Relics & Writing: September Writing Prompt

Sometimes you just need something to hold onto.

Sometimes you just need something to hold onto.

I keep thinking of our last Write NOW! session, and how magic it was to focus on solid objects for inspiration—in this case, a collection of beach stones and their relationship to some quirky family traditions, but that’s a story for another time. Writers at this session meditated on the idea of objects as relics with their own histories and came up with so many great ideas for applying that evening’s inspiration to their regular writing routines, one of which was to find an object (relic) in their own home and tell its history, whether real or imagined. I think this was you, Daniela?

Amen to this! AMEN. It sounds too simple, but sometimes you just need something to hold onto. A solid, three-dimensional something to spark an idea, a scene, or sharpen a character’s needs. Try this and tell me what you think!

Ready to write?

  • Find an object in your house that tics the following boxes: 1) It’s no bigger than your hand, 2) You don’t really pay much attention to it on a regular basis, 3) It’s got some interesting details.

  • Re: the above—I encourage you to pair up with a writer-friend for this exercise and swap objects so that the object is totally foreign, but you don’t have to.

  • You can pick a nonfiction or fiction path here—an object with sentimental value will bring on the memories, an object you’re not as attached to—or don’t pay much attention to—has more potential for an imaginative history. So pick a path now and let that dictate which object you choose.

  • Sit down with your object and write: What does this object look and feel like? Does it make any sound? How does it feel in the palm of your hand? This is a warm-up, so flex your writerly muscles and write for 4.5 minutes. GO.

  • Now....come back for Step 2. Ready? All right.

  • What is this object’s history? Where did it come from? Who does it belong to? Does it live with its rightful owner? Or was it stolen? Write for 6.5 minutes.

  • Return for Step 3. What does this object mean to its owner? Write a scene in which you observe this object’s meaning/purpose as a detached bystander. For this exercise, you could write from the POV of a minor character in your work-in-progress and observe another character in action. Questions to consider if you’re stuck: Does the object’s purpose have something to do with its origins (where it was found)? How does its owner move (describe their body for us—how does their body convey their emotions)?

  • For this scene, try to write for 14 minutes. Set a timer to push yourself. GO FOR IT.

  • CHALLENGE: Do it all over again same time next week with a new object, OR a swapped object from a writer-friend.

  • Want to share a discovery from writing this story? A weird, amazing, surprising turn of phrase? Reach out to me on Twitter.