As much reading about writing as I have done, I only recently discovered Ray Bradbury’s NOUN writing exercise. If you love lists and writing it is the perfect writing prompt. Here is the link to the Brain Pickings article outlining his unusual writing practice.
Inspired by Bradbury, I wrote my own list and have been writing 100–200 word pieces using one noun as a trigger. This exercise is unlocking stories hiding in my mind.
My First List of Nouns:
The night. The Dark. The empty. The foot. The drawer. The book. The manuscript. The eve. The house. The fireplace. The castle. The moors. The pool. The date auction. The class. The ring. The roller skates. The pen. The candle. The heart. The mirror. The run.
I asked some friends over the weekend to text me a short list of nouns to use as springboards for writing. This variation is more in line with the random word prompt. The lists are not my own so the emotional story unlocking potential is not as prominent.
Here are opening lines of a story I wrote using this noun list: The Horse. The Banana. The Table. The Peanut Butter. The Glasses.
It was a rainy, too warm October day when the horse dropped dead in the middle of the pasture. He didn’t know what to do with death. Peanut butter freed a six year old’s horses around the corner. The little one hid in a closet and wasn’t found for 2 days. A peanut butter and banana sandwich can be deadly in more ways than one. One bite taken out of the square white softness was enough to change a whole family, and the town they lived in.
Jack took his glasses off and set them on the table and rubbed the space between his eyes with the two fingers of his right hand. They were stained with dark black ink as they always were. They were calloused and rough. He could hold balls of fire without pain. Maybe they could even resist death. He hadn’t had the opportunity to experiment. Jack joked and told people that he could handle the heat because of all the evil his hands had done.They never knew if he was kidding.
My plan is to try this prompt with students as well to see what unlocks in their minds!
Tammy Breitweiser is a writer and teacher who is a force of nature and woman of honor; seer of nuance; accidental inspirationalist; keeper of the little red doors, and conjurer of everyday magic who is busy writing short stories. A future Minnesotan temporarily hiding in Indiana, her poetry has been published in The Storyteller Magazine and her flash fiction in The Ninja Writers Monthly and Elephant Never. Her essay is published in the I Wrote it Anyway anthology. You can also connect with Tammy through Twitter @TLBREIT.