Prompting the First Draft by Talia

I’m a pantser at heart, so my whole first draft is one gigantic stream of consciousness.   There’s wonderful freedom in letting the characters take me from point A to point B, but it also involves a lot of false starts, dead ends, and loose plot threads.  In other words, wasted time.  So I've developed a system for writing a first draft using a very general outline containing writing prompts for scenes and chapters.

I usually have 4-5 big scenes worked out in my head before I start writing a book: the inciting incident, the climax, the likely resolution (I say likely, because this can change as I write) and a setback or two. I start by writing one sentence that describes each major event.   From there I sketch out a few things that need to happen between those scenes, usually described in one broad stroke:  “Berry discovers Lance’s secret.”  At this point, I don’t know what Lance’s secret is, but I know he has one.  I have an idea of what needs to happen from a plot standpoint and how that fits with the character arc, and I when I finally sit down to write the scene, I can draw on the details from the scenes before. 

As I write, I’m continually updating this list of scenes, adding one sentence descriptions of scenes and plot points as the story develops and minor character arcs or subplot points need resolution.   If I know that I need a scene with a character who hasn’t appeared for a while, I’ll be sure to include them in the scene prompt.  For example,  “Mary Chris and Berry grow further apart” or  “Berry goes undercover with Lambert.”   
I finished the first draft of my WIP this weekend, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that I ended up with a story with forward momentum and a solid plot structure.  It will still need plenty of revision and clean up, but the bones are there.  The chapter prompts kept me focused on keeping the story moving toward the next big scene.  

As a new convert to writing prompts, I’m going to borrow from Donna and V’s  prompts to write a “memory of an embarrassing moment and heartbreaking kiss.”  Here goes-

I knew immediately that we didn’t belong there.  Three freshmen at a pre-graduation party.  We weren’t even that popular in our own grade, just a trio of girls who had an in through Jill’s older brother, even though he ditched us almost as soon as we walked in the front door.  I hung close to Jill and Kelly at first.  It was easier to let Jill smile and talk with strangers, while I stood in the background and nursed a beer.  And then another.  And another.

I lost track of my friends and found myself facing a boy I’d never seen before.  Everything was fuzzy, but I could see he had a scar on his neck, a thick line from his ear to his Adam’s apple.  Emboldened by the beer, I asked him about the scar.  My voice sounded too loud, but he answered me anyway, telling me how he had been attacked with a knife in a parking lot in a neighboring town.  I probably should’ve expressed my shock or sympathy, but I remember thinking his story sounded like BS.  I smiled at him and told him that maybe he should stick to the suburbs.  

Bad move.
He narrowed his eyes and walked away, leaving me completely alone.   I found an empty recliner and sat down, watching girls flirt and laugh while I sat alone and ignored.  I remember thinking there was nothing worse than being invisible to everyone else.

I was wrong.

Before I realized what was happening the chair started spinning.  Faster and faster, while a blond guy laughed and asked me how I was feeling.  Not just any blond guy, Derrick Woodson, aka the prom king.  A crowd gathered around as he spun the chair in circles, hurling insults that I’ve long since blocked from my memory.   The guy with the scar opened the front door and Derrick pushed the chair forward.  I gripped the armrests to keep from falling but it was no use.  Two more guys came to the side and picked the chair up, carrying it out and dumping me into the wet grass in the front yard.  

I wanted to cry, but I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction.  I laughed instead, pushing myself up on unsteady feet.  A hand reached out to help me.

“Are you okay?” A tall boy in need of a haircut looked down at me.

I remember thinking he had the most compassionate eyes.  His hand was warm and he let me lean against him for support as I got my bearings.  He didn't mind that I didn't answer right away.
“Do you need a ride home?”

I only lived a few blocks away.  “I can walk.”

“I’ll walk with you.”  He slipped his arm around my shoulder and I folded into him.

Jill ran out of the house.  “What happened?”  Like she could have missed it.

I shook my head.   I was not going to relive it again.  Not in front of him.  He seemed to understand.   

“Nothing,” he said.  “I’m going to make sure she gets home.”  

I think I fell in love with him then, this stranger who came to my rescue at my weakest moment.

Jill looked from him to me and back again, a question in her eyes.  “I’ll come with you.”  She came up to my other side and put her arm around me too.

The three of us made the walk to my house in silence, pressed together.  Jill let go when we got to my house, waiting on the sidewalk, while he helped me up to the front porch.  

“Thank you,” I said. 

“You’re sure you’re okay?” His eyes searched my face from beneath long bangs, moving closer.  His lips brushed mine, soft and sweet.  I kissed him back, a drunken effort, but no less perfect.  I would have kissed him forever if my sister hadn’t opened the front door and told me to get inside before our parents saw.  

I never got his name.  He slipped in and out of my life in an instant.  I might even love him a little bit still.

If he hadn’t slept with Jill somewhere on the way back to the party.


Great information--and great story as well. :) Thanks for sharing!

Thanks Pam! I really liked using the writing prompts for each scene, as it kept me moving through the draft. I'll be curious to see if it works for anyone else. I feel like I'm making it up as I go along sometimes.

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