Novel Now: Prompt #3

A character arrives late to a party, not knowing that an old significant other is attending too. The relationship didn’t end well. The host introduces them to each other, unaware of their history. In 500 words or less, write the scene and rewrite it twice, once from each character’s perspective: The late arriver, the ex and the host.

Why: Sometimes a story scene can be effective written from a secondary character’s point of view. Writing as a neutral observer might help you notice details worth including in the scene (such as the main characters’ actions and body language); actions that you wouldn’t think about as much if you were writing from a different viewpoint.


More than fashionably late and now this.  Lanny introducing me to Stella. Going on and on about her. I could tell Lanny a million things about her, things he would never guess. Things he probably wouldn’t want to know. A whole history book.

Feigning interest and surprise, I’m trying to keep up with Lanny and his gushing over Stella.  Gushing that obviously came from Lanny’s wife, who just recently met Stella and obviously doesn’t know about Stella and me or, if she does, she failed to fill in Lanny on our past.

So, Lanny launches into a colorful, extended, over the top introduction of Stella to me.

The subtext is clear: Stella and I should hook up.

Walking a tightrope, I try to share Lanny’s enthusiasm, but not commit to anything, all the time hoping Lanny will excuse himself to mingle with the other guests.

Stella could help out here a bit, too. Instead of lapping up all this praise, she could set the record straight, or at least demur. She could act a bit embarrassed or ask Lanny to stop but instead she just smiles pertly and almost nudges him on, more, more.

As Lanny moves on to another third- or fourth-hand story about Stella, I want to stop it but realize that this conversation has gone on too far.  At this point I cannot simply break it to Lanny that Stella and I flamed out a couple years ago, ingloriously, irrevocably, and very loudly.  Telling Lanny that in the midst of all his story, complete with bodily re-enactment and sound effects, would slap an awkwardness on us that would probably necessitate either Stella or me or more likely both of us excusing ourselves from the party immediately.

So I grin and bear it.

And glance at Stella, whose eyes are fixed on Lanny.

Lanny puts his arm around my shoulder, gives me a good shake and a squeeze.

Someone, please, help me out of this.

Oh, this is delicious!

Lanny wants to introduce me to Steve. I guess Louise didn’t pass along the Stella/Steve story to Lanny or maybe I just edited Steve out of my past. After all, when I met Louise I didn’t want to open with that gory tale. Just as well left out. It was just nice to not have that messy cloud hanging over every conversation. After a while, I guess it would have been too awkward to delve into it, so I just let it rest. After all, Louise and Lanny didn’t know Steve and I back then, so why bring it up?

And now here comes Steve, late for the party and unprepared for what he’s about to step into.

Thanks, Lanny, for that wonderful introduction.

My, Steve, speechless? That’s a switch.

That’s right, Lanny, keep on going, this is all sounding good. I’ll neither confirm nor deny these glorious stories. Kudos to you or Louise, whoever added all these embellishments. You draw such a delightful picture of me that I hardly recognize myself.

Steve, I can feel you looking at me but you’re on your own, pal. Lanny is too deep into the Stella stories now for you to tell him how well we already know each other and I’ll be damned if I’m going to stop him. He’s on a roll. Stop him? Ha! Eat shit, you little prick! After all those nasty things you said about me? Acting like you were perfect, Mr. Holier-Than-Thou.

No, I’m enjoying this too much.

Ah, there’s Steve, more than fashionably late, but, hey, that’s okey-dokey. Being the great host that I am, I’ll just usher old Stevie over and make the introduction. Stella’s been prepped with the “new friend I’d like you to meet” to whet her appetite and pique her curiosity. From across the room she’ll have a chance to view this guy as I bring him over to her. Piece of cake.

Come on, Steve, over here, there’s someone Louise and I would like you to meet. You’ll love her. Louise has told me some wonderful things about her.

Stella, this is Steve, the guy I was telling you about. Steve, this is Stella.

Steve’s look says it all. Mouth open, at a loss for words. Let’s move this forward.

