Before reading this, check out Part One of this blog series.
“When I started working as a child abuse and neglect family therapist…one quick conclusion I came to was that until we are willing and able to talk openly about sex in this culture—healthy sex and sexual thought—we will never be capable of talking about sex abuse.”Chris Crutcher
What we read changes us. Changes our minds, our hearts, our viewpoints on the world. What we read as young adults impacts how we view other young adults. After all, this is a published book written by an adult who already went through it. Even if the genre is fiction, there must be some shred of truth in it, right? Some great example to follow?
Sure, we’re not all going to have hot vampire boyfriends, but the kind of relationship that develops between a Bella character and an Edward character is realistic right? We can aspire to have relationships similar to Tobias and Tris?
The answer is, not quite.
If we look at the trends of readers, you’ll see a large disparity between what they’re reading and literature that has examples of healthy relationships.
Fantasy alone accounts for 15% of the 577 Best Books for Young Adults Book list since 2000. Yet out of the fifteen books on YALSA’s list of books dealing with healthy relationships or relationship trauma, only one book could be considered Speculative Fiction.
As I recall reading Allegiant, the third book in the Divergent series, I remember scenes with lines like:
“I was so afraid that we would just keep colliding over and over again if we stayed together, and that eventually the impact would break me…I am too strong to break so easily, and I become better, sharper, every time I touch him.”
Right after fighting and worrying about losing each other — not because of their situation but because of their insecurities — the two have sex. What kind of message was that to me as a middle/high schooler? I can tell you that it didn’t teach me about being honest with my partner or asking if they were comfortable with going further physically.
“Adolescent romance in dystopia—or romance in a divided, plural world—is at the crossroads of adult authoritarianism and teenage emotional growth.”Mary Hilton
While young adults reading speculative and fantasy books will know that many of the topics are fictional, they’re still emotionally connecting to the aspects that can relate to them.
And boy, do authors take advantage of that.
How many young adults fantasy books are out there right now that DON’T have a single romantic element? I can guarantee there’s not more than 20. And in a sea of bestselling paranormal romance books, it’s easy to imagine those that don’t have romance getting swallowed whole.
But I’m not saying that fantasy should have less elements of romance or sex.
I’m saying it should have better ones.
If young adults are connecting to the only aspect they can in fantasy — the romance — then we as writers better make sure it’s the best representation of sex and romance we can give.
I’m talking about consent, honest conversations, realistic expectations, protection.
In a world of dragons and magic, these elements might feel as awkward as writing a character going to the bathroom.
But they don’t have to be.
“The first characteristic of romance…is that it contains a ‘definition of society always corrupt, that the romance novel will reform.’ To the emotional awakening which the Young Adult novel generically enacts…responds, in perhaps equal measure, a form of political awakening.”Mary Hilton
If we want to see changes in rape culture and poor middle/high school relationships, we have to examine what messages our YA books are sending. Even if these books do contain emotional manipulation or rape, are we glorifying it? Do we root for it?
This isn’t even about removing those books from our current shelves. For readers and parents of readers, it’s about knowing what’s in the book and talking about it with young adults.
Young adult fantasy novels have the power to change minds. How will they be changed?
In the next part of this mini-series, we’ll look at two books that got it right. Ashfall and Lady Midnight.
Have you read these books before?
Have you read any books with terrible or great examples of relationships? Leave a comment below.
And don’t forget to check out Part One of this blog series!
Cart, Michael. Young Adult Literature from Romance to Realism. The American Library Association, 2016.
Cole, Pam B. Young Adult Literature in the 21st Century. McGraw-Hill, 2009.
Hilton, Mary, and Maria Nikolajeva. Contemporary Adolescent Literature and Culture: The Emergent Adult. Ashgate, 2012.
Roth, Veronica. Allegiant. HarperCollins Publishers 2013.
Wetta, Molly. “Booklist: Dating Violence, Consent, and Healthy Relationships in Young Adult Fiction.” American Library Association, 2016, http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2016/01/25/boo klist-dating-violence-consent-and-healthy-relationships-in-young-adult-fiction/. Accessed 15 November, 2018.
Today’s prompt is from TheFakeRedHead.com. I was really intrigued by this prompt, because it kind of reminded me of Happy Death Day. Let’s see where we go with this one!
As always, 30 minutes, free-write.
Write with me! It’s so great for writers to use writing prompts to improve their writing.
Let’s do this!
“I’ve lost count of how many times you’ve died in front of me,” I said.
She rolled up her sleeves and buttoned them down before glancing up at me.
