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Last updated October 2017. Updated weekly.
Week 32, August 2017. Theme: TAKE OUT THE PAPERS & THE TRASH. Explore the trash in your story. Write at least one scene that deals with trash in some way. This could be actually taking out the trash or a situation when the character notices the trash somewhere. You might choose to focus on recycling and waste collection. You could write about composting. Regardless, don't fail to acknowledge the trash that exists. Remember, the trash can be both a nuisance and a treasure, depending upon the situation.
Additional advice for nonfiction prose and poetry: Write about how the trash can be a treasure. Consider how people survive based on the trash. You could focus on an occupation that centers on waste removal in some way. Also, think about how the trash has made an impact or been used as a tool. For example, the 1968 AFSCME Memphis Sanitation Workers' Strike during the Civil Rights Movement, or the ways in which trash is used as a weapon or shaming tool during rallies, marches, and boycotts.
Week 31, August 2017. Tool: RESEARCH a GLOBAL and/or HISTORICAL EVENT. Use an historical and/or global event in your story. This allows you to connect your story with actual events and something that could be in the memory of your readers, especially if you are writing about more modern events. Consider a solar or lunar eclipse as an example of an event many people could experience. Some other examples could be viewing the Northern Lights, warfare that many people experience and/or witness, an earthquake or natural disaster, a meteorite shower, the passage of a visible comet, and more.
Additional advice for nonfiction prose and poetry: Consider writing about an expectation you had regarding a global or historical event that you knew about in advance or that you were certain you would experience, and how the actual experience was different than what you had imagined or expected. For example, if you planned to view the Northern Lights at a particular time, what was that experience actually like? Did it happen? How was it different than you imagined?
Week 28, August 2017. Tool: RESEARCH COLLOQUIAL CHANGES. The Nudge Week 28 is all about jive talkin'. Do some research about language and conversation, and include phrases and/or words specific to a certain time period and/or region. Language changes over time and some words are popular only for a short time. Think about how an average word can suddenly have either a positive or negative connotation that changes with the generations. Demonstrate the common parlance of your characters by using dialogue. You might also show changes within a foreign language in your English-written novel; for example, Tom Robbins does this with French in his novel, Jitterbug Perfume.
Additional advice for nonfiction prose and poetry: Focus on one word or phrase and fully explore the colloquial changes in a poem or nonfiction essay. You might also write about the language specific to an industry or occupation and focus on the symbolism of that.
Week 33, September 2017. Tool: MINIMALIST STYLE. Choose a scene or write a new short story and focus on writing it in a minimalist style. You might choose to write in a format and/or with a medium that creates a limitation regarding the length of the work. Consider not simply paring down how many words you use, but perhaps using less characters, punctuation, and/or other common narrative devices. Either way, explore minimalism as a style that sharpens your writing.
Additional advice for creative nonfiction and poetry: Find a wee baby book to write inside--this will guarantee that your space is limited. You could also use an alternative surface or space that creates a limitation. For examples, consider William Carlos Williams' "The Red Wheelbarrow" in poetry or Raymond Carver's "Popular Mechanics" in fiction. Look at the work of minimalist, visual artists who use text as well; for example, Joseph Kosuth, Ed Ruscha, and Carl Andre.
Week 29, August 2017. Theme: GENEALOGY. Consider family history in relation to your character's motivations and reactions. Show something about your character's family history and explore a family trait, habit, and/or belief. Consider connecting all three in order to fully explore the theme.
Genealogy can be critical if you're writing a book series. Another option is to write out and create a family tree for one or all of your main characters. Louise Erdrich prints a family tree in her novel, Love Medicine. You can print the family tree in the book(s), or keep it for your own private reference and motivation.
Additional advice for nonfiction prose and poetry: Peruse your own family tree if you have one, or create one based on the information that you have available about your family. Many families record their family trees and histories in family Bibles. One approach to this topic could be to tell a story/write a poem from an ancestor's point of view, based on what little information you might have available to you. You may only know someone's name that strikes you as intriguing and use the name as inspiration to create an imaginary story or one that you try to connect to your own personal story.
And Still More from The Nudge...
