Friday, November 25, 2016

"Live, Die, Repeat" and Other Writing Prompts

Earlier this week I watched the 2014 film Live Die Repeat with Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. I was surprised that I'd never seen a word about this flick until I went to and saw that it was originally called Edge of Tomorrow and has been repackaged with a new name for broader distribution.

After watching this film, I couldn't help but imagine how the screenwriters came up with this story. They grew up playing those video games where you keep dying over and over again until you learn the route to victory. It's a nasty variation of Groundhog Day in which Hollywood excels at what it does best: SFX. In the first ten minutes we see the setup. Cruise as an officer whose specialty is PR, his cocky persona front and center until he's thrust into a new existential reality: the front lines of a suicide mission against the alien invasion of Europe. It's a wickedly wild thrill-ride.

But what if it were left as a title alone, like an empty container that you were asked to fill?  Like a writing prompt: Live. Die. Repeat. What would be the tale you told if you had to come up with something along those lines?

This weekend I've been working on final revisions for my upcoming book of writing exercises to help home schooling parents teach writing. Writing prompts are a central feature of the book. My aim is to make writing fun.  If your student or child enjoys writing, she will do more of it than if she hates writing. The more they write, the more sentences and words you’ll have to edit. You’ll also gain insights into the ways your kids think. You’ll receive glimpses of who your students and children really are.

* * * *
Writing prompts aren't just for kids. They can be a great source of entertainment for fledgling writers and writers who desire to hone their craft. When I was young and first becoming serious about a writing career I used to practice "writing on command" in which I would sit down with a sheet of paper rolled into my typewriter and a daily assignment to stay put until I filled that page with words. My writing prompts came from within, but it would have been fun to use some of the prompts that have been created and compiled online.

While going over a section of my manuscript I decided to check out the sub-Reddit site called Writing Prompts. Reading through these pages of prompts can be entertaining, even if they don't ignite your fire to write. Some are silly, and many show how much our media drives our thinking. Superheroes abound. Plenty of religion and philosophy, too. There's a lot of imagination cataloged here.

Here are just a few, from the hundreds I looked at, that I found especially share-worthy.

[WP] Depressed? Suicidal? Life got you down? Then why not stop by Uncle Jim's Super Fun Happiness Center, today!? Your first visit is absolutely free!

[WP] You relive the same day over and over, until you do what you had to yesterday
(EdNote: Sounds like Groundhog Day or Live. Die. Repeat., doesn't it?)

[WP] You're a modern Superhero, but no-one believes you, as your powers don't work when observed.

[WP] You are an alcoholic that has ruined his life by killing the love of his life while intoxicated.

[WP] "You've reached Trogdor, devourer of galaxies, darkness incarnate and kicker of puppies. How may I direct your call?"  

[WP] The elves present their newest invention to Mr. Claus, their AI called S.A.N.T.A

[WP] A pirate is sailing the seas looking for a legendary treasure, but never finds it, while his crew has lavish parties every night. You're the crew's accountant, and you're starting to get annoyed.

[WP] Take a random object or event and write a conspiracy theory about it, complete with evidence that supports your "theory"

[WP] As you leap from the skyscraper, arms wide, you realize you can't actually fly. But you also learn something else.

[WP] You have lived in this house for 15 years and have never seen that staircase before. Where does it go?

[WP] You're a Slinky and everyone loves you. A drunk wizard decides to turn you into a living human and now you have to come to terms with people being completely indifferent with your existence.

Meantime, have a great weekend. 


LEWagner said...

True stories need NOT be written about.
I guess I learned all the wrong things in Sunday School and church. It makes me a little angry that I was forced to go for so many thousands of hours, but then told later not to take it seriously, or to try to follow the teachings in real life.
Whatever, I guess.
However, I encourage my students to write about real things that they themselves know about.

Ed Newman said...

Your comment does touch on a subject that I've wondered about with regard how children are taught about the Bible. When I was eight years old my dad hit his thumb with a hammer while working on something in the basement. He shouted loudly, "Blast!!" (to avoid cussing I suppose.) I didn't know what the word meant but I thought it was a cuss word and I ran to my room and cried really hard because I thought he was going to hell.

That notion could have only come from one place.... a sermon or a well-intentioned Sunday school teacher.
The first Catholic friend I had was so scared of being struck dead by God that when he said a bad word he would crouch and look upward in terror.

We all have to deal with a lot of kinds of things growing up, but children's hearts are so very impressionable and sensitive. ... I do not know the answer here, but am aware of the problem.