• Look At Those Sideburns

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in WBN News & Events     Comments 1 comment

    I’m loath to use this blog as a space to dump writing prompts. It’d be like me saying, “I don’t feel like writing something today–you go do it.” So instead of calling this a prompt, let’s just call it something to think about. A (non)prompt. (And also, I don’t feel like writing something today–so you go do it.”)

    So my cousin was in town over the weekend, and on Sunday we gathered at my sister’s house and watched a DVD comprised of grainy old 8mm footage from some early-70s family events, recently unearthed after an uncle of my cousin’s (not mine) passed away. Each reel was only 3-4 minutes long, and there was no sound, but we saw lots of young faces that we could match with faces we’re familiar with today. My dad got a couple minutes of screen time, and my mom was on camera for less than a second before sprinting out of exiting the frame. I was unaware that my parents existed before my birth. (I still have my doubts.)

    My Great-Aunt Helen was an aging woman there in the early 70s; gray hair, wrinkling skin. She’s still kicking, and about to turn 95. She’s been past retirement age for forty years, which bends my mind. I wasn’t even born yet, and she was already old. (Old being a relative term, of course. Had she died at 55, everyone would’ve said “Man, she was so young.”)

    We also saw plenty of folks who are no longer with us. And my cousin only found these videos because of someone no longer with us.

    Anyway, not to get maudlin or anything. It was fun to watch, and we could’ve made a drinking game out of the phrase “Look at those sideburns.” We also enjoyed critiquing the filmmaker; again, each reel was only 3-4 minutes long, but he spent an inordinate amount of time shooting the food table. And also decided it was appropriate to show a group of 70s dudes butchering a pig.

    I left shortly after the film ended, and when I got home I sat right down and wrote some dialogue to accompany a couple of these soundless scenes. A portion of a conversation I wrote between my mythical parents is so good that I’m stealing it from myself and using it in the novel I’m not really working on. But even if it had all been terrible dialogue, at least I engaged myself in some sort of writing exercise.

    So here’s the point–not everything you write has to have end-goal purposes. Sometimes you need to give yourself a break from your work-in-progress and eff around with something else. Getting too wrapped up in that one specific world of your own creating puts you at risk of not being able to think about/write about anything else.

    So your (non)prompt for today is, forget your work-in-progress for a while. Pull out an old family album or video, preferably from a time before you were born, and write a conversation. The conversers don’t have to be characters–they can be the real people. Use the speech patterns and affectations they had (or still have, if still alive), and ground them in the place/time they were in then. For instance, don’t set your scene in the Baby Boom 50s and have characters Googling shit on their iPhones.

    Actually, strike that–if that’s your style, then go with it.

    For those of you who don’t have access to old family pics/footage, try to go from memory. Or take the people who are around you today and drop them into another time/place.

    Just write something out of your routine for a bit. It doesn’t have to be your entire day’s output–later, go back to your WIP, if you must. You might find that you’re able to look at it with fresh eyes. You might even incorporate something from this (non)prompt, like I did (although don’t write with that in mind). Or you might never use any of this for anything. Just make it fun.

    That, my friends, was a terribly long (non)prompt. I guess I did feel like writing. Hope you do, too.


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    Frankly I think that’s asbloeutly good stuff.

    Would love your thoughts, please comment.x