Month: January 2015

The Mystery Doorway Another Visual Prompt


Here’s another visual prompt to get you writing with COW.  Before you begin writing, mull over these questions to get your creativity flowing:

1.  If you go through this door, where do you end up?

2.  If you knocked on this door, who would answer?

3.  Why is there a ’17’ on the door?

4.  Who put this door here, and why?

5.  If the door was locked, how could you open it?

Happy writing!

Photo Credit:  Chris McMahen

Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? Using Visual Prompts with COW


One of the most effective ways to light the fire of imagination is with an intriguing writing prompt.  In COW, we provide a bank of over 150 prompts (with even more on the way).  You’ll notice that our prompts always leave off in mid-sentence.  Experience has shown us that by asking the writer to complete the sentence, this often gets the flow of writing and ideas going more effectively.

Another form of prompt is the visual prompt.  (Otherwise know as a picture!)  Although visual prompts are currently not featured in COW, we’d like to periodically feature a visual prompt on our blog that writers can use for inspiration. 

For teachers, just project or display the image for the entire class.  As a pre-writing activity, have a discussion about the picture to get some ideas circulating.

What events or circumstances lead up to this picture?

What do you think might happen following this picture?

What characters are not shown in this picture but are important to the story?

What sort of problem could exist in this picture?

When did this occur?  Distant past?  Present day?  Distant future?

How does your perception of this picture change if you know the story behind it is a fairy tale?  Science fiction?  A mystery?

It’s really helpful to leave the image up during the writing session so that students can look back and re-examine the picture for further ideas.

Maybe the old saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” but a really good visual prompt can be the spark for so much more.

Alieo Games

The Importance of Writing Fearlessly, Voluminously and Frequently Famous writers share their beliefs about writing

Jane Yolen,  author and editor of more than 280 books, had this to say about the importance of writing every day:

“Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.”

Edgar Rice Burroughs, the author of almost eighty novels and the creator of Tarzan, was a believer in writing voluminously:

“If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favour.”

William Faulkner, a Nobel Prize laureate, believed in writing fearlessly:

“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.”

Become a frequent, voluminous and fearless writer with COW.

Flying Fairies and the Extinction of the Dinosaurs

Yesterday morning, I read the late Stephen J. Gould’s fascinating essay, “Dinosaur Extinction.”  An hour later, I was reading the instructions in an attempt to assemble a flying toy fairy (batteries not included).

As I pondered the impact of extraterrestrial bodies slamming into the earth and watched as the mechanical fairy stood motionless on the ground, it got me thinking about the creation of these two very different types of documents.  I reached this conclusion:

Whether it’s a novel, a scientific essay, a newspaper story, or an instruction manual, all writing is essentially creative writing.

“Creative Writing” often conjures up a limited notion of the novel, the short story, or the poem.  Yet, no matter how mundane or unimaginative a piece of writing may seem to be, an element of creativity is required to produce effective writing. Creativity is an element in all forms of writing for two (at least) main reasons:

1.  Just as a fiction writer must imagine the world through the minds of their characters, the instruction manual writer must place themselves in the world of the person who will ultimately be assembling the toy fairy or drywalling a room, or making a recipe for waffles.  Leaving your own assumptions behind and actually imagining another person following your instructions is essential for the writing of effective instructions.

2.  A fiction writer must decide which details to provide, how to pace the plot, and other matters of structure to deliver their story most effectively to their reader.  Writers of non-fiction material must do exactly the same thing.  Rather than writing with a lock-step formula, effective writers must explore and create a wide range of alternate ways of presenting their material.  Great expository and persuasive writing is lively, employing imagery to engage the reader and effectively deliver material with the greatest clarity and impact.

So, whether you are writing a step-by-step instruction manual for the assembly of a computer desk with 3,265 pieces, an essayist arguing for the existence of life on other planets, or a blogger writing about writing, you are a creative writer.

Alieo Games

The Onomatopoeia Writing Challenge Start the year off with a BANG, a SQUELCH, and a FLIP-FLOP!

Onomatopoeia are words that can be associated with sound effects.  Their meaning is tied to the sound of the word. 

For this writing challenge, select the Onomatopoeia Bonus Word list.  (Teachers can copy it from the Shared Bonus Word Tab, then assign it to their class.)  Try to incorporate all of the sound effect bonus words into your story.

Here’s the really fun part!  Get creative when you share your Onomatapoeia story.  Print out your story, then go through and highlight the onomatopoeia bonus words.  Then, you can share it in one of these ways:

1.  Get Dramatic

In reading your story, when you read a sound effects word, get dramatic!  Instead of just reading “bump,” read it like, “BUMP!” This is a great way to combine drama with reading your story aloud.

2.  Encourage Audience Participation

Another way to present your story is to make up signs for each of your sound effect words.  So, for example, when you get to the word woof in your story, you hold up the sign and everyone listening to your story joins in by making the sound effect.

3.  Become a Foley Artist

Look around for objects that make sounds similar to the sound effect words in your story.  For example, for boom, find a large bucket and bang it with your fist.  For pop, you could find a plastic bag or even a balloon.  As you read your story to a friend or your classmates, instead of reading the word, make the sound effect with the objects.

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