“So far twenty, but I’m sure it’ll be more before we figure this out.” She didn’t say this as if it was annoying to her that she lived a life of constant death. She only stated it.
“Come on, let’s go,” I said. “The car’s parked by that streetlight.”
We started walking, and the warmth of her body next to mine was a comfort. She was alive. She was flesh and blood. And yet she was something else entirely. Though I’d seen her break both her legs in a fall, smash her head on concrete, get in accidents, and burst into flames, she was fine for the moment. Her skin was unmarked. Even her clothes were clean. But that was because I’d brought her some.
“You know you don’t have to do this,” she said. She stared straight ahead as the shape of the car came more into view.
I didn’t respond until we both had gotten in and closed the door. I started the engine. Or tried to when it turned over a couple times and puttered out.
I sighed and laid my head on the steering wheel.
“I know I don’t have to do this,” I said. “But I want to. I’ve never…I’ve never met anyone like you. And I’m not just talking about the death thing. You’re special. And I can’t just leave you to face this by yourself.”
Cami was picking at her nails, the only place with evidence that she’d been buried alive under a pile of rubble.
I turned the key again, and this time it sputtered to life. We were rolling.
“It’s not just me,” she said after we had been driving for several minutes. Her head was turned away so I could only see her curls as they brushed her shoulder.
“Wait, there’s more of you?”
“What?” she turned then, eyebrows turned up in confusion. “No, I meant it’s not just me who’s in danger. People die around me. They get sucked into this. You shouldn’t have to deal with this in your life. It’s bad enough that I do.”
At her warning, my hands gripped the wheel tighter and my eyes shifted from side to side as if I expected a semi to run a red light right into us. Even though the roads were empty at this hour, my heart was still beating fast. What if she was right? What if she was like some sort of magnet for bad luck that couldn’t be unmagnetized?
“Jake?” she said. “Can you say something please?”
“I don’t really care,” I said.
“My life has always been bad luck. But since I met you, it’s gotten so much better. Good things are happening to me for the first time. I can’t just leave because I’m scared.”
“It’s more than that,” she mumbled.
“It’s not,” I assured her. “I’m scared, but there has to be something I can do.”
“Tell that to the last three doctors who tried to hold me hostage and peel my skin off to examine the cell growth.”
We stopped at a red light even though there wasn’t any cross traffic. I debated running through it, but I could see the camera hanging from the metal pole. If people were still after her, I couldn’t risk it.
As I was thinking this, a black Sedan pulled up to the street adjacent to us. Even though he had a green light, he slowed to a stop. His window was too tinted to see into. He flashed his brights at us.
Cami squinted into the darkness.
“Go,” she said.
“Wh-what?” I was still trying to see into the window. I could just barely make out gloved hands.
“Go!” Cami shouted and slapped my arm with the palm of her hand.
I gunned the gas, and we sped through the red light. The camera didn’t even flash. As we drove through, the black Sedan pulled out behind us. I was already going over the speed limit, but I pressed down harder and swerved into a side street.
Cami’s body was twisted as she looked through the back window towards the car. It had missed the turn I made and was having to back up before following me.
“I know what I’m doing,” I said, clenching my jaw. My knuckles were white with strain. I didn’t trust myself to be one of those crazy car-chasing maniacs I’ve watched in movies. But I knew every street in this city. I knew how to lose him.
My small car squeezed down an alleyway. I circled back towards the way we had come from. I made wild turns that didn’t make sense. I never went down the same road twice. My eyes never flashed up to check if I could see the Sedan in my rearview mirror. It wouldn’t matter. I was doing everything I could to lose him.
I stopped behind an apartment surrounded by human-planted trees that made a canopy around us and the car. There was an entrance to the highway just to our left if we had to make a quick getaway. But the night was quiet for once. Both of us were breathing hard. I blinked several times to get rid of the black spots in my vision.
“Any clue who that could be?” I asked.
Cami bit her lip. “There might be more.”
“More?” I asked, with a shaky laugh. “Like more to your story, or more to your curse?”
“Both,” she whispered.
I opened my mouth to respond when our car was rammed into from the side so hard that the car flipped and started to roll. I clenched everything, letting out a yell that I knew I would regret later. When the car rattled and stopped moving, we were upside-down.
“Cami?” I said, my voice a raspy mess.
A cloud of dust surrounded us as the airbags went off in delayed reaction. They hit my lungs so hard that for a moment I couldn’t breathe. A wheezing gasp escaped my lips. As I waved my hands to clear the air, I saw that Cami’s neck was bent at an odd angle. Blood lined her forehead. Her airbag hadn’t just gone off—it had exploded. Hunks of the car had caved in between us. I could see her, but I couldn’t pull her body through the gap.
