Category Archives: Writing Prompt

NaNoWriMo Write-in TONIGHT

Hello local Pacific Northwest writers! I’m inviting all my writer friends and neighbors to nanologojoin me tonight at the Kitsap Regional Library in Poulsbo, where I’ll be hosting a NaNoWriMo write-in from 6pm-8pm.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.
We all value writing together as a community–regardless of genre, or level, or age (young writers andtoday teens welcome!) We’ll have yummy snacks, writing craft books on hand, and prizes for word sprints. So get your laptops and pens warmed up! I’ll see you tonight.

What: NaNoWriMo Write-ins
Where: Poulsbo Public Library, 700 NE Lincoln Rd. Poulsbo, Wa 98370
When: Every Monday night in November
Time: 6pm -8pm

Sponsored by the fabulous Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network, and the Poulsbo branch of Kitsap Regional Library.

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Story Prompt Monday: Try Writing a Poem

poems inside

I have an energetic, expressive friend who writes cozy mysteries. Her critique partner/ruthless editor happens to be a poet. My friend cherishes this incongruity between them, because who better understands the economy of words than a poet? She says that if clarity is indeed king, and if there is a simpler, more direct way of telling her story, a poet is sure to light the path. (See how I used a poetic metaphor to describe that?)

So, dear writer friends, I pose this challenge to you: write a poem. There are poems inside of you that paper can’t handle. I’m sure of it.

Here are a few ideas for structure to help nudge you to action:

  • Identify a theme
  • Create a symbolic meaning for the secrets of your heart
  • Play with language devices: similes, metaphors, alliteration (Read this awesome PDF about poetic devices. You may find these techniques improve your fiction voice)
  • Mirror a rhythm or stanza structure of a favorite poem
  • Rhyme. Make up your own words! If it’s good enough for Dr. Seuss…
  • Choose a narrator and protagonist for your poem. Have the imagined narrator ask your protagonist five questions. What are his or her answers? Build to a climax
  • How many voices are in your poem?
  • Revise. Which line should be your opening hook?

Post your poem in the comments below! Follow me on Twitter at @TheRJLacko. I love to chat with writers.

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Filed under Best Writer Tips, For the love of writing, Writing Prompt, Your highest potential

Writing Prompt: Inspiration from the Natural World

Today’s visually stunning prompts are from photographer Donn Delson. An avid traveler, Donn’s collection features images from trips to the Galapagos islands, Europe, Canada, and around his California home. I had the good fortune of meeting Donn, also a dedicated writer, at the Writers’ Studio at UCLA. He’s currently working on a semi-autobiographical YA novel. I’ve selected some images from his incredible collection, and offered prompt ideas to nudge your writing practice. Enjoy!

Donn Delson

This intimate portrait of a Galapagos Island iguana defies time, and if you’re a SciFi or Fantasy writer, it might even defy reality. It looks like it could be the eye of a ginormous alien monster threatening a far-away planet. Or, the benevolent, watchful eye of an old dragon with magical powers. Who is it watching, and why? What secrets does it hold?

Donn Delson

I love this image of Queenstown, New Zealand. It has a mystical quality, and blends the natural world with a modern city. Anything might happen here, from the fantastic to the post-apocalyptic, to the present-tense contemporary. What do you see? Is it dusk, midnight, or is the city waking to a new day? What is hidden in those mountains across the water? Who lives in these homes? Who is skipping town, today? Why?

DDcanoesI’ve always adored canoeing, and I fell in love with kayaking this year. As an ex-pat Canadian, this image from Lake Louise, Banff speaks to me. There is a story in each of those boats, a different tale from every paddler. Would you write a story in the vein of Cheryl Strayed? Perhaps a murder mystery in the mountains? A group of at-risk teens given one last chance on a nature get-away trip? What happens, and how does each paddler change as a result of this canoe trip?

If you write a story using one of these images, please post a link in the comments below! We’d love to read it.

In the LA area? Please visit Donn Delson’s exhibit at Bergamot Station Arts Center in Santa Monica, showing September 29-October 24. Learn more here.

