Since, as a writer, I believe that writers help other writers through conversations about and sharing our writing with one another, encouraging one another, and providing resources and ideas for one another. So as some of you know, I occasionally post a prompt that I’ve used in the workshops I have done with both adolescents and adults. This is one of those times that I thought I’d throw out one of those ideas to see if it seems interesting to any writers in our online writers community. As always, it may be useful to some, or perhaps to none. Many times, perhaps most times, we start with a prompt and end up with a totally different piece of writing, but one which we might have not engaged in without beginning with a prompt. I like today’s prompt. It’s been fun for me, too, to read others’ resulting pieces, but this is one that I actually haven’t been able to use myself. It just doesn’t work for me. But it has for many, and quite well, in a number of genres: poetry, flash fiction, short story, and true stories. So here it is. I’m sending it out there for any of you in our community who would like to try it.
A Broken Record
Most of us have probably had the frustrating and annoying experience of a damaged CD. We’ll be caught up in a song, maybe even singing along, and all of a sudden the CD will make a clicking noise and become stuck, playing the same section over and over, never moving on to finish the track.
In Herman Melville’s story “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street”, the main character Bartleby is a clerk in a law office. One day his behavior completely changes in a very odd way. When anyone asks him to say anything or do anything, the only thing he will say to them is, “I would prefer not to.” In fact, this is the only thing he ever says in the story, over and over and over. Of course, this drives the other characters crazy with frustration. And worry. Is it a mind game he’s playing? Is he hiding something? Is he just stubborn and lazy?
Come up with a signature reply of your own, probably only one or two sentences. Try writing a short story or narrative poem or even a personal experience in which it is the only reply your main character ever utters. Your piece might just be a conversation with one other character or several characters may be involved in trying to get him or her to talk, to explain their behavior, or how to figure out their motive. This can be a challenge. The outcome could be very interesting.
“It wasn’t my fault.”
“Leave me alone.”
“Ask _____________.” (Put in aperson’s name.)