Week 34, September 2017. Theme: EDUCATION. For week 34 of The Nudge, the focus is on getting schooled. Within a scene or for a chapter or more, write about some aspect of education within your character's life. You could focus on a single teacher, mentor, subject, or class, or you could explore the larger role of education and/or school within your character's life. Consider alternative methods of learning as well as traditional schools.
Additional advice for creative nonfiction and poetry: Write about an education you received that wasn't related to traditional schools or classroom experiences. Maybe this is some form of self-education.
Consider the following works: "Three Pokes of a Thistle" by Naomi Shihab Nye (creative nonfiction, prose), Runaway: Stories by Alice Munroe (short story collection), The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (novel), "We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brooks (poetry), and Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (children's novel series).
Week 36, September 2017. Theme: I JUST CAN'T HELP WOOING YOU. Introduce the mood of romance and/or love into your story. Even if your story does not focus on themes of romance and/or romantic and/or passionate love, include a moment, a scene, a memory, and/or a fantasy into the story. Give the reader a little romantic gesture or the full dance. Use this theme of romance to create tension as well. Refrain from going into a full sex scene (...yet if you decide to include one); instead, stay focused on the theme of romance and expressions of romantic/passionate love in this instance, even if you are only hinting at it. How would your character woo someone? Would she actively pursue a romantic interest? What types of affection and romance arouse your character and get his attention?
Additional advice for creative nonfiction and poetry: Write about a momentary romance in your life. This could be something you only explored in your own imagination--a fantasy--that never transpired in real life, or it could be something akin to a "summer romance."
Week 37, October 2017. Theme: (CRUEL) TWIST OF FATE. It's time to create some empathy in the reader. Add a twist of fate to your story--a turn of events that no one excepts. Consider making this a cruel act of fate or circumstance in life. For example, a character who is waiting for something important and after she moves on and gives up, that something happens without her ever seeing it or knowing it was fulfilled. Shakespeare was clever with using these wicked twists within his plays. Another modern, fairytale example can be found in the film Maleficent, Disney's newest version of Sleeping Beauty.
Additional advice for creative nonfiction and poetry: Have you ever wondered how something played out after giving up on it, only to come to the understanding that you will never know? Have you ever become so impatient that you have taken a different route, or given up on a journey due to impatience, and then wondered later what might have happened if you had stuck with the original route or if you had continued the journey? Write about these tricky situations in life, when you wonder if fate is messing with you or prompting you in a certain direction for a reason. Do you think these "alignments of the stars", fate interventions, are real or purely coincidental?
Week 35, September 2017. Tool: PUBLIC DOMAIN LITERATURE. Find a piece of literature (song, story, poem, book, newspaper article, play) that's now in the public domain. Use a reference to or quotation from that piece of literature. Your character could be influenced by hearing it or reading it. Use this public domain literaturesimply once in a scene or tie it in to the overall theme of your work, giving it a more significant impact within your piece of writing. Generally speaking, a work becomes part of the public domain about 70 years after the death of the author who owned the copyright. Use this opportunity to do some research and look up the copyright laws for different types of literature and media.
Additional advice for creative nonfiction and poetry: Focus on a piece of literature that influenced your perception about life in some way. The literature impacted you to such an extent that you changed your mind or gained a new perspective completely.
Week 30, August 2017. Tool: PLAYLIST. Writers, get out your toolbox. Time to listen to some music and find your groove with the story. You should have a solid foundation for your story and be familiar with your characters as well as the setting(s) and the time period(s) of the story. Given all of the work you've done so far, stop writing and create a playlist of songs for yourself that's inspired by the story. This isn't necessarily something you will write directly into the story. The music should continue to inspire you while writing your story. The playlist could be composed of songs that you imagine your character(s) would listen to or hear during their time period(s). You might choose to listen to the music while brainstorming or thinking about your story versus while you are actually writing. You could allow the music to inform the mood of your scenes.
Additional advice for nonfiction prose and poetry: Choose a musical genre or a specific artist or song that has influenced your life in some way. Explore the topic of music and its influence in your life. Has your mood changed based on the music in the environment around you? Has music shifted your perspective on something?