Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: When the Familiar Becomes Not So

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“Mom, are you sure we’re going the right way?”

Thanks to Wonder Girl, this one question inspired a Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt last year over at my HipWriterMama blog. I thought I’d share the same prompt today, since this is a good reminder for all of us — Setting is Character in our manuscripts. Keep in mind this prompt was written in December 2009, so there is snow…

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It was the day after a snow storm. A beautiful, sunny day. A perfect day to run a few errands. I drove along one of the many quiet streets connecting one town to another; a narrow road, made even narrower by large snow drifts. Wonder Girl was chatting up a storm. She paused…

“Mom, are you sure we’re going the right way?”

I’ve driven this way countless times, and yet, Wonder Girl’s question made me reconsider our location. I have to admit, for a moment I panicked. At least a foot or two of snow covered everything around us. All the familiar landmarks — the golf course, the small pile of rocks, the dirt path — they were all gone, underneath snow. The snow made everything look the same. Forget about finding the unique fence, bush or tree. And the houses, now cloaked in snow, could have been any house, every house, the exact same house. It took a few minutes to know for certain I was driving in the right direction.

This situation made me realize how the familiar can become unfamiliar when something new is added to the mix. All it took was Wonder Girl’s question and some snow to make me see differently. What if we added more layers–freezing temperatures, 40-mile winds, and a blinding snow storm? Now we’ve got a blizzard and people can get lost in these conditions, even if they’re only a few feet from home.

Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: Rock your MC’s world and add layers to the familiar to skew the view. Write a scene where your protagonist finds the safety and certainty of the familiar changed–whether for good or bad. Use your imagination.

Fiddle around with your setting, change the weather, add something new to the scenery, let your MC see the world by walking instead of driving, change the appearance or behavior of the best friend/boyfriend/girlfriend, add conflict to the family or ease up the school routine.

What’s going on? How does your MC react? What does she see, hear, think, believe? Is he confused, worried, afraid, annoyed, pleased? How do others react to your MC? Show the dynamics.

Remember, writing is all about adding layers. Have a good writing day!

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Vivian Lee Mahoney

Consider yourself warned: I write books about rebels. I'm also a postergirlz for readergirlz, a literary advisory group for teens. Who knew going back to the teenage years would be so rewarding?

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