“Cami!” I yelled.
I wrestled with my seatbelt, which came undone easily. In surprise, I caught myself just in time before crumpling to the roof of my car head-first. I examined my hands and my ripped jeans. No scratch? Not even a mark? My body vibrated with energy as my ears rang in cycles of annoying tones. My door had been ripped open and hung by a slim piece of metal.
“Cami, I’m coming,” I said, crawling on all fours to the other side of the car. “Ah man.”
The entire right side of the car was smashed in so deep I could see some of the underside. I reached for her door’s handle, but there wasn’t a handle. Only compressed metal molded into a solid form.
“No, no, no,” I said. If I couldn’t get her out, that meant I had to call someone. And if I had to call someone, they would see her lifeless body. Hospitals. Doctors. Tests.
“Hey man!” a voice called out behind me. “Hey man, are you okay?”
A big man in a white t-shirt came into the light.
As he examined my non-bloodstained body, he breathed audibly. “I’m so sorry. I was driving my truck and couldn’t brake down that hill. I saw this parking lot and thought I could use it to stop. I didn’t even see your—oh gosh is there someone still inside?”
“Crowbar,” I said. “You got one?”
When I tell people that our anniversary date is on October 31, people kind of cock their heads at me and give me a strange look. “Why in the world would you want to do that?” they seem to ask.
What they don’t realize is that Halloween has brought me and and Michell closer together when we were working, during our long-distance period, and when we finally finished college.
This was our first Halloween as a couple and of course we had to dress up as one of our favorites! At the time we were both working at our church as worship leaders. It was also the only year of college that we were together. This year was full of learning moments of time management, getting healthy, and learning how to be in a relationship.
In 2016 I drove to Bloomington for the weekend to go to a Halloween party. We dressed up as Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers. Props to you if you know the movie! Anyways, this Halloween was the first fall that we weren’t living in the same area. We had just started going to different colleges, and it was definitely really hard. Being able to celebrate Halloween together was just really meaningful.
In 2017 I had to work at Starbucks for Halloween. It was still pretty fun because the kids would come in dressed so cute, and we’d give them candy. But as you can see, I wasn’t exactly a happy cat! This year was the hardest year for me. Mitchell and I were so busy and later this year he went to Los Angeles for his internship. There was a lot of learning how to manage my emotions and anxiety. We made it through, just like always.
Finally made it! This is our wedding day a year ago. It’s crazy how much we’ve changed and grown as people. We went vegan, we finished college, we traveled to Taiwan and Los Angeles, we got MARRIED!
What I’ve learned is that holidays can mean something different than you would expect. Halloween has always been important and special to me as a child, and I’m so glad that Mitchell has become a part of this tradition with me.
We also learned that struggling through these years made us stronger as people. We’ve been through so much, and Halloween was just one of those great things that kept us going.
What does Halloween mean for you? What traditions do you have on Halloween? I’d love to hear about them. Comment below!
Oh boy. This is a tricky topic for so many people. Should writers put sex in their books? How should it be portrayed? Are the relationships healthy? Is the sex safe? Is it consensual? Instead of just writing off the conversation as too difficult, let’s start talking about it. As writers, readers, adults, and young adults.
Realistic fiction writers haven’t been too afraid to approach these topics in the last couple decades, but what about fantasy?
Fantasy — you know, where both genders are usually hyper-sexualized and are helplessly pining over their supernatural significant other? Where werewolves and vampires toe the border of consent and stalking.
Maybe this hasn’t been your experience with reading Fantasy. I’ve read a couple great examples that break the mold of typical Fantasy Romance, but the question remains.
Why should writers put sex in their fantasy books?
This is going to be a several part exploration on Young Adult literature and how sex is portrayed and avoided in the texts AND by readers, librarians, and parents.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
For several decades YA Realistic Fiction writers have taken on the topic of sex in their writing. I mean, it’s one of the top things teens deal with in their lives. It’s uncommon (but definitely needed, writers!) to have a high school story without an intense relationship explored. But for the majority, Realistic Fiction has tackled this topic.
Several well-known YA writers who have taken on sex include:
There’s been a push in this genre particularly to show consensual, protected, “relationship-based” sex over just writing garbage that glorifies rape, sexual assault, and abusive relationships.
Because writers are beginning to realize that YA literature impacts young adults more than anything else they read (Cart). If we want to push movements like #metoo and #timesup, then the literature has to reflect what we want young adults to know.