Louise has told me quite a bit about Stella. An impressive young woman, Steve-o. Let me tell you a bit about her.

Both you guys kind of quiet, huh? That’s okay, I can keep this conversation going until one of your brains kicks in. Stella, you keep your eyes on me and Steve, you keep eyeing Stella and I’ll keep chipping away at the ice. That’s okay, how about another story? There’s plenty more where that came from.

I can do this all night, if that’s how long it takes. After all, I’m game for a challenge. Besides, this is a lot more fun that trying to entertain Louise’s boring friends.

Novel Now: Prompt #2

A character is being chased by a villain or villainous group through an abandoned warehouse. Describe their fear and lucky escape in 500 words or less. Rewrite the piece from the viewpoint of the villain(s).

Why: Rewriting a protagonist’s scenes from the antagonist’s perspective can help you create a more realistic sense of threat, since you will be able to picture the protagonist as well as antagonist’s movements and psychological state clearer.

Lonnie set his two drinks on the floor in front of the passenger seat.  He started the car and carefully pulled it around, parked it between the front door of the jazz club and the cars of Wes and Darron, nestled in an open spot just behind Jones’s SUV.  Slid over into the passenger seat and adjusted the side mirror so that he could see the jazz club door down the sidewalk behind him.  Briefly opened the glovebox and checked inside.

Then he settled in and waited.

While he waited, Lonnie finished off the two double whiskey sours at his feet.  He stewed and he simmered over the situation.  Rage and indignation boiled within him.  Jones was not going to abscond with Lonnie’s players.

In the side mirror, the sight of the club door opening disrupted Lonnie’s thoughts. Lonnie leaned closer to the mirror for a better look.

It was a couple exiting, bundled up and walking with their arms around each other against the chill of the night.  They crossed the street and wandered down the sidewalk the other way.

A minute later, two familiar figures stepped out of the club door.  Lonnie straightened up in his seat.

“Leaving early?  Past your bedtime?” Lonnie sneered to himself.

Darron and Wes walked slowly up the sidewalk, discussing.  Lonnie, hand poised on the door handle, leaned closer to the side mirror until his forehead was touching the window.  His jaw tightened.

Darron and Wes made their way past the alley next to the club and continued past storefronts, closed for the night, dark.  Darron talked animatedly, using his hands.  Wes listened intently, eyes on Darron, and nodded

The two were even with the tail end of Lonnie’s car when he pounced.

Flinging the car door open, Lonnie barked, “Jones!”

The two coaches jumped, startled.  Neither said a word.

Lonnie stepped toward them, face seething, steam rising off his head into the chill of the night.  He stopped a couple paces in front of Darron, arms folded across his chest, lips pursed.  Jones cautiously took a step closer.  He could smell the double whiskey sours on Lonnie’s breath.

Wes stepped up next to his friend.

“What do you got to say for yourself?” Lonnie demanded.

“What are you talking about?” Darron answered, trying to match Lonnie’s indignation.

“I hear you’re walking out and you decided to take a few things along with you.”

“Where’d you hear that?”

”Never mind.”

“Wise tell you that?”

“I said never you mind that!”

“You sure Wise has his story straight?” Jones challenged Lonnie.

“You keep your hands off my players!” Lonnie shouted and jabbed his finger into Darron’s chest.

Darron’s eyes blinked, his jaw tightened, and he brushed Lonnie’s hand away. “You don’t own those boys!”

“I said you keep your hands off my players!”

“And I’ll do what I please!” Darron shouted right back.

Lonnie turned away from Darron and stepped to the open car.

He leaned in and opened the glovebox.

Darron grabbed Wes by the arm and shoved him back toward the club.

“Run for it!” Darron shouted.

As Lonnie straightened up and turned back toward Darron and Wes, he saw the two of them run around the corner and into the alley.  Lonnie took off after them.   He heard the sound of a trash can being kicked halfway down the alley.  They were getting away.  Lonnie’s shoes slapped the pavement as he passed the last storefront and rounded the corner into the alley.  He saw the two men and he shot, wildly.  At the sound of the bullet striking the brick wall, the two instinctively put their hands up behind their heads and ducked as they ran.

