PROMPT: Organizing Your World

Today’s VoiceCATCH prompt was inspired by George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones).

Lately the members of VoiceCATCH have been working on fleshing out the worlds they've already created. We’ve been focusing on the research required to create your own world as well as the planning Martin to which must have committed.


Spend at least half an hour planning your scene.

What entity/house/individual is involved?

What are the power dynamics and how do the characters cooperate or undermine each other?

What are some of the words or phrases natural for your period and setting?

PROMPT: The Alchemists

Today’s VoiceCATCH prompt was inspired by the The Alchemist by Brazilian novelist and lyrcist Paulo Coelho. Using his rendition of the story of Narcissus, create your own “fractured fairytale” by taking a story and changing elements of it. Think of the alchemy in this world, not just of metals, but of the earth and its elements, and try to use that in your prompt.

From The Alchemist:

“The alchemist picked up a book that someone in the caravan had brought. Leafing through the pages, he found a story about Narcissus.

The alchemist knew the legend of Narcissus, a youth who knelt daily beside a lake to contemplate his own beauty. He was so fascinated by himself that, one morning, he fell into the lake and drowned. At the spot where he fell, a flower was born, which was called the narcissus.

But this was not how the author of the book ended the story.

He said that when Narcissus died, the goddesses of the forest appeared and found the lake, which had been fresh water, transformed into a lake of salty tears.

‘Why do you weep?’ the goddesses asked.

‘I weep for Narcissus,” the lake replied.

‘Ah, it is no surprise that you weep for Narcissus,’ they said, ‘for though we always pursued him in the forest, you alone could contemplate his beauty close at hand.’

‘But… was Narcissus beautiful?’ the lake asked.

‘Who better than you to know that?’ the goddesses asked in wonder. ‘After all, it was by your banks that he knelt each day to contemplate himself!’

The lake was silent for some time. Finally, it said:

‘I weep for Narcissus, but I never noticed that Narcissus was beautiful. I weep because, each time he knelt beside my banks, I could see, in the depths of his eyes, my own beauty reflected.’

‘What a lovely story,’ the alchemist thought.”

PROMPT: What Makes Writing Good? What Makes It Bad?

Thanks to Lori Jakiela!

We actually spent last week’s VoiceCATCH editing for the most part. Feel free to bring in any pieces you’d like workshopped, as we really enjoy doing it!

With the last half hour of class, we read ”Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell together and used that as our prompt:

“Orwell establishes rules or guidelines for good writing. Which of their rules ring most true to you? Which are the most helpful? Any that are less helpful? Any you disagree with? Discuss these in your journals?

And now:  What are your own rules and guidelines? What do you value as a writer and a reader? And can you talk about why?

Try crafting your own guide to good writing. Be specific. Cite examples of books and authors you consider models of good writing. What is it you value in these works? Why do you value these specific things? What is it about you — your background, who you are — that makes you value these specific things?

Discuss what you struggle with in your own writing and revision. What do you work toward as a writer? Why? Who are your models? Why?

Really grapple with these questions and come up with a set of rules and guidelines that feels very true and good for you.”

PROMPT: Small to Large, Large to Small

Here’s this week’s VoiceCATCH writing prompt. Start with something tiny and go big. Or, begin in the ether and work your way down.

Describe something small around you. Then describe the area that surrounds that object. Then describe an even bigger area, using your imagination if needed. For example:  a pencil—top of a desk—an office—a house—a neighborhood—a city, state, or country—the world—outer space. You can also start big and work your way down to the small (ex: city—neighborhood—house—kitchen—toaster).

PROMPT: 100 Words

What can you say in 100 words? Exactly 100 words? Today we tried some 100 word essays and stories. To get an idea of what 100 words can do, check out these short-shorts.

“Carrot” by Michelle Webster-Hein

“Divorce Party” by Marc J. Sheehan

“A Lesson Plan” by Kayla Candrilli

Now it’s your turn. First, pick an object or topic. If you’re stuck, here are a few ideas:

Carrots (as in Michelle Webster-Hein’s piece. What do you want to say about carrots?)
Your first car
A camera
An oak tree
A postage stamp
Chicago (or a city of your choosing)
Your mother/father/brother/sister
The street where you grew up

Next, free write on this topic until you have about a paragraph.

Now, count the number of words you used. If you are over, see what you can cut to hit 100 words. Does that make your piece more powerful and succinct? If you are under, see how you can expand. Does that push your piece in an interesting or unexpected way?