Something people don’t think about very often, but needs to be mentioned, is that ADULTS are writing most of these YA books. Adults who are maybe starting to get disconnected from today’s youth, but must put themselves in the minds and settings of today’s young adults.
If we want young adults to learn what healthy relationships are, we have to give them examples through what they engage with.
Science fiction or fantasy, makes tomorrow’s ogres real and preset, within the threatening framework of an imaginative world. It is within this framework that the writer can challenge readers, through the persona of the protagonist, to find answers…as they identify with the main character, they begin to understand the possibilities, the greatness of being fully human. They are empowered.Eiss 81
Growing up as a huge reader — and knowing full well that I was getting most of my knowledge of the real world from books — I stayed far away from Realistic Fiction. I was already living in the real world. Why would I want to read about someone else’s realistic problems?
No, instead my reading list consisted of nothing but Fantasy: Magical Realism, Urban Fantasy, Fairy-tale retelling, and soft Sci-Fi. And I know for a fact that many people read nothing but the same.
Fantasy was able to reach me both emotionally and mentally, in a way that Realistic Fiction didn’t. But that meant that I had to suffer through the dozens of terrible relationships, verbal and emotional abuse, and down-right stalker behavior that permeates so much of YA Fantasy. I’m talking about Linger, Vampire Academy, Fallen, Dead Beautiful — the list goes on. Don’t get me wrong. I loved reading these books for many other reasons. But for examples of healthy relationships, not so much.
Librarian Donna Freitas states that she has frequently witnessed graduating seniors who openly express their lack of education in sexual topics. Her advice is simple, reading can help. Especially Speculative/Fantasy, where the writing usually opens the door to more engaging romance.
But if all YA Fantasy books are bad examples of sex and relationships, how will those who enjoy only reading this genre get to see positive examples? And don’t give me any of that bull that parents should be teaching kids. Many young adults aren’t going to be learning how teens interact in relationships from their parents. It’s awkward for one. And for another, outside sources are sometimes easier to receive advice from than parental figures.
The take-away from part one is just to start thinking about what we read as young adults. What books shaped the way we view relationships? And what can we as readers and writers do to encourage this generation of young adults so that they can both engage with a fantasy world AND learn about healthy romantic relationships?
What are some bad examples of YA Romance books, whether realistic or fantasy?
What are some good examples of YA Romance books, whether realistic or fantasy?
And how can Fantasy actually help young adults? We’ll tackle that in Part 2!
Cart, Michael. “The Value of Young Adult Literature.” YALSA, 2008. Accessed 18 October 2018.
Eiss, Harry Edwin. Young Adult Literature and Culture. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009.
Freitas, Donna. “Be Still My Heart.” School Library Journal, vol. 55, no. 2, 2009. Accessed 15 September 2018.
Today’s prompt is from Deep Water Prompts. I liked this one just because it was simple and intrigued me. What kind of person would be looking for necromancy books, especially advanced? And where would they be looking? This one got a little spooky for Halloween!
Spend 30 minutes today and write! It might not be this prompt. Check out some of my older prompts if you’d like to use another idea.
Jess’ eyes scanned the bookshelves for the fifteenth time.
“It’s not there,” Kye said. He folded his arms over his purple hair and put his cheek down on the wooden table. “I told you, they wouldn’t just keep that kind of thing out for public use.”
“Well I didn’t think there would be that many people looking,” Jess said. She folded the creases of her pleated skirt before collapsing into the chair beside Kye. “It’s not like the whole village comes here looking for zombie spells.”
Kye blinked at her. “What would I know? I don’t know how those crazy village people think.”
“What are we going to do?” she asked. “Pedro said that if we don’t find the spell by tomorrow, he’s going to kill her.”
“Well if it takes longer than tomorrow, at least we’ll know how to bring her back,” Kye mumbled into his sleeve.
Jess tapped her fingers on the table. “It’s not funny, you know.”
“I know.” Kye sat up again. His disheveled hair was sticking up in odd angles. The collar of his wrinkled button-down was askew. “I know, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t make fun of this.”
“I didn’t even like her. And now I have to try to save her before All Hallow’s Eve?”
Kye stood up and started pacing the length of the table. Jess watched him, arm leaning against the back of the chair.
“What are you thinking?” she asked.
“The professors are bound to have private collections. And you know that Jaxby would be the one to have something like this.”
Jess touched the cover of the only book they they had found on the subject of Necromancy. They were both surprised that the cover and pages were worn with use. The binding nearly crumbled as they opened it. But it was just beginner’s prattle. Mostly warnings and starter chants. Not anything like what Pedro had asked them for.