“Faster!” Lonnie heard one say to the other.

Lonnie cursed and chided himself, told himself he wasn’t in the movies. On the next shot he would stop and steady himself before shooting.

Darron and Wes raced to the end of the alley and made a sharp cut out of sight.  Lonnie avoided the knocked over trash can, came to the end of the alley, and skidded to a stop as he cleared the corner.  He stopped, raised his gun, and froze.

Two D.C. police officers, guns drawn, told him to drop the gun and put up his hands.  Lonnie, staring down the barrels of the two drawn guns, did as he was told.

The chase was over.

Now Novel Prompt #1

A character is moving to another city. She visits her favourite public place and sees something that makes her want to stay. Describe this in 500 words, using third person POV (he/she). Then rewrite in first person, using ‘I’.

Why: Rewriting third person scenes (especially emotional ones) in first person helps you find your character’s voice.  You’re telling the reader what your character thinks as your character, not an observer. When you rewrite in third person (if you prefer this POV), some of this immediacy will carry over.

Mrs. Jones, the mother of Jeremy Jonathan Jones, Jr. and the wife of J-J Jones, Sr., moved with her son and husband from a small town in western Pennsylvania that nobody ever heard of to Washington, D.C., which everybody heard of.  Decided to visit every monument and museum she could before she got herself too settled in and came to view such things as too “tourist-y.”

Before the family actually packed up and left, however, a certain dread had kept her from really embracing the move.  The voice of the small town girl in her tried to warn her about the dangers of the big city, especially a city where it’s all about power and politics.  And that voice of fear was winning.  She was convinced the move was a mistake.  She worried about what Jeremy would be exposed to in this new, hostile environment.

She went along with the move, but only for J-J Sr’s sake, what with his new job working for the government and all, but she was not going to enjoy it.

Until she did.

The only prior visit she had ever taken to D.C. was when she was in high school, on a school trip, and at the time she could not imagine that there was anything duller in the whole world.  Colonial-this and Civil War-that and the whole place just seemed so in-the-past distant and over and done with.

But that was then.  This time around, with a fresh set of eyes and having a son and a different outlook on the world, so much of all the history and all the culture, and all the different cultures, so much of what she saw meant so much more to her.

“You know,” she told someone about it afterward, “on my high school trip, everything was all planned for us and there was not a whole lot of room for asking questions and I’m a naturally curious, questioning person.  Being able to seek out what I want to see and find out what I want to know, to learn, that has made all the difference.   I like it here.”

I’ll tell you, Jeremy and J-J Sr. were looking forward to moving out here to D.C. but I had my reservations, coming from a small town in western Pennsylvania and all.  That small town girl voice inside my head warned me about Washington and it all being about money and power and the like.  So, yes, I definitely had my reservations, what with the dangers of the city and Jeremy and what he would be exposed to.  I was worried and nervous and filled with a bit of dread,

But I went along with the move, for Sr.’s sake, his new job with the government and the opportunity that presented itself to him.

I wasn’t happy about it but I put on a brave face.

Once we arrived here I thought I would get out and see some of the sights around town before I got too settled in and got to be too much of a local.  It seems like once you live in a place for a while, you never get out and see the things that visitors to your city see, all the attractions and monuments and sights.

I had been here once before, just once, on a class trip with my high school.  That trip was just dreadful.  Everything on that trip was planned and we were rushed along from museum to museum and I could not imagine that there was anything duller in the whole world.  Colonial-this and Civil War-that and the whole place just seemed so in-the-past distant and over and done with.  There was no opportunity to see anything that I might really want to see, just follow the schedule and make sure to keep up.

This time around, though, I was left to my own devices and you know, I was fascinated by what there was to see, really fascinated. Some of the museums show some of the contributions that all the different people, all the different types of people, from different backgrounds and all, made to our country.  I had no idea.

The more I saw, the more I was amazed.  There’s so much history and culture and even Jeremy was hooked after a while.

I’m glad we moved here.