1. Delusion of Reference
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    Delusion of Reference New Member

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    Making the Dull Interesting

    Discussion in 'Writing Prompts' started by Delusion of Reference, Mar 9, 2016.

    From time to time I encounter the opinion that writing is a matter of taking the most mundane aspects of life and conveying them in such a way as to evoke strong feelings in the reader.

    So I figured I'd test that theory by the following procedure: write a story based on the prompt suggested by the poster above you, then suggest a prompt of your own for the next poster. The prompt must concern something totally ordinary, like making coffee.

    I'll start, with "making coffee":

    David lay in bed, eyes forced open by the ascending daylight. It was ten in the morning, three hours since he awoke, three hours since he had begun watching the shadows of cars leap across the spiked textures of his ceiling. He was deeply involved in his bedsheets and would have had to muster an unusually great effort to conquer them, so he decided to give himself another two hours’ time before getting up. These two hours went by, and at last he untangled himself and arose to make coffee. His sink was a mess of dirty dishes, the bowls on top embroidered with coagulated spaghetti sauce. He poured yesterday morning’s wet coffee grains into the sink; they peppered the stagnant water and then danced off the rims of the bowls as he turned on the faucet.

    Long, skinny arms handled the coffeepot with a clumsiness that had persisted through thousands of successive morning sacraments. Even as he poured the cooled water into the coffeemaker, some leaked over onto the countertop; after he was done, he remedied the spill with the final two squares of paper towel that sat expectantly on the stove. At last, it was time to supply the coffee; David unruffled a leftover filter and placed it carefully into the top of the coffeemaker, following with five and a half spoonfuls of dark roast coffee procured from a small, cylindrical tin can. He closed the lid, pressed “Brew,” and let his thoughts absorb him once again as he looked out the window. Soon enough, the momentary silence was interrupted by the loudening whir of the coffeemaker, followed by a succession of sizzles and drips.

    David didn’t wait for the coffee to finish dripping; once a cup’s worth of coffee had arrived in the pot, he removed the latter and poured the former into an unadorned mug. The coffeemaker, failing to notice that the pot was missing, continued to drip, and a crust of burnt coffee began to develop on the circular heating pad before becoming eclipsed by the pot as David initiated the search for half-and-half in his refrigerator. Finding some buried behind the heavy ceramic tray of leftover spaghetti, he reached his hand into the artificially cool air and groped around until achieving a firm grasp on the carton. He pulled out the carton, uncorking it and dumping its leftover contents into his mug. The heat from the coffee caused the cream to twirl and blend with the surrounding darkness. David removed a spoon from the dishwasher, washed it off, and used it to consummate the union between coffee and cream.
    EDIT: Funnily enough, I forgot to include a new prompt. That prompt is "visiting the grocery store."
     
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  2. Starbug2
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    Starbug2 Member

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    Somewhere in Michigan. The non-trollish part. ;)
    Angie smiles at Delusion's brilliant words. They remind her of her father, who's name also happens to be Dave. This is brilliant, She thought, Why on earth hasn't anybody else participated?

    Angie adjusts her laptop screen, cracks her knuckles, and begins to write....

    Kate pulled into an empty parking spot at her favorite local grocery store and food co-op. It 8:00 AM, they had just unlocked their doors, and Kate was ready. She was a professional chef at a 5 Star restaurant, and this was actually her favorite place to be. She stepped up to the automatic doors, and they eagerly opened for her, gently sending a wave of wonderful smelling retail air at her. She carefully chose a silent-wheeled shopping cart and began her quest.

    She followed the natural flow of customer traffic; taking an immediate right turn, past customer service, and straight to the produce department. She smiled at the lovely colors and shapes before her, and the pleasant aroma that accompanied them. Red, orange, yellow, shiny, firm, juicy, delectable... She picked up a juicy red apple. Lovingly held it close to her face, examining it, and breathed in deep. Wonderful. She placed 5 into one of the obligatory plastic bags, tied it off with a quick spinning motion, and placed it into the cart. She did this same basic thing with some oranges, strawberries, and cantaloupe. She loved holding and smelling her fresh produce before adopting it. I want to know the food, and have it know me. I want it to trust me, she would think. Her friends thought she was a little strange, but hey, she was the 5 star chef. Not them.

