Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday leading up to the start of National Novel Writing Month 2017, I will be posting NaNoPrep Prompts to my Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook! At the end of each week, I'll post a round-up of the three prompts posted, along with my own responses to the prompts. Here is round-up number three!
Monday, Oct. 16, 2017
Pick any character(s) from your story, major or minor, and write down three of their biggest fears. Be detailed. Did something happen to make them afraid? Are their fears rational, or are they phobias? How do they deal with their fear? Do they hide their fears from others? Think about how these fears might come into play in your story.
One – The lighthouse door heaves open. A wheezing sigh. And inside, a single beam of sunlight filters down the middle of a metal staircase. Shadows and dust dance up the steps. Echoes float from above; footsteps climbing down. Mingus lingers at the threshold, half his body tilted inside, and calls up the steps. Bowie’s voice calls back; tells him to come up. He says his fine and shoves his hands in his pockets. Steps outside, leans against the lighthouse with his gaze to the water, and waits. She doesn’t mention it when she joins him. Doesn’t say a word because he’s never gone up the lighthouse stairs, never climbed to the watch room, never set foot on the tower deck. He went on a Ferris wheel once as a child, felt the car sway and rock in the wind at the top, and that had been it. Done. Finished. A relationship over before it had truly begun. Heights and Mingus would just never get along.
Two – Rolling waves lap the docks. Dark water washing over worn wood, leaving trails of seaweed and broken shells in its wake. Running off with the near electric fizzle of sea foam. Slipping back to the deep before dredging up more. Bowie stands on the dock, Rhiannon perched on the roof of Island Watch building beside her. Mingus hangs back. He watches the water lap in, drag out, in, out, in, out, again and again. Debris falls onto the cracked concrete street. Water lines build higher and higher on the freight boxes until the tide finally retreats. Rhiannon stands on the roof and raises binoculars to her eyes. She says, “Clear.” Hops down from her perch. Only then does Mingus step forward. The water harbors too many secrets. Can wash up shocks as it pleases. He doesn’t quite trust it. Never really has.
Three – His mother first. Gone at sea. A routine trip, that’s all it was, to aid the mainland. They needed EMTs, doctors. Nurses like his mother. He begged her not to go, but she kissed him goodnight and promised to be home soon. She never did come back. Then his sister, before her time (Maybe it was her time, Gus, Bowie once said, and Mingus didn’t speak to her for two straight weeks). Gone. Just like that, and with the ground too frozen to bury her. And now his heart skips a beat when he can’t find someone. He has nightmares- sees Bowie, Rhiannon, Puck cold and pale on the shore. Gone. He’d shake until he could see them, hug them, feel their heartbeats and their breath and know that this time they’d survived, that this time they were okay. But how long could that last? Would he lose them for good?
Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017
Where does your main character go when they're stressed? Do they try to be alone, or do they seek out others? What makes them feel better? Write about the place they run to or the person they seek out. Write about how it makes them feel to walk into that place or to see that person. Get in their heads. Learn their feelings.
Bowie always gives herself two options.
The first is seclusion. A hike along the rocky shore, down to the jetty that juts far into the water. She climbs onto the slippery stone, perches herself and its highest point, and lets the sea spray wash over her. Tilts back her head to watch gulls swoop in wide circles over her head. Her hair rippling like gold ribbons in the wind. Her jeans soaked by the waves. Saltwater on her skin, her lips. Her heart slows. Her breath matches the waves as the roar in, then out. Steady. Almost melodic. She stays until she feels like if she sits there any longer she might get washed away, might slip into the sea and never return. She lets that thought linger perhaps a moment longer than she should, and then she slinks back home with the ocean tangled up her clothes, in her hair, in her heart.
The second is a warm home. Straight into town, the second left from the docks, third house on the right. Always neat and tidy with windows glowing orange and warm from a freshly stoked fire. Rhiannon at the stove looking like their mother with her hair thrown up and her sleeves rolled to her elbows, fretting about the kitchen. When she sees Bowie, she stops. Face warm as her hearth she smiles and open her arms. For a tiny woman, her embrace is strong – firm and solid, like its holding Bowie to the ground. She melts into her sister, who smells of lavender even in the dead of winter when the snow and ice stop the plants from growing. Puck comes downstairs, hair damp from his shower, and welcomes Bowie just as warmly. And he knows, always seems to read Bowie – read everyone – and busies himself so that the sisters might talk. Sometimes they do. And sometimes they wash dinner dishes together, side by side, quietly singing the songs their mother always loved.