As one who has found great peace in meditation, Donn believes photography afford him spiritual nourishment and artistic expression. He believes successful photographs compel curiosity and evoke emotion. He’s drawn to images conveying tranquility, symmetry, and balance, utilizing negative space, or an unexpected perspective. See more of Donn’s breath-taking work at and on Instagram.

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Story Prompt Monday: Comedy Writing Exercise

cheezitsWe’re going to have some fun this week! A short while back, I had a writing epiphany in the form of crafting a story outside my comfort zone. (I tried my hand at horror. Read about it here, the result was utterly satisfying.)
You might be thinking, “An epiphany? Sounds more like hyperbole.” Hear me out: I wanted to put more feeling in my writing, and being uncomfortable is a feeling I couldn’t ignore. I knew my horror story was on the right track because I felt my own dread. And, I had to stretch myself in ways I might not have dared, to fulfill my vague understanding of an unfamiliar genre.

I branch out all the time, now. I just wrote a sci-fi scene last night in my critique group, and a fantasy scene with the teen writers I mentor. I’m still not at entirely at ease approaching other genres. But I promise, it’s Fun with a capital F. You can do it too!

Comedy writing is intimidating, I think most of us can agree. But if you like sitcoms, and romcoms and dramedies as much as I do, isn’t worth a shot?

Have a look at the attached image. I have to wonder: what incident took place on November 14? It must have been pretty catastrophic, someone felt compelled make a poster using bold and underlined text, and an exclamation mark!

Write a scene (or short story) about that incident.
You’ll have to figure out:

Where the Cheez-Its came from, why, how many there were, and WHAT. ON. EARTH transpired.
Next, who made the poster? Why?

Perhaps the Cheez-It cracker company hopes we don’t use Cheez-Its. If you’re a fantasy writer, come up with a food only a magical race eats in your imaginary world (and why!). If you’re a Sci-Fi writer, choose some form of sustenance found onboard a craft or on another planet, moon, or space-station. If you’re Dystopian, Steampunk, or experimental, well–go where whim takes you, and report back.

Tips for comedy writing:

10 Comedy Concept Exercises <<These tips from Blake Snyder are excellent, and will have you off and writing in no time!

A Few Essential Points on the Elements Of Comedy

Humor Writing for People Who Aren’t Funny

10 Ways to Improve Your Writing While Thinking Like a Comedy Writer

Still daunted by comedy? Not to worry. Try another prompt idea from a past: Sometimes your closest confidant is a stranger. 

Post your scene in the comments below! Follow me on Twitter at @TheRJLacko. I love to chat with writers.

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Story Prompt Monday: Can the Buddha help you with your next story?

“What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.”

buddhaIf you’re familiar with this quote, let go, if you will, of what the Buddha intended. Make it your own. If you are experiencing writer’s block, or looking for a hook for your next short story, I invite you take these three sentences for a creative walk through your own imagination.

1. Is it just me, or would this quote make a brilliant premise for a Science Fiction novel? Imagine the literal ability to become what you think (eg: morph), draw to you kinetically what you choose (eg: Darth Vadar’s force pull), and create what you imagine (eg: Hiro Hamada used a neurotransmitter in Big Hero 6 to control his microbots.) How would this technology work in your world? How would it be used–for good? for evil?

2. This is also an excellent spring-board for Fantasy writing. Shapeshifters become what they think–how? what? why? Can your fairy princess feel the presence of a mystical amulet? Can a legion of elves recreate their lost civilization after an army of orcs destroyed everything sacred to them, using the power of imagination (or dreams?)

3. How about some Magical Realism? Consider what Gabriel Garcia Marquez might have done with these prompts. Use your intimate knowledge of master writers to carve your own path.

4. How about mainstream contemporary? Perhaps your down-on-her-luck protag happens upon a shady self-help guru, looking to line his pockets. The guru might inadvertently place her on a journey of self-discovery, turning bad intentions and worse luck into something quite wonderful, with an emotional HEA pay-off.

Where does this quote take you? Please share in the comments below. Include a link to YOUR creative writing, please! Or, chat with me on Twitter @TheRJLacko (#storypromptmonday)

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Story Prompt Monday: Sometimes Your Closest Confidant is a Stranger

“I wonder how many people I’ve looked at all my life and never seen.”

