Tag Archives: #NaNoWriMo2021

#NaNoPrep: Guernica, Inspiration, and Finding Writing Prompts #amwriting

We are two weeks away from the opening hours of November and the official start of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. So, let’s talk about inspiration. Poets know that one of the best ways to kickstart your imagination is writing to a pictorial prompt.

Picasso_quote_Art_is_a_LieOften the work that is inspired by a visual prompt has nothing to do with the image. But it has everything to do with the nature of storytelling. The ability to explain the world through stories and allegory emerges strongly in some people. Many are naturally able to form and express a story, and others find the subliminal prompting of an image will be the spark that lights their creativity.

My friends here at Life in the Realm of Fantasy know that I love looking at and talking about art. I’m not educated as an art historian, but I love the paintings of great artists because they tell a story. I like to share the images I come across and hopefully give others like me access to see the art that humanity is capable of, good and bad.

Perception is in the eye of the beholder. Perception also inspires extrapolation, leading the viewer to come away with new ideas.

When I see the story that was captured in a single scene by an artist, my mind always surmises more than the scene shows. I see the painting as depicting the middle of the story. Unintentionally, I put a personal spin on my interpretation, and ideas are born. I don’t mean to, but everyone does.

We are all inspired by the intellectual things we surround and entertain ourselves with, the art, the music, the television and movies, and the books we read.

Contemplating art, either paintings or photographs, or listening to music helps us relax. When we are at peace and contemplative, our minds wander. Pondering an image offers us a view of a static moment in time, but our minds are free to invent a past, a present, and a future for the scene.

But paintings also inspire ideas that have nothing to do with what the artist portrayed. The possibilities we imagine are endless, which is why visual images make great prompts for writers.

Let’s consider Guernica, a 1937 painting by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. This painting is considered to be one of the most powerful antiwar statements of all time. This single painting, done in shades of black and white, tells the story of the bombing of Guernica, a Basque Country town in northern Spain that was destroyed by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy at the request of the Spanish Nationalists.

PicassoGuernicaPicasso’s choice to use black and white to tell that story is brilliant. Newsreels of the day were black and white, which influenced his decision. This piece is powerful because of the emotion the artist painted into the image.

In turn, the composition and symbolism in this painting had a genesis in the great art of the past. In planning the layout of Guernica, Picasso himself was inspired by Consequences of War by Peter Paul Rubens.

Watch this excellent YouTube video to see a short explanation of what inspired the artist, his view of both the horrific attack and the fundamentals of classic art. It explains Guernica well: Picasso’s Guernica by Great Art Explained.

So, we see that history, both the past and the present, inspires art, which inspires stories.

Iparkbenchnspiration can be found in the image of an unoccupied park bench in winter. The gray weather, the barren scenery, the loneliness of the empty bench could be the seeds from which a novel grows. Who is that bench waiting for? Who has just left it? Is the story light or dark?

The same can be said for an empty bench in summer. Either way, the viewer’s mind will answer the question of a light or dark story.

Meditating on a tone, a pattern, or an image is a time-honored means of expanding one’s mind. Meditating or daydreaming turns off parts of your brain. Our brain has an analytic part that makes reasoned decisions and an empathetic part that allows us to relate to others.

Researchers have found when a person daydreams, their mind naturally cycles through the different modes of thinking, analytic and empathetic. During this time, the rational and sympathetic parts of your brain tend to turn each other off, which is why this habit is so crucial to creativity.

Creative people are often guilty of mind-wandering, but researchers have shown that daydreaming makes you more creative.

You could be sitting on your porch watching the birds, as I often do. Or maybe you’re perusing the display in a local art gallery, or listening to Orff’s cantata, Carmina Burana—whatever you choose to meditate on doesn’t matter. The act of mind-wandering generates ideas. Soon, you may have the idea for a novel, a painting, or a piece of music.

Here are two good places where you can find both visual and non-visual writing prompts:

1100+ Creative Writing Prompts To Inspire You Right Now (reedsy.com)

Creative Writing Prompts – Writer’s Digest (writersdigest.com)

Alternatively, go out to www.wikimediacommons.org and see what the picture of the day inspires in you. Will those thoughts become your novel?

Perhaps so. But take the time to write those thoughts down. Writing them down in a journal offers you a mental image to contemplate, leading to the story, which grows into the novel.

Every step you take leads to another, and your notes become a storyboard, which becomes your novel. How you execute those ideas will be uniquely yours, your voice, your art.


#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story?  (the storyboard)

#NaNoPrep, Setting: Creating the Big Picture

#NaNoPrep, Building Characters

#NaNoPrep, More Character Building

#NaNoPrep, Creating Societies

#NaNoPrep, Designing Science, Magic, and the Paranormal

#NaNoPrep, Terrain and Geography

#NaNoPrep, Connections and Interconnections

#NaNoPrep, Construction and Deconstruction

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 1

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 2

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc part 3, the End

#NaNoPrep: Signing up and Getting Started

Credits and Attributions:

Guernica by Pablo Picasso. 1937. Oil on canvas. © Picasso’s Estate and the People of Spain, Fair Use. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guernica_(Picasso) accessed 10, October 2021.

Neglected Park Bench, Park taeho, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons, accessed 10, October 2021.

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Facades of Handelskade, Willemstad, Curaçao – February 2020.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Facades_of_Handelskade,_Willemstad,_Cura%C3%A7ao_-_February_2020.jpg&oldid=598836309 (accessed October 16, 2021).


