Prompting the Rough Draft - by Donna

This week the Muses are all deep in various writing projects squeezed in between crazy work schedules, kids' field trips, client meetings, and other assorted real world life things that tend to take us away from our writing "think." So the theme for the week is intended to support the writing life by describing some of our favorite writing prompts and then sharing what we came up with when we tried them out. We hope you'll find something here you can use in your current writing process, and we also hope you'll share it with us when you do.

One of my favorite writing quotes inspired my prompt this week:
“Writers live twice. They go along with their regular life, are as fast as anyone in the grocery store, crossing the street, getting dressed for work in the morning. But there’s another part of them that they have been training. The one that lives everything a second time. That sits down and sees their life again and goes over it.” From WRITING DOWN THE BONES by Natalie Goldberg

My prompt also came from Natalie's book.
Begin with “I remember.” Write lots of small memories. If you fall into one large memory, write that. Just keep going. If you get stuck, just repeat the phrase “I remember” again and keep going.

So here's my rough (very) draft of writing that I discovered when I used this prompt:

I remember the snow day. It was unusual. More than unusual really. It was life changing. We’d never seen snow before. No one my age that had lived here in central Texas anyway. I think we saw it fall from the sky once when I was in second grade, but never actually stick to the ground. When the weatherman announced the possibility it was like Christmas had come early. There was a buzz everywhere. Grocery stores, sidewalks, libraries and most of all school. Everyone wanted to talk about the weather and the possibility of snow.

When it actually happened, I was stunned. I opened my upstairs bedroom curtain to see everything coated in white. I hardly slept the night before wishing for the possibility. My mom came in and told me the even better news, as if it could be better. School had been cancelled. I did a snow dance in my bedroom. It was perfect. I thought it couldn’t be a more perfect day. I was wrong.

Jackson knocked on the door around ten that morning. I had dug up every stick of winter clothes I could find and met him at the door with rubber rain boots and two gloves that didn’t match. I had on two sweaters, a coat a size too small and three pairs of socks. I walked like a mummy rising from the dead. Jackson had a hooded sweatshirt on over several layers that made him look like a puffy pillow top mattress. His eyes were bright with excitement and he clapped his red gloved hands together and stomped off the snow on my porch.

I remember the sun. It sparkled off the white piles of snow on the bare branches of the trees making star like shimmers of ice. The few orange leaves left on the tree limbs drooped off the brown stick branches in surrender. The white snow was like icing on the tops of the branches. Every once in a while a big plop of snow would fall out of the tops reminding us both that the melting had already started. We had to enjoy it fast.

I remember how the air was visible everywhere. Puffs from our mouths, from cars, from the tops of houses. Little white clouds of excitement. The cold made our cheeks pink and I had to blink the dryness out of my eyes. A flake of stopped like a frozen moment in time on Jackson’s thick black lashes. He blinked, but it stayed stubbornly in place. I reached up to brush it off. My throat ached from breathing in the frosty air, but I didn’t mind.

I remember stomping down the sidewalk toward the soccer field. Delighted with the double trail of bootprints left behind. The snow continued to fall. Heavy white flakes that quickly coated the tracks we made and left powdery excitement on our shoulders and hair. I remember the untouched white of the field. No one had been there before us. Not even a rabbit or a squirrel. It was a white stretch of untouched fun. We stomped out into the field, laughing and slip sliding on icy undercoat of wet grass. One time I almost fell and Jackson reached out to catch me mid slide. It sent both of us careening down into the wet. We giggled uncontrollably, our arms still locked around each other. He scooped up a big pile of powder and plopped it down on my head. I squealed and rolled away, reaching for my revenge scoop to push down the back of his sweatshirt. The fight was on. I ducked behind a park bench and just missed a flying snowball that broke up into fine mist of powder as it his a tree trunk behind my head. I remember waving my fingers beside my face and sticking my tongue out at him.

“You’re going to get it now!” he yelled.

“You couldn’t hit the side of a barn,” I yelled back.

I turned to run and he chased me. Catching me by the soccer goals and grabbing me around the waist. We rolled onto the field. We lay on our backs, the cold seeping into the back of our layers of clothes, gasping for breath. I opened my mouth at the sky and stretched out my tongue. A perfectly aimed snowflake drifted down and landed on it’s outstretched tip. I glanced over at Jackson. He was watching me so intently, so strangely. He rolled over suddenly, heavy with all his layers of clothes on top of me, his hands outstretch to clasp mine in the snow. He looked down at me.
“How did it taste?” He asked.

I could hardly breathe, but it had nothing to do with the cold now.

“Wet,” I said.

The sun shining over the top of his head left the shimmer behind like a halo effect. I narrowed my eyes to see him better. His face was so close. His cheeks so red with the cold, his eyelashes wet and spiky. I wanted to push his hair out of his eyes, but he held my hands down into the snow on each side of my body. And I didn’t want him to move. I didn’t want to do anything to make him move.
“My nose is cold,” I said, because I needed to say something.

I thought he would laugh and roll off the top of me. I thought that would be the end of things. But instead he leaned in even closer. Closer. And then he kissed the tip of my nose. Very softly.

I blinked up at him in amazement.

And then he kissed me again. This time on the lips. Soft at first and then a little more urgent. Our cold lips melding together in a frozen moment of absolute perfection.

Now I watch him across the crowded gymnasium pulling playfully at the blonde, flute player's ponytail who sits in front of him. The snow day was a long time ago, but I remember. Every detail, every day since. And I wonder, how could he have forgotten?


Such a great prompt! Thanks for sharing. :)

I love this Donna. I hope some of it finds its way into your draft. I may steal this prompt for Wednesday. What a great way to get in your character's head and discover backstory.

Donna, you are amazing. You get sensory detail, emotional resonance and foreshadowing into a first-draft writing exercise. Plus, as Talia says, it's a great exercise for character development...

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