I love this quote from John Steinbeck. While emulation of our literary heroes may prove worthy practice when starting out, our goal as writers is to sharpen and develop our own voices. We look to the masters as teachers–why not look to them also for inspiration?

steinbeckIf you’re familiar with this quote, let go, if you will, of what Steinbeck intended. Make it your own. If you are experiencing writer’s block, or looking for a hook for your next short story, I invite you take this one sentence for a creative walk through your own imagination.Who do you envision is speaking? And about whom?

1. Do you feel this sentence reveals wisdom and experience? Is it an older person looking across the table at a relative or loved one while having a revelation about something they may have just said or did to cause the narrator to wonder whether they’ve ever really known them?

2. Does this voice sound like a dramatic teen to you? Someone who questions whether anyone see him or her for what or who they are, below their own wel–crafted albeit misguided facade?

3. Is the narrator a disappointed or heart-broken spouse?

4. How about a life-altering experience? An unexpected request for divorce, the untimely death of an innocent, a devastating fire–extreme, uncontrollable forces can ravage one’s point-of-view irrevocably, making everything one might have believed become questionable, fallible, broken.

Where does this quote take you? Please share in the comments below. Include a link to YOUR creative writing, please! Or, chat with me on Twitter @TheRJLacko (#storypromptmonday)

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Using Dream Analysis to Develop Your Fictional Characters

Have you ever been chased by someone in your dreams? Been naked in public? Flown like a bird around a city? Or just felt utterly lost in a maze-like building? There are twelve basic dream patterns that all of us dream, regardless of who we are, what we do or where we live.

Olessia Kantor of

Olessia Kantor of

An in-depth knowledge of our characters enriches every story we write. Most writers begin with a detailed Character Traits worksheet. Whether you use every item on your worksheet in your story isn’t as important as getting to know the heart of your fictional characters. Once you have a firm connection with and understanding of WHO they are, it makes the labor or drafting your story easier: you know how they will react to event or obstacles, you’ll know what they might retort and what they’d never say. You know what they’ll eat in a restaurant, or why the color chartreuse makes them crimson with fury. Even better, when you’re stuck, looking for ways to add tension or motivation, looking deeply into your characters’  hearts and minds helps uncover possible plot turns, arcs, and revelations.

Dream interpretation guru Olessia Kantor, founder of explains, “Universal dreams are shaped by local forces in your life.” Your character s dream could be influenced by four things:

  • His/her biological heritage
  • His/her general cultural heritage
  • His/her local subculture
  • His/her personal experience

There are 12 universal dream patterns that all of us dream:

1. Being chased and attacked/Being in love or embraced: Often these dreams occur when you are trying to understand circumstances that you cannot overcome.

2. Getting injured or dying/Getting healed or reborn: Reflect the dreamer passing from one stage of life to another.

3. Having vehicle trouble: These dreams indicate you may be overspending energy on a situation

4. Damaged or lost property or on fire/Property improvements: Reflections on personal changes

5. Poor performance/Outstanding performance: To pass or fail at something important to you

6. Being naked or inappropriately dressed/Looking great: You feel concerned about other people s judgment or opinions.

7. Missing transportation/Happily traveling: This dream denotes your life s journey

8. Machine malfunctions/No malfunctions: Points to a passive approach to life, giving others your power

9. Natural disasters/Natural beauty: Reflect an appreciation for the world and happiness

10. Being lost or trapped/Finding new places: Indicates you are struggling to find a sense of direction or are losing your internal compass

11. Haunted by the dead/Guided by the dead: There is unfinished business with a loved one

12. Falling or drowning/Flying or swimming: The dream is facing a major choice they must make that defines personal failure or success

Olessia provides free personalized dream analysis via her website, Former journalist Olessia Kantor went on to become an art historian, a gemologist, an entrepreneur, and always a storyteller. “I have a passion for the unknown, for mysteries, for the enigmas in our world.” Follow Olessia on Twitter @EnigmaLifeWorld, or email her at

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