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#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc part 1 #amwriting

Today’s post begins a three-part series on the story arc. At this point, I’ve been talking about NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, for several weeks. It begins on November 1st, and to sign up, go to www.nanowrimo.org .

WritingCraft_NaNoPrep_Novel_in_a_monthWe know our genre and have written a few paragraphs that describe our characters and who they are the day before the story opens. Also, we know where the story takes place. (To catch up on earlier posts, the list is at the bottom of this article.)

I always feel it’s necessary to have a brief outline of the story arc when I sit down to write. “Pantsing it” is exhilarating, but my years of experience with NaNoWriMo have taught me that when I am winging it for extended lengths of time, I lose track of the plot and go off the rails.

Not having even a loose outline creates a lot more work in the long run. It stalls the momentum if I must stop writing, take the time to analyze where I’m at, and then throw together an outline for the next section. Stopping the flow lowers my NaNoWriMo word count for that day.

For those who are new to writing and are just learning the ropes, turning your idea about a book you’d like to write into a manuscript you would want to read takes a little work.

First, you need to know how to construct a story.

magicEvery reader knows that stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. They start in a place of relative comfort, and through rising action, they follow the characters through events that change them for better or worse.

However, when a new writer sits down to write a novel in only thirty days with no plan and no idea what they’re going to write, they can easily lose interest and stop writing altogether. Others might force themselves to get their 50,000 words, but have no control of character arcs, setting, or plot. They end up with backstory infodumps and side quests to nowhere. The ending either slowly faints away or is chopped off.

All the infodumps and history can be gotten out of the way before you begin the opening paragraphs on November 1st.

The progression of events from an opening line to a final paragraph is called a story arc. It is called an arc because the action begins at a quiet point, rises to a pitch, and ends at another quiet point.

So, let’s consider the beginning. Now is a good time to write a line or two describing the opening scene, simple prompts for when the real work begins.

Beginnings are the most critical and are easiest to mess up with too much information. All beginnings are comprised of situation, circumstances, and objectives.

  • A good story opens with the main character and introduces their companions (if any). (Circumstances)
  • The antagonist and their cohorts are introduced. (Circumstances)
  • With the introductions out of the way, something occurs that pushes the main character out of their comfort zone. (Situation and Circumstances)
  • That event is called the “inciting incident” and is named that because this occurrence incites all the action that follows. (Objectives)
  • These scenes comprise the first ¼ of the story arc. The beginning ends with the first major incident, where the action kicks into high gear, transitioning to the middle section of the story. (Situation, Circumstances, and Objectives)

strange thoughts 2In your musings, on what day does the serious event occur, the one that changes everything? THAT day is where the story begins, and everything that happens before that moment is backstory and isn’t necessary. A plot outline I have used before as an example is set as a political thriller, but it could easily be a paranormal fantasy, a sci-fi thriller, or a romance.

At the outset of the story, we find our protagonist and see him/her in their normal surroundings. Once we have met them and seen them in their comfort zone, an event occurs which is the inciting incident. This is the first point of no return.

At the outset, Dave, an unmarried accountant, sees a woman from across a café, and through a series of innocent actions on his part, he is caught up in a spy ring. We begin with the protagonist.

  • What could possibly entice Dave out of his comfort zone? What would he spontaneously do that is out of character for him? Perhaps he buys a stranger lunch. This act must change his life.

Because Dave paid for a stranger’s meal, he draws the attention of the people who are following her. They think he must be involved with her, putting him at risk.

That was the inciting incident, the moment that changed everything.

Now, Dave is thrown out of his comfort zone and into the situation, which is the core of the plot.

  • On his way back to his office, a white limousine pulls up alongside him, and four men in black suits hustle him into the backseat. He is forced at gunpoint onto a plane bound for a foreign nation, handcuffed to a suitcase. The only other key that can remove the handcuffs is at the Embassy in the custody of a mysterious woman.

This is the circumstance in which Dave finds himself at the beginning of the story. 

  • How will the next phase of Dave’s story start? That will begin the middle section of the story.

Now we come to the next part of the core of your plot: objective.

  • At this point, our hero just wants to get rid of the suitcase and go back to his job. He wants that desperately. Desire drives the story.

Everything that occurs from here until the final page happens because Dave has an objective: he wants to go home.

However, to counter the enemy, we must decide how to get Dave and his story to the next plot point, which we’ll discuss in the next post.

Those paragraphs are all that is needed as far as an outline for the beginning goes, unless you’re in the mood to go deeper. All we need is an idea of who, what, and where. We’ll discuss how to plot the middle, or the why, in the next post.

WordItOut-word-cloud-4074543If you work at a day job and using the note-taking app on your cellphone to take notes during work hours is frowned on, you can still capture your ideas for the storyboard.

Carry a pocket-sized notebook and pencil and write those ideas down. You can discreetly make notes whenever you have an idea that would work well in your story, and you won’t be noticeably distracted or off-task.

Part 2 of this topic will talk about action and reaction, plotting the middle of the story arc.


#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story?  (the storyboard)

#NaNoPrep, Setting: Creating the Big Picture

#NaNoPrep, Building Characters

#NaNoPrep, More Character Building

#NaNoPrep, Creating Societies

#NaNoPrep, Designing Science, Magic, and the Paranormal

#NaNoPrep, Terrain and Geography

#NaNoPrep, Connections and Interconnections

#NaNoPrep, Construction and Deconstruction

This Post: The Story Arc Part 1


Filed under writing