I took a creative writing class. The world opened up to me then. I found what I was meant to do.

I find the best way to get unstuck when you can’t think of what to write is to use a quick writing prompt. So I’ve created a series of 500-word writing prompts to help you get started. The key here is that you don’t need to write very long, really, to end up with 500 words. These writing prompts are fun, and they’re designed to help you be creative and to let your writing go places you never thought of.

Click here to download the writing prompts and receive my weekly writing tips.

Want to get really inspired? Check out this great writing workbook: Story Starters. You can download the workbook right to your phone, iPad, or laptop. Perfect for Kindle, too.

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Fundamentals of Fiction Writing Online Fiction Writing Course

Fundamentals of Fiction Writing Online Fiction Writing Course

My new online writing class, Fundamentals of Fiction Writing, is now open for enrollment. This is a self-paced, nine-week course. You may begin the class at any time.

In this course, you will learn how to write a story or novel using the fundamental building blocks of fiction. The course is divided into nine sections. Each craft section focuses on an essential element of narrative craft. Through video and written lectures, you will learn the tools you need to begin writing fiction:

  • Characterization
  • Point of View
  • Setting and Description
  • Dialogue
  • Plot
  • Structure

In the final week, we will focus on revision, a necessary step to getting your work out into the world.

Each section includes writing exercises to help you practice what you’ve learned and deepen your understanding of the material, as well as a discussion forum and suggestions for further reading.

Who should take this class:

If you’ve always wanted to write a story or novel but don’t know where to begin, or if you took a couple of writing classes in the past and want to brush up on your knowledge and reinvigorate your writing practice, this course is for you. Led by a New York Times bestselling author with more than a decade of experience teaching creative writing at the university level, Fundamentals of Fiction Writing provides a great foundation for anyone interested in writing short stories, novels, or novellas.

Although this is not a critique class, your enrollment entitles you to a free one-hour Google hangout, during which I will answer student questions. You can also subscribe to the workshop add-on to get one-on-one critiques from the instructor.

The regular tuition for Fundamentals of Fiction Writing  is $79, but readers of this blog can enroll in July for just $49.

Use coupon code serif to get 30% off in July, 2014. (expires June 31, 2014).

Or follow this link to get the discounted rate.



How to End a Story

How to End a Story

The EndStories are like relationships: the beginning is always so much fun, and the ending is fraught with turmoil.

When I sit down to start a story, the first sentence just sort of comes to me. The second sentence too. If I’m lucky, the third swiftly follows. The inimitable short story writer Kate Braverman once told a group of enraptured graduate students (they happened to be my students, and she was wowing them with her general exuberance and wonderful strangeness) that she channels her characters. A bit like spirits, some linguistically gifted version of the returning dead. They speak throughher and onto the page, as if she isn’t even there.

I, unfortunately, channel nothing. It is all rough work after sentence three. By the time I’m in the middle of the story, I’m feeling more than a little uncomfortable. Where am I going? Where have I been? Have I gotten lost in the labyrinth? Probably, yes.

Somehow, I find my way through. The characters do things. They meet with hardship and grief, or maybe they just meet some swanky fellow in a bar or a Laundromat. They get into trouble, maybe out of it. Probably not. I find myself feeling that they have done all they can do. Not much more can be said. The action has fallen. We have all had our dénouement (which, by the way, is a French term meaning untying, from Middle French desnouement, from desnouer – to untie – from Old French desnoer, from des- de- + noer meaning to tie, from Latin nodare, from nodus knot.) And here we are in the labyrinth again, attempting to untie the knot, unwind the rope, escape the not-so-fun funhouse.

It’s time to write our way out.

One wants to resolve things, after all.One feels a deeply human need toconclude. After the falling action, there is often something more. Something unexpected. And here we come to what I have been meaning to say all along: a good ending is layered. The reader thinks she has discovered everything she can possibly discover about a story, but then: another image appears, another paragraph hums along, another question begs to be answered. One is left with the feeling of having walked out of the dark theatre into the light, only to realize there was something else playing after the credits, some secret part of the film, some final moment. You can hear it through the door, vaguely, but you can’t get back in. You’re not sure what you’ve missed, but you’re certain that you’ve missed something, that the reel kept on playing, the story kept on going, after your departure. You were only an observer, a brief malingerer, there but not there. The lives within the story carry on.

Michelle Richmond is the author of four books of fiction, including the New York Times bestseller The Year of FogShe is the creator of the Guided Workbooks for Writers series. 

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The Rumpus Interview with Thaisa Frank

The Rumpus Interview with Thaisa Frank

This week, Yuvi Zalkow interviewed Thaisa Frank for The Rumpus. They met at the bar of the Hotel Rex, where Frank, author most recently of Enchantment, talked about where stories come from, among other things. I’ve long admired Frank, beginning with her story collection A Brief History of Camouflage, have often taught her work in creative writing classes, and in recent years have been honored to get to know her.

In the intro, Zalkow says that the interview itself felt a bit like being inside a Thaisa Frank story. If you’ve read her work, you’ll have a vague and disturbing sense of what that means. When stepping into a Thaisa Frank story, it’s almost impossible not to feel displaced, as if you’ve walked into a dark, empty bar and have brought none of the right equipment, not to mention the right frame of mind, to encounter whatever it is you’re about to encounter. When I first came across her stories in a San Francisco bookshop fifteen years ago, I felt as though I’d fallen through the rabbit hole. The stories in Enchantment, magical in every way, unexpected at every turn, seem to come from a different universe.

Read on for some of the highlights from the interview, which you’ll find in its entirety on The Rumpus.

On where stories come from:

 I often feel there’s a triggering event that makes me want to start a story. There is a title often, but the title contains the stuff of the story. The title is like a packed piñata, even if it’s made of iron and I have to beat it and beat it for the stuff to come out.

On what happens when the story turns out not to be anything like the story you intended to write:

 And it’s the failure of the intended story that usually guarantees, if not success, then the forward motion of the final story.

On surrealism:

Old-fashioned surrealism is where you take one or two extraordinary things and have them in a world that obeys all the laws of reality…I’m also very interested in classic surrealism, where you take one thing that really couldn’t happen —like how Kafka took a guy and turned him into a bug—but after that, everything proceeds pretty logically.

On what’s missing from the teaching of fiction

…one of the things we don’t have in teaching fiction is a true poetics of fiction—a way of talking about fiction without getting tangled up in the content.

Read the Rumpus interview with Thaisa Frank. Visit Thaisa Frank’s website. Visit Yuvi Zalkow’s website.

Writers: Submit your work to the Fiction Attic Press First Novel Contest.

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