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Friday, 3 July 2020

Weekly writing prompt: Telling a secret


Telling a secret

In the run-up to the online Summer of Writing workshops in August, I'm posting a writing prompt each weekend - plenty of different stuff for you to play around with as a chance to experiment, get your pen moving, and have fun! Each of the prompts loosely connects with a weekend pair of the Summer of Writing workshops, and I'll explain the connection at the end of the post each time. I find it's often more useful to play with prompts first, then think about their purpose afterwards, as we're more open and uninhibited that way. (That said, if you need to understand the point of something to enjoy it, feel free to scroll down and read that first!)


This week's prompt is telling a secret. You have two characters: one of them urgently wants to tell the other one a secret, something that they really shouldn't be telling. The other character does not want to hear the secret: either they actually already know, or they just don't want to hear something they shouldn't.

Who are the characters? You've got three choices here, depending on how you prefer to work:
  • If you have a work in progress, you could use two characters you don't know so well yet, as a way of getting to know them.
  • You can use this name generator to create two characters' names. It's an especially fun one because it auto-fills random info to generate the character's names, so you also get some random titbits about them. (I got a bunch of suggestions for Shakespearean vampires)
  • You can just leap in and start writing, and find out who they are as you go along.

What's the secret? A-ha... I don't know. It's a secret. You might know. You probably don't yet. At least one of the characters definitely does. As they talk, you'll discover hints and clues – and who knows, they might even blurt it out.

As with all the Weekend Writing Prompts, I suggest you use this as a ten-minute excercise: get comfy with notebook, pen, and sippables, switch off notifications, set a timer for 10 minutes, and step into writing world! And if you need a phrase to get your pen moving, you can start with "I don't suppose..."

This is the second of the five weekly writing prompts running up to this year's online Summer of Writing workshops. This prompt links with the pair of workshops on dialogue: Creating Voice (Saturday 8 August) and Dialogue on the Page (Sounday 9 August). By giving your characters both something to discuss and a narrative tension (the tension between them and the tension of not knowing the secret yet), the dialogue immediately has strong narrative purpose. That makes it easier to write the characters' words, explore their voices, and find out more about them through that.

You can see the previous prompt here and there's also a new prompt each week, so you can subscribe to the blog here:

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You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram to get reminders. The full list of Summer of Writing workshops is...
  • 1. Creative Ground (Saturday 1 August): exploring the different kinds of thinking we need for creativity, process versus product driven approaches, and increasing our reservoirs of inspiration
  • 2. Creative Play (Sunday 2 August): experimenting with taking creative leaps, opening up to fresh ideas, and risk-free thinking
  • 3. Creating Voice (Saturday 8 August): creating or developing characters through exploring their voice
  • 4. Dialogue on the Page (Sunday 9 August): practical aspects of writing dialogue: its purpose in the story; common errors; attributing speech; and the descriptions and actions that go around it.
  • 5. Place is Story (Saturday 15 August): using rich locations to develop and create plot events
  • 6. Purposeful description (Sunday 16 August): writing description that serves strong narrative purposes and exploring techniques for strengthening your descriptive writing
  • 7. Shifting between Scenes (Saturday 22 August): how to keep the reader oriented about who characters are, what happened last, moving in time and place, and dealing with flashbacks elegantly
  • 8. Deft exposition (Sunday 23 August): a range of ways to weave explanation into a story and how to deal with "heavy-duty" exposition for more complex info
  • 9. Exploring Styles (Saturday 29 August): exploring a wide range of styles and the features of each, and experimenting with writing in different styles
  • 10. Polishing your Style (Sunday 30 August): using original imagery, selecting telling details, improving word choice, spotting clichés, and pruning unnecessary words
Read more details about the Summer of Writing workshops and book your places here. NB: Workshops are limited to 16 places and fill up quickly, so do book in advance if you can.

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