Inside a Writer's Mind 19: Publicofficeman – 501 Prompts

Haven’t read the prompt yet? Don’t worry, I got you!

I started this prompt series to challenge my abilities as a creator, writer, and storyteller. At first, it was hard enough to come up with anything I thought was worth working on. By the time I got accustomed to the format, and I was quick to form ideas for the types of prompts I was using.

I knew I would have to make a change. In training, you have to adjust your workload according to your progress to keep challenging yourself. And that’s what I’m trying to do. I jumped to 3-word prompts, and now that I’ve got them down (more or less), I’m looking for different challenges.

Sometimes I take to Twitter and ask my followers for suggestions. That’s how I got Devlin’s prompt. The first time I read it, I liked it a lot. It invoked a picture in my head from the start and was touching a topic I want to write about but haven’t done a lot off yet. So I started to gather ideas.

Once I was committed to the prompt, I noticed 2 big problems I had with the prompt.

First, I had no clue who Willie Nelson was. It only dawned on me while mapping out the character that maybe, just maybe, Devlin was talking about a real existing person. Sometimes I forget that those exist. So I took to google and found out that he is a country musician and I had never heard of him. What to do? Should I try to read up his memoir, learn about his personality, listen to his songs, and, by the end, become him to write this prompt? Or, you know, just wing it?

I took the lazy way out. I listened to a song or two and just went with whatever came to my mind. I wrote what I would like a person in his position to say. It’s a prompt and a short flash fiction piece I wanted to write, so I figured the fictionalization of the character would be okay. I mean, creative freedom as a concept exists for a reason, right?

My second problem was to figure out what exactly is happening. Right now, I’m reading up on how to build tension in writing. It’s something I can do subconsciously but wants to get better at. I tried to practice it in that story but didn’t know how because the concept, a dialogue, wasn’t exactly what comes to my mind when thinking about tension. I tried to build the conflict around the advisor, Tracy. She’s seen it all in the dirty world of politics and knows that power eventually corrupts. So she thinks she sees this in the newly appointed president Willie Nelson. That’s the main point that gets resolved throughout this story.

To get there, I wanted to string the narrative along with some talking points. Starting with the initial question of ‘Do you know what this country needs?’ Willie goes on to tell a story of his childhood to show an experience he made to justify why he wouldn’t fall for the seductions of political reality.

For my first concept of that kind, I think it went quite well. For the actual realization of it, I don’t know. I kinda like it, so it’s a win in my book. If only because I did something, I’m not used to and learned from it.

How do you approach creating tension in your writing?

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