Post by Guest Blogger, Jacqui Johnson
Getting together today was so exciting! Still inspired by the timely words Megan shared on her last post, we sat down to focus on applying ‘show don’t tell’ to add emotional connectivity in our writing.
According to Melissa Donovan in her blog post, 'Emotionally Charged Creative Writing Prompts, ‘To engage a reader, we have to create scenes that are so vivid they seem real, even if they are not. Through scenes, imagery, and dialogue, writers can actively engage readers with what’s happening on the page.’
Please check out her blog post for great examples on how to apply these.
Engaging readers on an emotional level helps author’s to not only weave an interesting tale, but also to do justice to the characters, telling their story and how they feel as it unfolds. We used a couple of Melissa creative writing prompts, keeping in mind other areas we have focused on at previous writer’s group meetings such as; dialogue, character descriptions, similes and metaphors.
Below are the prompts we chose to use, and both Megan and my own application of these prompts.
A family of five is driving across the desert on the way for a holiday in Perth. They get lost, and then the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. The mobile phone is dead and the sun is setting. The kids are hot, tired and hungry. Mum is scared and frazzled. Dad, a mid-level sales manager with no survival skills is frustrated and angry. An animal howls in the distance.
Please note: I changed the setting to be in Australia, as well as the amount of children. Eh! What can I say? It’s a prompt, not a rule.
Going Nowhere by Megan Higginson
The setting sun glared like an angry beast in through the dusty windscreen. Craig squinted his eyes, trying to find the road ahead. Sweat dripped down his forehead and he wiped it away with an already soaked towel. The smell in the car was not helped by the lowering of the windows, the air-conditioner having failed in the past hour.
Perth! Whose crazy, convoluted idea was it to drive to Perth? Then he remembered. It was his. “It will be fun,” he said. “Mark Jones from accounting, drives there every year to visit family. Surely me, a sales manager, should be able to do it.” The conversation with his wife whirled around Craig’s head.
A loud gurgling came from Justin’s stomach. “Mummy! Me hungry,” Justin whined as he squirmed in his booster seat.
“Shut up, stupid head,” Carissa said to her younger brother. “You ate the last of it an hour ago. Besides, we are all hungry.”
“You stupid head! Me not stupid head!” Justin stuck his tongue out at Carissa.
Carissa rolled her eyes at her brother and sank into a sticky smelly heap on the back seat.
Craig glanced over at Marleen. She sat staring at the map, her normally neat hair now a frizzy mess. She looked like a porcelain doll.
“Well!” he shot at her. “Where are we?”
Marleen slowly turned her head and their eyes met. He didn’t like what he saw in them.
“I. Don’t. Know.” Each word was punctuated by a full stop.
Time slowed. The three kids held their breaths. They knew what was coming. Craig’s eyes bulged. His face went red.
“We’re what? Lost! How could you get us lost?”
As the words left his mouth a strange thumping noise came deep from within the bowels of the engine. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. And then a loud bang that made them all jump. Deep grey smoke like the smoke from a chimney stack, billowed from under the bonnet as the car ground to a halt.
Craig slammed his fist into the steering wheel, popped the release lever on the bonnet, opened the door, and stomped around to the front of the car.
“Try the blasted phone again!” Craig yelled from the front. “Probably no service out here anyway,” he muttered under his breath.
“It’s dead, Dad. The battery died an hour ago.” George was sixteen and didn’t care what his father thought or did.
“Ahhh! How can this day get any worse?” Craig shouted to the sky. “Nobody listens anyway. Why do I even bother?” he said under his breath.
The rest of the family slowly climbed out of the car.
“Mum, I feel dizzy…” Katrin’s voice faded as she slumped to the ground.
Damn. That’s all we need. Three kids and two adults, stranded in the middle of nowhere.
The sun chose that moment to sink into the horizon, plunging everything into the inky blackness of night. For a moment there was silence, and then, a dingo’s howl broke through the night.
'The only thing Daniel ever wanted to be was a musician. He loved playing the piano more than anything in the world. But after his mum and brother died in a car accident, Daniel’s dad insisted he become active in sport and drop music. And being active wasn’t enough. He had to be the captain of the team or suffer through endless jibes and insults that his father uttered through a beer-induced haze. Then on his eighteenth birthday, a delivery man brings him a piano and tells the boy it is from his father.'
Unexpected by Jacqui Johnson
The door slamming shut and the sound of the delivery truck noisily pulling away from the curb snapped Daniel out of the waking coma of shock he was transfixed by. Shutting the front door, he resting his forehead against the wood for a moment. Sucking in a breath, he pushed off from the door, rubbing his head slightly and he walked down the passageway, ever closer to the main living room.
Entering the cramped space, he stared at the piano sticking out like a punk rocker at a classical recital. Amidst the football memorabilia, left over beer cans and fast food wrappers which clung together as piles of clutter forming the landscape of the floor, this polished piece of refined furniture was jarring, almost comical in it context.
Hesitantly walking over, Daniel ran his fingers along the smooth top of the lid which concealed the ivory beneath. The smell of wood and varnish brought back memories of another life, another time; a time he’d been whole and happy. His eyes prickled with tears. He wiped them away roughly with the back of his hand, not wanting to give ammunition for his father to use later.
It was so predictable yet still utterly deflating every time his dad went on the tirade about what things young men should be interested in and what things were just wrong. ‘You’re the captain of the footy team, not some Nancy-boy performer’. Daniel recalled the drunken rant from many months earlier which had been preceded by a discussion of application forms and possible college choices for the coming year.
‘Oh crap, what is Dad going to say?!’ Daniel felt his heart beat accelerate as adrenaline began to surge through is blood stream. ‘How the hell am I going to explain this?!’
The turning of a key in a lock indicating that it wasn’t going to take long to figure that one out. His father’s heavy work boots clomped down the hallway, like the sound of impending doom. The call of a casual greeting was muffled by the blood pulsing through Daniel’s ears. His eyes fixed to the living room opening. Watching his father’s eyes widen as he took in the scene, Daniel felt his stomach clench. A suffocating weight like the 200 pound defender from last week game, pushed down on his chest.
‘I didn’t do it! The delivery guy must have made a mistake!’ Daniels mind shouted, but when he opened his mouth to talk to try to explain it was dry and no sound came out. His tough stuck limply to the bottom of his jaw. He opened and closed his lips mutely.
A smile stretched across his father’s wide eyed expression, softening his features. “So, it finally arrived!”
A final thought:
On reflection, looking back over my journey having been involved in a local writer’s group, I can see such a tremendous value in getting together with other writer’s - not only as a creative outlet but also as a means of discussing our pieces. We do some research to work on areas of need from within the group, sharing, prompting and refining our craft.
Further information can be found in the following articles:
Melissa Donovan’s ‘Emotion Charged Creative Writing Prompts’
Melissa Donovan’s ‘Writing Tips: Show, Don’t Tell’
Robb Grindstaff’s ‘Bringing your fiction to life with emotion’
On my blog you will find:
You can find more about me, and read my children's stories at Creative Kids Tales
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