Monday, January 26, 2015

Writing Prompt Numero Uno

This is the first installment of what I hope will become a feature here at Logophilius: a weekly writing prompt!

Yeah, it's just a writing prompt; you can find writing prompts all over the Internet. (Just, you know, google "writing prompts.") But I will try to take it a little further. Most writing prompts are just there to help you get something on paper, but for each writing prompt on Logophilius, I will outline an "ulterior motive" — some writing technique or consideration that the prompt is supposed to help you focus on to become a better writer.

And that is my ultimate goal: to help people become better writers.

These are meant as exercises. Literary batting practice. You might not end up with anything publishable, but I hope that simply working through the prompts can get your mind working in new and interesting ways that can help you on other projects.

But if you do create something and publish it online, please come back and post a link to it in the comments section. You might just inspire the next person to come along.

Come back on Thursday for another new feature, too!

But enough preamble. Here's the prompt:

There is an international shortage on the thirteenth letter of the alphabet. Report about the shortage — its causes, its effects on different and varied industries (or just the one you're interested in), what is being done about it internationally and at the federal and state level — as if you're writing for a newspaper or news periodical. The shortage affects you, too, of course, so you have to write the whole thing without using that thirteenth letter (as I have done with these instructions).

Ulterior Motives

This prompt, which is inspired by Mark Dunn's Ella Minnow Pea, is a cliche-buster. Too often, when we're focused on getting an idea across, complete and ready-made phrases flow straight from our minds onto the paper or screen. More often than not, these phrases (like "more often than not") are cliches, which are the bane of interesting, original writing.

With a prompt like this, you must examine every word to weed out the dreaded M, and you lay your words more carefully instead of writing in phrases. You think past the idea and look at the words. This kind of close scrutiny is something we should bring to all our writing.