Writing Prompt Pit Stop

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! For the past three weeks we’ve been working with our senses, being more observant through sight, sound, and smell – which leaves us with two more: taste, and touch. This week we’re going to explore how our taste buds can help our writing become more vivid.

You might ask: how can I write about what I taste? A taste is sometimes so hard to describe…you know, that’s why we hear that so many new things we try “taste like chicken.” Have you ever given much thought as to what chicken truly tastes like? How do we know? Does each of us taste the same thing when we eat chicken? All good questions to ponder – and we probably have a variety of answers.

And what about texture? That seems like something that would fall under the touch category, yet when we eat something do we associate the texture along with the taste? Maybe you don’t. But I certainly do – a lot of my least favorite foods, like hominy or anchovies, are associated with their texture which makes me not like the taste…so if I try a new food and it tastes close to hominy or anchovies I won’t like it, even if the texture is totally different. I can attribute that dislike to a matter of “taste” even though it’s truly just my personal taste. Do you ever think about how we use the word “taste?” I guess this is my week to ask questions of you, huh? As long as the questions make you think and engage, it’s all good – so don’t hesitate to ask questions in your poems, stories, essays – and you don’t even have to answer those questions (which is actually okay in creative writing!) as long as it leaves your audience to ponder or engage with your work. I digress.

So back to taste. If you can describe in your poem how a prickly pear margarita tastes; in your short story how your character loves the taste of red hots and peanuts mixed together, or when writing an essay/review on a restaurant’s bacon and chocolate cheesecake or a recipe on some crock pot taco soup, you’re giving your audience something to connect with. In addition, because we’re all so in tune with food all you have to do is simply write the word “bacon” or “strawberry” and our taste buds are already right there – especially if it’s a food or a taste that we really enjoy.

By the same token, just like smell, some of the more sickening tastes are ones that leave a lasting impression. Maybe you were someone as a child that was made to eat soap, or had to take some nasty medicine: caster oil, Pepto-Bismol, or Declomycin; some hate the taste of coffee (although I can’t imagine it!) or can’t stand the taste of brussel sprouts. You can probably supply your own laundry list of foods you turn away because you hate the taste, or as I was saying before – because you love the taste. Again, any of these images can conjure up vivid images for your audiences (can you think of a favorite novel, short story, or poem that uses taste in this way?).

With these ideas in mind, get your taste buds working and use your eleventh prompt:

“Show ’em You’ve Got Taste!”

1) At your next meal, snack, or dessert make special notice of the way each food tastes. How can you describe what you’re tasting in your writing? Is something sweet, salty, tart, smoky, sour, etc.? Think about how foods are advertised to us, or what about how foods are targeted to millennials vs. baby boomers that identify with foods depicted in the show Mad Men? What word choices do they make that attract us to those foods? Make a list in your daybook of all tastes, and word choices that conjure up good (or bad) images in your mind. If they do that for you, they probably will for your audience.

2) Think of the best meal you’ve ever had, or the worst food you ever tasted. What about your favorite pizza? What makes it taste better than all of the other pizzas? How can you describe this to your audience? Take ten minutes and write about one of these ideas or write until your “taste” for the idea runs dry.

3) When you have a fair amount of writing generated by taste – mine through your work and decide how you can best use some of your descriptions or images. Do you have a poem about the best ice cream sundae you ever ate? Does it make sense that the character that you’ve been developing loves black licorice? Do you have an essay that revolves around that Thanksgiving when mom forgot to buy a turkey, there was no ham left at the grocery to buy, and you ended up having the best chili you ever tasted in your life? You see how once you get to writing, and have a list of things to work with you can come up with those “endless possibilities?”

4) As always, tweak your work, add/delete – keep your best stuff and then revise, revise, revise! Then when you think you’re done revising – revise again!!

As with all writing, this “taste test” should be fun! And I remind you that if you ever want to share any successes or attempts that you get from these prompts, don’t hesitate to let me know. You can contact me here.

Look for another prompt next Wednesday! Until then, keep writing!


Writing Prompt Pit Stop

Welcome to another Writing Prompt Pit Stop! This week’s writing prompt is going to encompass something that has been a common thread through a lot of my poems – Nostalgia.

Some don’t like the idea of nostalgia because it may mean that you’re living in the past (or it may conjure up memories that hurt or depress). As a poet, I don’t find visiting the past a bad thing; in fact, there’s a lot of information about ourselves that we can learn by going back into our past – either by memories, old photographs, yearbooks, etc. there are just so many triggers. Of course, one of my favorite ways of visiting the past is listening to music from my childhood: The Beatles, The Supremes, Sonny and Cher, The Monkees or from high school: Elton John, Carly Simon, Carole King,  Alice Cooper, Chi-Lites, etc. I could go through all the decades after that, but I think I’ll just leave it at that. In actuality, any “oldies” song puts me right back in the place I was when the song was popular – for better or for worse. When those feelings are evoked that’s a good time to get the daybook and jot those feelings/memories/images down.

In the last year (I was a latecomer, but now I’m caught up) I’ve become a devoted fan of the TV series Mad Men. It is such a well-written show, with such interesting characters, but another reason I’m attracted to the show is all of the props from the 1960s. During that decade I experienced kindergarten – junior high, so all of the clothes, the cars, the furniture, the events, all evoke memories. Some that I’d forgotten about – for example, the “pedal pushers” that Betty wears early in the series – reminded me of my aunt when she was that age, and brought back memories of specific incidents that I was then able to write about.

Earlier this month The New York Times ran an article “What is Nostalgia Good For? Quite a Bit, Research Shows,” and it shares of how nostalgia can actually be good for you. It also says that instead of making you feel depressed, “reminiscing” can make people “feel better.” I believe that to be true, and my writing shows it. So, this week’s prompt should make you feel better in many ways. Give yourself permission to reminisce, and while you’re at it get a good poem, essay, of flash fiction from the exercise. Here’s your fourth prompt:

“Waxing Nostalgic”

Choose one of these “nostalgia” inducing ideas and freewrite for 10-20 minutes. After you have written as much as you can, start shaping your poem, essay, or flash fiction. If you need to add more, revisit a specific from the idea you chose, or play a different song from the same time period as you write more.

A) Take your daybook and a pen/pencil to an antique store and browse through items there. You’ll discover old magazines, old postcards, and items that you will be surprised to “re-discover.”

B) Think of the decade/era you want to write about, play some songs from that time period nonstop as you write.

C) Go through old photographs, until you find one that speaks to you and you have to write about it then and there.

D) If you’re of a certain age, watch Mad Men; or a movie or a TV show from when you were a child. Write in your daybook anything that inspires you – it may be the clothes, the hairstyles, the jewelry – even an actor/actress or character.

As with all writing, it should be fun! If you ever want to share any successes or attempts that you get from these prompts, don’t hesitate to let me know. You can contact me here.

Look for another prompt next Wednesday! Until then, keep writing!