Combined Writing Prompt: Photo, Fiction, Legacy Writing

A few weeks ago I posted this fine photo, compliments of internet friend, Kerry. (See more of her photography at her Caritas Photography page on Tumblr.)

A holiday meal? A funeral dinner? A typical Sunday? Thanks to Kerry McGovern for this lovely photo.

At the time, I posted the photo as a writing prompt, and the meal, the candles, the lights reminded me of a family holiday meal.

As I started putting today’s writing prompt together, I realized this photo compliments today’s assignment: childhood holidays.

Combined Prompt

The last few weeks I’ve provided some Legacy Writing questions: questions designed to help folks who are trying to tell their own story rattle free the details of their lives. I’ve been encouraging fiction writers to use the very same questions to explore the backstory and formative experiences of their most troublesome characters.

I use this technique. In fact, I’m writing a story cycle right now that does this very thing. I’m writing backstory of characters for a novel I’m contemplating. The stories I’m writing based on their pasts won’t be included in the novel (most likely) but will serve to inform the character development of these characters.

The Exercise

If you are a legacy writer, answer these questions for yourself. Allow yourself to dwell wherever it seems the “writer you” wants to dwell. Try to engage all five senses in your descriptions.

If you are a fiction writer, write responses to these questions as your character would write them. Let the words flow and see where they go.

  1. In your family, what were holiday celebrations like?
  2. Did your family observe religious holidays, or were celebrations secularized?
  3. Who would attend holiday events? Where did you celebrate?
  4. Who did you most look forward to seeing? Who did you most dread seeing?
  5. Did you have any traditions?
  6. Did you have a particular food you looked forward to? Was there something a family member made that you’ve never found a suitable replacement for?
  7. What was a fun holiday memory? What was something that happened that dampened the holiday mood?
  8. Did you ever get a gift that exceeded your wildest expectations? Something that was so much the “wrong gift” that you were heartbroken?
  9. What kinds of gifts did you GIVE when you were young?
  10. What sorts of songs, decorations, cards, etc. do you remember?
There you go. A solid ten questions to start the holiday ball rolling. Happy writing!
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