Pen to Paper Prompt: Choice

Election day is a good day to think about choice. Writing is all choice. The writer chooses, over and over again, from the vast catalog of everything.

Some of the choices a writer makes include:

• Who’s telling the story: narrator or narrators
• Who else is in the story: supporting character or characters
• Who are the characters: name, age, race, gender, height, education, employment, social status, backstories, etc.
• Why is this story being told: what’s different about today / what’s changed from the normal world?
• How is the story told — from whose point of view (POV): main character, supporting character, multiple characters, or omniscient
• How is the story told — person: first, second or third person (and in different degrees of “closeness”)
• How is the story told — verb tense: past or present (or sometimes future)
• What happens in the story: narrative plot points
• Where does the story take place: settings for the story and its scenes
• Where is it in time: year/era for the story, time of day for scenes
• What is the genre (e.g., literary, women’s fiction, memoir, mystery, romance, and so on)
• Who is it for: adult, young adult, middle grade, etc.
• What is the writing style / voice: how it sounds on the page
• How to write a specific scene: show (immediate scene) or tell (exposition / narrative summary) or a combination
• What does it mean: what theme(s) are explored
• What words to use: word choice and reading level, symbolic language (metaphor, analogy, simile)
• How does it end

For today’s prompt, you are going to explore the power of choice.

First, you will imagine or remember a situation with at least two characters. Then, write a scene that includes these characters for five minutes. (If you need a scenario, use this: You are at a fair, and you’re six years old. You and your mother step up onto the carousel, and you try to select which animal to ride on.)

Set a repeating timer for five minutes. Every five minutes, change one thing and continue writing or begin the scene again. Tip: before you write, ask: What changes in the telling because of this? Here are some changes you can make. Use these or choose your own.

• Change the tense (that is, from past to present or present to past).

• Change the person (that is, from first to third or from third to first — or if you’re brave, try second).

• Change to the other person’s point of view.

• Change the age of one character by at least 20 years.

• Change the relationship between the characters (for example, make a mother and daughter into sisters or neighbors)

• Change where the scene is set to a very different location.

• Change when the story takes place by at least three decades.

• Change the point of view to an observer who is not one of the primary characters.

And so on!