Monkey in the Middle

Unless you have never tried a creative writing exercise you will know about writing prompts which give you the first or last part of a story or a few words which you work into a full story. Now, for something different… Below you will find the middle of your story. Give it a beginning and an ending. Happy writing!

Of course the branch broke and all the stuffed toys fell down into the backyard. Half of them landed right on the sandcastle which Jones had by now (finally) completed. Poppy cried, sure that the stuffed animals would require emergency medical care. Molly wanted to know if the tree would grow that branch back right away, just like in the cartoons. Polly wanted an apple from the broken branch cause someone had once told her anything from a broken tree was poisoned once it hit the ground.

Start a Plan to Get Where you Want to Be

What kind of writing do you really want to do? For me it was a newspaper (or some other medium) columnist. I still would like to do that but it seems a long step from here to there. I’m not sure where the connecting steps are. Or, I’m just not ready to test my wings and risk falling down on that first  hard concrete step.

If you aren’t writing the way you want to make a plan, just for yourself and put it on paper not a secret blog post or email to yourself. Go back to one of the traditional forms and write it longhand on paper with a pen. No pencil, you can’t erase this! Give yourself a plan, with at least a few steps you can take today and this week and this month.

At the end of the month see where you are from where you were. Did you make progress? Even a little progress is going forward, don’t belittle your own efforts. Any progress keeps you from falling into a rut or just running in place with your head above water.

What’s Eating Your Brain?

You have a headache. It’s been hanging around all day. The usual remedies and tricks have not worked. So, you take a long look at your head in the mirror and notice an odd bump on your forehead. It wasn’t there before. As you watch the bump moves, just a tiny bit. That’s kind of scary.

At the hospital they x-ray your head to see what the heck has gotten into you. Turns out it wasn’t the average joe of headaches after all. What’s in your head, messing with your mind?

Yes, this is kind of a gruesome writing prompt but I really do have a headache and it seems only right to share. A headache shared is half, don’t they say something like that?

Show Your Recent Work

Sometimes I like the sites that just show one post on their front page. But, I don’t like it at all when they make it tricky to find more recent content. I want to see the post before the current post and I don’t want to dig for it. I don’t want to figure out your theory of web navigation.

I also don’t want to click an archive link cause I’m not looking for what you wrote in 2006 just what you wrote yesterday, or last week, depending on how often you update.

So, if you have just one post on your main page make sure it is very easy to hit one link and read several of your recent posts, not an archive which should be another link separate from the current work you are doing.

Personal Choices in Weblog Templates

How often do you change or customize your blog’s template (theme, your word of choice)? I find there is only so much I want to change through tweaking and the rest I hope to find in the template I pick. There are certain things I always look for, mainly to do with readability. I like a clean cut look with a font that looks pleasant and is easy to read. Many templates seem to have tiny fonts lately. I don’t see how a site focused on being content rich can pick a small font and think that is ok.

What do you look for in a blog template?

Here is my list, likely there are some things I will miss but it should give you an idea.

– Clear header, shows the site title and doesn’t blend in with the rest of the site.

– White space so the text doesn’t sink into the design.

– Dated entries. What is the point of making updates if no one can see your blog is being kept active.

–  One sidebar only. I tried 3 and even four but it just gets too cluttered. You have to be bold and cut out some of that stuff you are keeping in sidebars. Move it or lose it.

– A footer that lets you stick some of the clutter away. But don’t use it as a catch all. Everything down there is pulling down the load time for your blog. Is it really worth keeping?

– Clear definining points between posts. This includes having comments be easy to find wtih the blog entry they should be with. Some blogs require you to go back to the newest post to figure out where one entry divides from another and which comment link is the one with the post you were reading.

– Simple, clear font which looks pleasant on the page. I like a font with a little roundness but not to the point of being bloated looking. That may only make sense to me. 🙂

– A layout I can easily adapt by changing backgrounds and other things with the bit of CSS I know or can look up in a book.

– Not a lot of colours. I think I outgrow those first. Black and white may be really traditional but when I see it on another blog I always like it. So I try to stick to that even though I really love colour, especially red.

– I like being able to add links just under the header but it’s not essential. An about section or a place to put a short description under the title or near it. People are getting blind to the content in sidebars so your most essential information (what your blog is about) needs to be in a place where it is very visible.

– A border of whitespace around the blog itself. I like to have the option of adding a background image to fancy it up for special occasions.

– Something that doesn’t look really boxy. I know CSS works in sections and measurements but I prefer the template to look like it isn’t so regimental.

A Better Look at Coffee

Your regular coffee is not available. So the barista offers you something new, thinking you will like it. The new coffee does smell divine, even better than your usual. It’s smooth and mellow and why did you ever drink any other coffee…?

Leaving the coffee shop you notice odd things. You can see everything but all the colours are brighter and sharper. Like fixing the picture on a screen, your eyes are seeing clearly now. Some things are too bright and you fight off a little glare. You have an interesting day, seeing things with new eyes.

In the evening you discover you can see in the dark. Like a cat or an owl, you now have night vision. What do you do with your new skill? What things would you like to see at night?

Wicked Wishes from Witches

You see a Witch scrunched down at the side of the sidewalk. You only think of her as a Witch because of the way she is dressed, an exceptionally great costume – if this were Halloween. She is doing something odd with her fingers. For lack of a better word you would say she is hexing something. Interesting…

As you walk past she says your name. Your ears perk up and your skin prickles. When you stop and look back she is looking right up at you. It’s creepy.

However, you’re the curious sort so you stop and wait to see what she does or says next. She offers you one wish but it has to be wicked. No world peace or ending world hunger or any of that hogwash. What wicked wish would you make? Something the nice girl in you would find terrible and not even consider thinking let alone doing!

Elevators and Escalators

When I commuted to work, back and forth on the buses, trains and subways in Toronto, I remember how annoyed I would feel about people who behave like farm animals, sheep and cattle, following a herd mentality.

You’ve seen it. Everyone gets off the bus and goes into the train station. At the first door they all stop and each one goes through the same door, following the leader. Why don’t they open the other doors? There can be a whole row of a dozen doors yet they all wait in turn to go through just that one door opened by the leader. I used to walk around the flock and open my own new door. Then I would become the leader and they flowed behind me. It was funny to watch every commuting day.

We like to write about characters, people who open that new door or do something less predictable. Main characters are usually in the middle of some kind of change, someone who isn’t following the herd. How can you use an ordinary thing from our urban culture to show how a person has looked up from their feet and begun to look around at the world around them, opening new doors? Think of elevators and escalators if you’re stuck for an idea, urban transportation at it’s best.