    She pushed her cart a few yards forward and stopped by the lettuce. Hello, greens, she thought. Yes, you'll do just nicely. Kate smiled at the fresh heads of lettuce and chose a couple that were just heavy and firm enough. She also picked up a bag of purple onions, and imagined them squealing with joy, knowing that none of them would be wasted or allowed to rot. A bag of fresh broccoli went into her cart, along with some celery and green cabbage.

    She moved on to the herbs and spices. Not the kind in mundane plastic bottles, oh no, the fresh ones. She pondered the selection momentarily, until finally selecting a few bags of Garlic, Basil, and Cilantro.

    Kate was happy with her choices, and she was almost done shopping. She walked past the meat department and picked out one large tenderloin steak, and a 15 lb package of ground hamburger, being careful to place these items on the bottom of the cart, so as not to spread bacteria onto her lovely fruits and vegetables.

    Kate went to the dairy department, and reached all the way back into the milk cooler, selecting the freshest gallon of organic 2% milk, and headed to the checkout. By now it's was about 9:15, and she was getting hungry for an early lunch. She tenderly placed each item on the conveyor belt, remembering the items on the bottom. The cashier and her made small talk for a few minutes, and then Kate slid her debit card, accepted her receipt, and walked out of the grocery store with her new arsenal of culinary delights. She smiled as she fastened her seat belt and readjusted her rear view mirror. It was going to be a delicious day.

    Next topic: vacuuming the living room
     
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  3. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Should we use characters we already have or make them up? Should we use the same main character throughout, in either of those circumstances?
     
  4. Delusion of Reference
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    Delusion of Reference New Member

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    As long as it's a story, anything you do should be fine, from reusing characters to making new ones. It could even involve leaping from one perspective to another.
     
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  5. King_Horror
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    King_Horror Member

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    Somewhere in the U.S.A.
    Earl Smith sat lazily in his couch. He had just returned from mowing countless lawns, getting groceries, and walking his dog around the neighborhood. He is a farmer, living alone, and always had something to occupy his time. He removed his blue cap away from his matted blonde hair, and placed it on a table across from him. He then remembered.

    "I've got to vacuum the living room." He groaned.

    He looked around his living room, and easily noticed how dirty it was. There were countless nights of him walking in with dirty boots, spilling root beer on the floor, and leaving his football rolling along the carpet. He decided since he was already up, he might as well do it. With a determined look in his eye, he walked to the closet in the hallway to the right of the couch, and opened a door. In there, he got what he dubbed "Ol' Reliable." His trusty vacuum cleaner, never ever did it screw-up.

    Earl proceeded to plug up the vacuum cleaner, and then turned it on. And thus came its best feature; it was silent. The beauty hummed to life, and began to suck up dirt particles, effectively cleaning the room in almost minutes. Right as Earl had begun to turn Ol' Reliable off, a stone flew through the front window of his small house and crashed into it. He then heard a feminine voice screech through the now busted window.

    "Earl Smith, go on a date with me!" He knew exactly who it was.

    Earl had had enough of this, and powered out the front door and faced the destroyer of his precious vacuum cleaner.

    "Con-sarn-it, Ariel! I am not dating you!"

    ~~~
    Next topic: Going to the bathroom
     
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  6. Alejandro89
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    Alejandro89 Member

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    The man felt something in his stomach. A rumbling sensation. An eruption waiting to happen. He wished he was alone as around him the office was bursting with people, like bees trying to get a paycheck. He clenched his buttocks as hard as he could, the same way he did when squating 200 pounds of iron across his shoulder. It grumbled, as if wanting for everyone to admire the epic struggle he was going through. He should have not taken three protein shakes before work, he said to himself, but hindsight is 20/20. He stood up, he felt like he was a methane-propelled rocket with enough fuel to reach Uranus. Each step took the muscles of his buttocks to their limits, maybe that was a better excercise than leg curls? Almost there, but the door was locked. Please use the bathroom on the 100 floor said a small piece of paper. That didn't break his spirit, no, that happened when he discovered the elevator was broken.

    Next
    Doing taxes
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2016
  7. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    DAMMIT I literally have a whole chapter about doing taxes in my WIP but I don't think it makes much sense out of context.
     