“So how do we get to his stash then?” Jess asked.
“We take the book to him. Ask him if he’s seen anything more in-depth. If he starts to act worried, we definitely know he does.”
“Yes,” Jess said. “I think that would work. But then what, we break into his office? He’d know who took it for sure.”
“We just need the spell,” Kye said. A smile was spreading across his lips. “Just a spell. Not the whole book.”
Jess stuffed her belongings back into her shoulder bag and Kye followed to do the same with his things.
“We can still catch him tonight,” Jess said. “He stays late. Mites, he never leaves this place.”
Jess nodded. “Okay, let’s hurry then.”
The two raced down the hallway, paying no mind to the students who balked at them to calm down. They both knew they were acting strange, but it wasn’t anything new. Especially when they were together. The halls were covered in decorations for the holiday. Moving charmed bats hung on strings from the ceiling rafters. Shadows of ghosts walked beside them when they passed by glass windows.
After crossing through the courtyard, where dozens of pumpkins were lit up in perpetual illumination, they came to Jaxby’s office.
Kye looked to Jess. “Go on, you knock.”
Jess rolled her eyes as she pulled the beginner’s Necromancy book from her bag and knocked on the door.
“Professor?” Jess called.
No answer. Jess knocked again. Silence.
She sent an exasperated look to Kye, who reached for the doorknob. Jess swatted his hand away.
“Are we just going to go in?” she hissed.
But Kye was already going for the doorknob again and pushed the door open. The room was dark except for two blue candles — not real fire but the closest thing they had to electricity at the school.
“Be quiet,” Kye whispered and slipped through the door.
“What if he’s in the back or something?” Jess asked, but she followed him anyway.
The room was colder than the chilly October courtyard, which confused Jess until she spotted the open window at the far end of the room. Kye was already making his way to the bookcase pressed against the wall of the office. It took up nearly half the wall, and a thick sheet of glass separated them from the books inside.
“There’s no handle,” Kye said.
“It’s a spell, stupid,” Jess said. “Do you think that a Professor would just trust his private collection with a normal cabinet?”
Kye shrugged. “Well, do you know the spell?”
But Jess’s eyes were focused on Jaxby’s desk where a book was closed and covered in scattered essay papers. Surely it couldn’t be that easy. But maybe hiding something valuable in plain sight was Jaxby’s style.
A grandfather clock went off, striking eleven booming drones before resuming its ticking nose.
“Jeez that made me jump out of my socks,” Kye said, pressing a hand to his chest. “Jess, do you know the spell — what are you doing?”
Jess was pushing the paperwork carefully aside, taking note which order the papers were stacked. Beneath the papers was a green-tinged tome, thicker than the beginner’s guide. An energy rose from this book as if it was breathing.
She reached down to touch the cover. The runes embossing the front in a square border kept swimming in her mind’s eye when she tried to translate it.
“I think this is our book,” she said softly.
Kye came beside her and looked down. “This book?”
Jess pulled back the cover with unusual effort, as if the tome didn’t want to reveal its secrets to her. At first the runes that covered the pages shifted as the cover had, but then they settled and formed tight scrawling handwriting.
She began ripping through the contents. “It’s here. It has to be here. Jaxby’s so sensitive to events that he must have gotten some sort of feeling this book was in danger.”
Kye watched her as she searched the pages with vicious eyes until her finger stopped at the top of a page.
“This one,” she said.
Kye stared at her finger. “Are you sure?”
Jess nodded and held the page with her hand as she flipped to the end of the spell.
“Holy mites,” Kye breathed. “It’s like twenty pages long.”
With a single flourish, Jess ripped out the entire section. She was quick enough that it left minimal damage to the spin. Slamming the cover closed, she heard rustling in the courtyard.
Kye’s eyes widened as she stuffed the spell pages into her jacket and had just enough time to push the papers back over the tome as Jaxby walked through his office door. His eyebrows rose into his fluffy gray hair as he noticed them standing by his desk.
“Kye. Jess,” he said with confusion radiating from behind his spectacles. “What are you doing here so late? And without me?”
Kye stammered as Jess answered, “We were looking for you. We thought you were here when the door was open.”
“It’s only been a moment,” Kye said then added, “Sir.”
“Right,” Jaxby said neutrally. “Well, what is it that you so desperately wanted to see me for?”
“We—” Jess said, feeling like she was trapped. They couldn’t ask him about the beginner’s guide now. If he saw the spell was missing, he would know it was them. He would probably know it was them anyways.
“I was wondering if you did private tutoring?” Kye asked.
