Prompts: Whether you write fiction, non-fiction, or memoir, story is the important element. Conveying facts through story is the best way to engage your readers. Feeding facts one after another will put a reader to sleep quicker than snow melts at the equator. Creating a story within the boundaries of a prompt (facts) trains your brain to be creative (narrative). This is an example of a quick write making a one-page story from a given set of “facts”.
Jackie’s Prompt: Write one or two pages and include words: pliable, awkward, distance, imagine, sensible. Start the story with: “I picked it up to have a better look and …”
These were the things that first came to my mind.
… I discovered it was alive
…it bit me
….it appeared to be a diamond ring
I picked it up to have a better look and I probably would not have noticed it except for a brief parting of clouds, a peek-a-boo moment of sun. The day was covered in a thick gray blanket to keep out all but the faintest daylight at three o’clock. In that moment there was a brilliant flash in the pile of yesterday’s leaves. Is it real? Of course not was the answer that came instantly to mind. How would a diamond ring be in my backyard buried in a pile of leaves that we raked yesterday? I shoved it into my pocket, vowing to check with my housemate. I knew for sure it could not belong to Collin, but it might have belonged to Ellen, his sister. She has a collection of jewelry to rival Musk’s collection of Tweets. Possibly it fell from his pocket as we did yard work. Why would he have it? Yesterday had been so much fun. We laughed and plunged into piles of leaves like little children as we cleaned up the last of fall’s debris beneath the oak, maple, and sycamore trees that bordered our property. My job today was to bag up all the piles while Collin was gone. The trashman comes tomorrow.
When I finished pushing leaves into twenty-four black garbage bags I went into the house for a cup of tea. The warmth of the kitchen melted icy fingers that had clamped onto my neck and shoulders in the late afternoon chill. I wrapped my hands around the hot cup letting the steam drift up into my face. I sat at the kitchen counter and pulled the ring from my pocket, a simple wide white gold band with an emerald cut diamond of several carats. It was striking. Could it be real?
I reached for my cell phone. Collin left early this morning for a business trip to Hopewell, a distance of about two hundred miles, so I didn’t expect him to be home tonight. I wanted to let him know I’d found the ring in case he was worried. I could not imagine why he’d have it, but I knew he’d be concerned if he discovered it missing. He answered on the second ring.
“Busy?” I asked
“No, the meetings are over and I’m on my way to a hotel. It seemed more sensible to stay over than trying to get home tonight.”
“Yeah, I figured that. Guess what? I found the ring.”
“What ring?” He sounded hesitant.
“Did you lose a ring in the backyard yesterday while we were raking?”
“I didn’t have a ring.” His voice was gruff, his answer felt abrupt.
“That’s strange. How would a ring get into our leaf pile?” There was an awkward pause.
“What kind of ring?” he asked.
“It looks like a diamond.”
“Do you think it’s real?”
“Don’t know, I’m not an expert. It’s pretty and I’d say if it is real, it’s impressive. I’ll put it in my jewelry box and you can check it out when you get home. We’ll figure it out. Seems strange though to have a ring randomly show up in the backyard.”
“Don’t tell anybody about it. Okay?”
I am usually very pliable when it comes to Collin’s requests. We’ve been best friends for more than a decade and suffered through each other’s ups and downs; his boyfriends, my boyfriends, his business ventures, my writing. Something in his voice sent an alert. My skin prickled.
“What’s up, Collin?”
“What’d you mean?”
“Is it or is it not your ring?”
“No, I told you. But just don’t make a big deal of it. We’ll talk when I get home. I’m leaving now. See you in about four hours.” He hung up the phone.
What do you know differently from the story’s beginning to the end? This is an example of turning facts into narrative.