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  8. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Oh my god I want to read your book! I love the idea of doing stuff that's not just action. I currently am redesigning one of my main projects; something I think I can and should actually publish and amn't to attached to as a tv series idea (I love the episode format, it allows for some wonderful stretched out character subplots. Not that I think it's superior or anything, not at all, no.) Anyway, in this new version I've got a strong focus of politics, so there's a talking scenes with various decisions and maneuvers and such as well as the action. Some readers would probably be turned off by a bunch of talking, but I'm becoming very fond of the drama and interest you can find in non-action scenes. It mixes things up to actually feel like they're more than filler. You just need to appreciate why they're important and the interestto the characters involved.
     
  9. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    You'd love my stuff. There is no action, just people struggling with their inner daemons and interpersonal conflict.

    The thing about 'dull' stuff is that context determines everything. Intense scenes (whether intense action or intense personal pain) need to have less intense things between them otherwise we get numb to the intensity. It gets boring because it's all just at one level with no context and no space for characters to breathe and be normal people that we can sympathize with. Sometimes you do just need characters making breakfast, eating take away, chatting in the car or going for a smoke. Dull, perhaps, but it's through that that we can see them being human and that's important.

    Additionally context can make even a very dull activity very tense. A character just looking for their keys might be dull as all hell out of context but when you know that character is on the edge of getting fired and will lose his house and his marriage and this farcical search among the sofa cushions is his whole life collapsing and there's nothing he can do... That isn't dull anymore. Context, always context.
     
  10. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Well, I didn't say I liked no action. I just said I like things that really, truly care about the non-action scenes. The difference between Resovoir Dogs; cares about character moments, and Jurassic Park; everyone's there for the dinosaurs. Although, no action at all is good too. That sounds interesting.
     
  11. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    I'm going to post something here tomorrow, I promise.
     
  12. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Oh well, here's the start of my taxes chapter.

    By Monday, the butterflies were carrying out acrobatic training in Ally’s stomach. What with Christmas shopping, seeing friends and family, and then the holiday itself, she and Marc hadn’t seen each other in a fortnight.

    If he even tried to tease her today she was going to get her vibrator out and threaten to use that if he wouldn’t give it up in a reasonable time frame.

    The earliest he’d ever arrived was six-twenty, but by six she was pacing her living room and peering out the window every few seconds. Each time she was certain his car would be there but it wasn’t a dark blue Toyota that pulled up outside her house and parked crookedly. It was a bright red Mini.

    “Oh for god’s sake!” Ally mentally shook a fist at the bastard universe and its determination to prevent her getting laid.

    Maybe it was someone else’s Mini. There must be lots of bright red Minis in London, right?

    There was a knock at the door.

    Ally groaned at the ceiling and traipsed down the stairs to open the door.

    “Ally!” Mum burst in and grabbed both Ally’s hands. “I need your help.” Her blue eyes were wide, her blonde hair in disarray, the three crystals on her chest rising and falling quickly.

    “Oh, Mum. What have you done?”

    “I forgot my taxes. Please help, Ally. You know I don’t have your brain for maths.”

    Ally let her head drop onto Mum’s shoulder, then straightened up. “Come in.”

    Mum had a big black rucksack bursting at the seams. She heaved it onto the sofa between her and Ally and opened the zip. Scraps of paper with scribbled biro notes cascaded out.

    Ally gaped at them as she dropped to her knees and helped Mum pick them up. “You’ve had this many appointments?”

    “No.” Mum looked ready to cry. “These are all notes from people who called or emailed. I don’t know which ones I did or how much I charged. I’ll have to cross-reference it with my diary and bank statements.”

    “Oh, Mum.”

    “Don’t be annoyed with me.” Mum sniffed. “I kept meaning to sort it all out but things kept getting in the way, and then it was Christmas and I forgot about the self-assessment deadline.”

    “When is it?”

    “The thirty-first.”

    “Oh, that’s not so bad. We have nearly four weeks.”

    Mum drew back with an expression like a puppy being caught eating the toilet roll. “I forgot to register. They said it takes… four weeks.”

    Ally sighed.
     
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  13. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    I have a full page in my first novel, where a character beats down a metal door with a war hammer. :D

    Not good enough, you say...

    I have a full excerpt of another character performing emergency surgery on an alien female plant. :p
     

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