Jess bit her lip in surprise at Kye’s quick thinking.
“Ah, a bit behind are we?” Jaxby said, wiping his glasses. “I can’t say I’m surprised. You seem to spend more time on your hair than your homework, Kye.”
Kye stifled his indignation with trembling closed lips.
“Oh, for me, Professor,” Jess interjected. “Kye was asking for me.”
All of my younger life I felt like I could never EVER give up a book. Even if I hated it. Even if the writing was terrible. Even if I didn’t enjoy a thing about it.
I remember reading The Boggart by Susan Cooper. It was so dry and lacked the whimsical magic I had hoped it would have. But my mom helped me make a reading plan to finish the book in about a week.
When I had finished, I remember her asking, “Was that so bad?”
While my answer at the time was no, the book hadn’t really gotten better. I basically only learned that if you power through books, thy’ll eventually end.
But this isn’t helpful. While sometimes it’s good to challenge yourself to read books that are out of your comfort zone, reading too many books you don’t enjoy will only make you resent reading entirely.
We shouldn’t force ourselves to read books just to be satisfied to finish them. Part of the joy of books is in the journey of actual reading.
Recently my husband (finally) started to enjoy reading. His mother is an English teacher and has always encouraged her kids to read, but Mitchell has never really enjoyed it.
Until he picked up The Wheel of Time. I saw him read that book faster than he’s read anything in his life. What made the difference? He found books that he actually loved and realized that it wasn’t the reading he disliked. It was just the books he had been trying to read.
This brought me back to my Elementary days, when I was a terrible reader. My teachers must have seen something in me, because they kept giving me harder books than the rest of the class. But I hated the books they gave me (The Indian In the Cupboard, The Mouse and the Motorcycle to name a few).
That’s when I found Harry Potter. Oh, the librarian, my parents, and my teaches all looked at me like I was crazy. I was in first grade and was going to read a book that most sixth graders couldn’t handle.
But I read it. And read all the others. I realized I loved reading. That I loved writing. That I had been missing this piece in my life — all because I had found the right book.
In my senior year of college, I remember the head of the English department saying, “It’s okay to stop reading a book you really don’t like. There’s too little time to waste it reading bad books.”
This was not something I expected to hear from an English Professor, especially the head of an English Department. But these words have stuck with me over the last couple years — and I have given up several books in this time.
I give up reading books when I find myself avoiding reading. When I feel like slogging through the rest of the book is more of a chore than something I look forward to. I’ve read books that I can’t put down. And I’ve read books I can’t put down enough.
But my professor is right. I have so many options of books to read. And so little time to read them. What we choose to spend our time on matters. Why waste it?
Have you ever given up a book? What made you decide it was time to quit? Leave a comment below!
You may be at the beginning stages of a novel or in the editing phase. The great thing about writing prompts is they keep you writing, no matter what stage you’re at.
All writers must practice their craft in order to get better. But sometimes we’re in a weird stage where we’re looking for agents or finished with our manuscript and don’t want to touch it anymore.
Writing prompts are great tools to keep your writing consistent.
I first started getting into writing prompts again during the intense editing phase of my 264,000 word book. My mind was saturated with the character arcs and the world mechanics. I was beginning to forget how to even write certain characters because it was all running together in my head.
When I started doing morning writing prompts, I discovered that the prompts allowed me to take a break from familiar characters and explore new kinds of people. It’s like taking a vacation from your family to explore a new world.
The benefits went both ways too. Not only did I enjoy “hanging out” with new people, but I also felt refreshed when I went back to my main work in progress. I could write their dialogue more clearly and could visualize originally stale scenes with much more ease.
As I was finishing my very large book, I did a writing prompt that turned into its own book. It started out as a simple prompt about magical coins, but I could feel that under the surface, there was a whole world to unearth. But if I hadn’t been doing writing prompts, I wouldn’t have thought of this story at all!
I also keep all of my writing prompts in a journal so if I ever want to revisit them or use parts of them for another piece, I still have them. You might be surprised at how good some of your writing prompts will turn out. Sometimes they take you places you never thought you would go, and that might be exactly what you need for your next big project.
Like drawing quick, gestural sketches before diving into the 2-hour portrait session, writing prompts can get our writing minds awake and moving. Not a lot of people consider the fact that just like most muscles, your brain needs to wake up and loosen up before it can deliver the goods.
Sometimes it’s daunting to move straight into your giant manuscript and pick up right where you left off. When you take twenty minutes to warm up with a writing prompt, your mind will be more relaxed and engaged with your writing by the end. I usually shoot for about three handwritten pages (a guide I got from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron).
