PROMPT: First Lines and Three Step Stories

Here are a few prompts from VoiceCATCH over the last couple of weeks. Enjoy!

1.  First Lines

Take one of the following lines and use it to begin a piece of writing. If you’d like, you may change the line slightly to suit your purposes. Please see the list below for the pieces where these lines originated.

a) To describe my body walking I must go back to my mother’s body walking.

b) Over the horizon is another horizon. Down the dirt road is more dirt road.

c) I keep thinking about the taxidermist, the one I met at the bar, who scoops road kill from Route 28 with her apron on.

d) Filling her compact and delicious body with chicken paprika, she glanced at me twice.

Taken from:

a) “To Describe My Body Walking” by Yona Harvey, found in Hemming the Water.

b) This Is What They Say by M. Bartley Seigel.

c) “Molly” by Leslie Anne McIlroy, found in PANK 9.

d) Dream Song #4 of John Berryman’s The Dream Songs.

2.  Three Step Stories

This prompt is adapted from T. Alan Broughton’s “A Little Nightmusic: The Narrative Metaphor,” found in The Practice of Poetry, edited by Robin Behn and Chase Twichel.

 1. Recall a brief moment or scene that carried, for you, a high degree of emotional intensity (it does not need to be a complete story). Jot down notes about that incident. As Broughton writes, “Try to pick details that give you its tone, the emotional core.”

2. Now invent an incident that is not your own but is set in the same location as above. Strive for a tone that contrasts significantly with the moment from #1.

3. Write a narrative (a story) that combines #1 and #2, using as many of the words and images you’ve accumulated as possible.

Broughton writes, “This exercise can result in the kind of suggestive complexity that enriches any narrative,” and discusses the “tyranny” of the statement, “But that was the way it happened.” How can you take an emotionally intense moment of your life and transform it?