Friday, Oct. 20, 2017
Search the term "ambient noise" on YouTube. Find a video that interests you, hit play, and set a timer for 20 minutes. Get writing! See how many words you can get done in that time. See how writing to white noise affects you do. Do you like it more than writing with music? Are you wishing for your playlist back?
There's more to autumn than the crunch of the leaves, or the colors spread across tree tops as if they were a painter's canvas (abstract, the MoMA's dream, mystery and intrigue lying beneath every brush stroke and lurking in every color). There's the crispness in the air. Electric, almost. Vibrant in the way air never is during summer, or spring, or winter. Clear and sharp, but not quite cold. The skies richer, bluer, and with clouds puffed up like cotton balls, so round and fluffed they look fake. Painted on. Tacked into the sky by God's hand. An art project done by an angel, a diorama of what the earth is meant to look like. The kind of beauty we're meant to see every day. What the heavens intended for us.
Strange, though, how everything dying brings about such a feeling. The leaves as they rust and wither and fall from their mother's arms. Whispering goodbye to the branches they called home, to the trees that let them kiss the sun each morning and hug the moon at night. Every crunch beneath a winter boot is another tiny farewell. A goodbye. Until all the trees are bare. Stretching up toward the sky as if to say, "It's your turn, now! Let them see you! Let them love your endless blue, the stars dropped like diamonds across you, the clouds that drape you. Let them know you!" Branches outstretched like arms as if to say,"This beauty! Here! Beautiful even without our greens, without our yellows and oranges and reds, without the pink and white flowers we shed! Beautiful on its own! Always!"
Because maybe dying isn't just an end. It isn't just a closing door or a farewell, isn't just a gravestone that will crack and weather, a mound of dirt that will get covered by grass that will get covered by leaves that will covered by snow. Maybe dying is just a moving on. A passing through. The limbo between our bodies and our purpose. Because we live these lives wondering who are we meant to be and what we are meant to do. We fall on our knees in front of candles, the smell of incense thick around us, and we ask God why he put us here. Perhaps the beauty in autumnal death is his metaphoric answer. Because death and, in turn, life is not all suffering and heartache. Sometimes it is relief and release and sometimes it is a rite of passage. It is a way for loved ones to stay forever, in our hearts, having left their mark in life. Their leaves drop to the ground and branches stretch upwards as if to say, "Look! There they are! Up there! Watching you! With you! Sitting on the clouds! Can't you see them! They're beautiful!" And in autumn, with the shedding of each leave, they clear the path so we may see more clearly. "Look!" they say, "Up there! Beyond only our branches now, can you see them in the blue of the sky! Warm and watching and loving you still!"
Because autumn feels like living even though it is made by dying. It gives us new sights and sounds and smells, every year in perfect time it ushers us along. Moves us with it. Begging us to see the beauty that is always there. That will be there when the snow falls in the winter and when the spring sun thaws it out. That will be there in the summer heat, gold beneath the sun. Remember all those scenes in autumn. Cherish their beauty that is always there.
I find beaches most calming in autumn. Empty, mostly, save for a few wandering souls. Our paths cross along the shore. We walk bundled in sweatshirts and scarves, gloves sometimes, coats sometimes, and let the waves lap playfully at our boots. And the water is bluer in autumn, too. Washed itself clean. And the winds raise the waves up higher. Up towards the sky. The sky the trees in the nakedness show to us. A grand display of blue.
There are still beaches in autumn, and they smell like salt and leaves instead of suntan lotion. The seagulls still fly in their broad circles and drop their seashells on the boardwalk. A meal. Their leftovers scattered across a parking lot until the air gets too cold and they flee. Briefly. Only long enought that you come to miss their calls, miss the way they shouted to each other the waves. And then they return. Go about their business. Become a nuisance until autumn makes them charming once more.
The woods in autumn open up wide. Like doors pushes aside. You can see more of the trails, the sky, the deer leaping over fallen logs and racing each other between the barren trees. And acorns drop, drop, drop onto the ground in a grand symphony of harmonious thuds. Breaking up the quiet for the briefest of moments. You can hear every little animal scuttle through the brown and red and orange leaves and all at once remember how much more there is to this world than just you. How your life is happening at this perfect moment where leaves can fall and acorns can sing and gulls can cry and deer can run and water can lap over cold shores. And you are here among it all. Living among it all. A part of this beauty, of this endless gorgeous beauty, of this artwork God has made of the world. You live and breath art. Everyday. Everyday you live in a painting that should be hanging in the Lourve, but you only realize it when the leaves change colors and start to fall. You only realize it when the sky gets bluer and the ocean colder, when the birds start to drift southbound.
You only realize it in autumn.