Writing prompts have often challenged me to write in perspectives and genres that I’ve never tried before. For example, last Friday, I wrote the beginning of a vampire Horror Noir. I’ve never written about vampires, and I’ve definitely never written a Noir. But it was a ton of fun!
Along with stretching my imagination, I’ve also found that writing prompts cause memories to surface that I hadn’t thought about in years. Sometimes I’ll be writing a scene when a certain smell or feeling creeps up on me, and I think, Wow I totally forgot about that. That would be an awesome story.
Writing prompts are great if you feel blocked and stuck in a rut as a writer. There are tons of great resources online. And I also have a Pinterest board you can follow.
I don’t know how many times I’ve started a writing prompt and wanted to keep writing it into a full story when I’m done. As many times as I’ve done that, I’ve also had times when I never want to see that writing prompt again.
I don’t know about you, but for me, I tend to latch onto projects and have a hard time letting go unless I finish them completely. The great thing about writing prompts is that they teache me to start without needing to finish. I have the ability to go back and add more when I want to, but I’m not chained to this project. It’s just an exercise.
If you feel like me and want to just be able to enjoy a short time of writing without feeling pressured to create a masterpiece, I encourage you to try writing prompts.
Reedsy Prompts – online database for hundreds of writing prompts.
Squibler – one of my favorite sources for Fantasy writing prompts.
I’ve been noticing a trend with YA books. Especially Fantasy YA books. Titles commonly consist of this formula: “NOUN Of NOUN And NOUN.” Examples: Court Of Thorns And Roses, Children Of Blood And Bone, House Of Salt And Sorrows — the list goes on.
So I thought it would be fun to make a name generator for people to come up with their own wild titles. Let’s have a little fun, shall we?
Feel free to actually use these as titles if you find one you really like! Or to adjust the plural/singular so it suits your nouns properly.
Leave a comment about the title your name/birthday generates. Mine is Cats Of Light and Steam.
This week’s writing prompt is brought to you by Prompturarium.wordpress.com. They have a lot of great writing prompt ideas on their site that you should definitely check out if you’re interested. I tweaked this one a little (changed 23 years to 10 years).
As always, please comment below with where your ideas take you. Or where you might want my story to go next! Take 30 minutes to write out some scenes based off the prompt below. Who knows what ideas will surface when we brainstorm a new piece?
Alright, let’s write together!
When I walked into the restaurant, the hostess eyed me up and down before straining to smile.
“I’m sorry, but you’ll have to leave your weapons at the door, ma’am. We like to offer our guests a peaceful experience.”
I nodded as I pulled the strap around my head and dropped the scabbard and backpack down. There were too many tools in it to dump them all out in front of her. Besides, I think I scared her enough without exposing my entire artillery to her. As I piled my belongings on the bench next to her podium, I scanned the restaurant. I should have dressed nicer. The place was a combination of dim lighting, crystal decorations, and spicy aromas. I was more in over my head than I had thought.
“You have someone to watch over this stuff?” I asked, watching her gingerly pick up the pack and sword and place them on a shelf alongside a dozen other miscellaneous weapons and bags.
“Of course,” she said. Her eyes darted to the big guy dressed all in black at the end of the long row of shelves.
I felt a pang ripple through me. I hadn’t even seen him.
“Here,” she said, handing me a tag with a number that matched the one on my stuff’s shelf. “Now, dining for one, or are you waiting for someone?”
“I’m Corsen. Here to meet Mr. Giochi. Has he arrived yet?”
Her smile wavered a moment before she pulled the ends of her lips back up as if by puppet strings.
“Of course, right this way.”
She led me with a menu in her hand to a table in the back. It was in a room by itself, separated by red-tinted glass doors. At the table, sat a man dressed in a combination of black and green snakeskin. His face was clean-shaven and sharp with delicate features. Even in the low lighting, I could see the yellow of his eyes.
“Have a pleasant evening,” the hostess said, already half out of the door.
“Take a seat, Corsen,” Giochi said with a flourish of his hand. His nails were long and pointed. Painted black.
I sat without taking my eyes off him, tucking the sides of my cloak around my lap as I should do with the fancy napkin they provided. I wasn’t sure if I would make it through dinner.
Giochi was a few years older than me, but that wouldn’t be the case forever. Not anymore.
As if he read my thoughts, he asked, “I’ve never helped a vampire before. What brings you to seek this city’s best mage?”
I took a breath and fingered the silver forks lined up so precisely against the red napkin. How many times had I seen silver against a backdrop of red?
“I don’t consider this ‘seeking’ as you’re the one who wrote to me first,” I answered.
“It isn’t every day you hear of a vampire killing their own. And in such a meticulous manner. The stories I’ve been hearing are as alarming as they are impressive. I thought offering my services would only be the proper thing to do.” His was face blank as he spoke. He pressed a closed fist to his chin, pushing back some of his well-maintained, black curls.
“Please, call me Danny,”
“Danny.” The name sounded too informal on my tongue, but I continued anyway. “How much do you know about me?” And how did you find it out?
“People talk, Corson,” Danny said. “They talk about a young woman who rose from her family’s grave plots after a storm of first-generation vampires took out her whole town. Bit of a slip-up, don’t you think? To leave one behind to turn?”
I hid my hands in my lap to prevent them from shaking. As he spoke, I could smell the fire. Feel the warmth of my best friend’s hands as she pressed her claws into the skin of my neck and dug her fangs into me. I could taste the metallic of her blood mixed with mine.
“That’s the general idea,” I said. I cleared my throat. “People make mistakes, after all.”
He eyed me over, though what he was seeing I could only guess.
“I see,” he said. His gaze flashed upward, and he straightened.
A man wearing a black apron slipped through the glass door with a wine bottle in his hands.
“Our house’s best, courtesy of your services, Mr. Giochi,” the waiter said. He poured Danny a glass and left the bottle on the table before disappearing from the room.
“Do you drink?” Danny asked, raising his wine glass.
“No,” I answered.
There was a clatter of dishes hitting the floor from behind the door, but we both ignored it. My ears were attentive though, and I could smell danger rising in the atmosphere like the beads of sweat on Danny’s brow and upper lip.
“Are you afraid of me?” I asked.
“I would be an idiot not to be afraid of you, Corson,” Danny answered. He still hadn’t taken a sip of the wine. Only swirled it around in a whirlpool of thoughtfulness. “It also isn’t every day I meet with a vampire. Period.”
“I’m not only a vampire,” I said. I wanted to see how far I could push him to see past the violet of my eyes. The translucency of my dark skin.
“True, and that’s why I agreed to meet.”
Another crashing noise came from behind us, and this time I stood up and turned towards the rest of the restaurant. Across the room, the weapon’s guard was holding our waiter in a headlock, his head bent in towards his neck.
I threw open the glass doors and sprinted towards the man.
“Hey!” I shouted.
Even as my feet flew across the room, I could see how everyone seemed to be frozen in time. The guests’ faces were twisted in slow-motion horror as they realized what was happening.
By the time I had made it to the big man, our waiter was looking pale and dazed. Before the vampire could even look up, I shoved my palm upward. His nose exploded with vibrant purple blood. The grip he had on the waiter released. The kid crashed to the floor in an unconscious heap. Unconscious. I could tell because I could still hear the thudding of his very alive heart.
Focus. Don’t smell. Focus.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I snarled. “I thought this was supposed to be a peaceful dining experience?”
The man wiped his face with the back of his hand and stood up to his full height, almost two heads taller than me. I took a step back but held my head up to face him.
“Well?” I demanded.
But I was beginning to see the tell-tale signs of a newbie who had been fighting back the change’s demands. His jaw was slack, and strings of blood and spit were dripping down his chin. The look in his eyes was vacant and veined. He had no idea who he even was.
“I—I,” he stammered.
As he staggered towards me like a falling tree, I pulled out a black rod, hidden against the folds of my tunic. With the press of a switch, two silver blades extended from either end. I plunged one end into his shoulder.
The vampire cried out in pain and fell to his knees. The stunning powers of silver working twice as hard against his human-blood-filled body.
Two people burst through the front door. Both of them wore matching black uniforms with sleek black trenchcoats that went to their ankles and squat black hats with a shiny silver emblem.
I took one look at them, pulled my blade out of the man, and took a step back. My hands raised in alarm.
Both pointed silver embossed guns at me.
“Step away from the man, now,” the woman officer said.
“Easy, officers,” Danny’s voice came behind me before he stepped in front of me. “He’s the one you want.”
He gestured down at the man who was clutching his injured shoulder and panting. A puddle of his blood mixed with the waiter’s told the officers all they needed to know.
After handcuffing the man and taking him through the entrance, Danny turned to me.
“Well that was quite the show,” he said. “I see I’ve found the right girl.”
“The right girl for what?” I asked, lip curling and revealing what I knew would be my fangs.
“The right girl to help me with my own vampire problems,” he said. “Follow me.”
Without looking back to see if I would follow, he walked out of the restaurant.