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Maggie Stiefvater is the author of the bestselling Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy and The Scorpio Races: an exhilarating standalone novel starring teenage Puck Connolly, who enters a dangerous competition–racing vicious, man-eating water horses–in a desperate attempt to keep her family together. You can begin reading The Scorpio Races here on Figment for a limited time.
If Maggie’s signature chilling descriptions and lovable characters inspire you to hit the keyboard, try this story starter that Maggie has graciously provided for Figment users. Turns out, she’s been writing short stories from a common prompt for years, so learn from her expertise! Our four favorites will be featured on the Figment homepage as Handpicked Figs, so be sure to tag your story scorpiostarter.
Story prompts are an interesting thing. They make telling the story both easier—now you don’t have to think of an idea, right?—and harder—now I’ve told you precisely what the idea is, so how are you going to make it yours?
For the past several years, I’ve written short stories over at www.merryfates.com with my two critique partners, Brenna Yovanoff and Tessa Gratton. Most months we come up with our own ideas, but sometimes we do common prompts: we all write a story based on the same picture or folk tale or song. The challenge for us becomes writing a very us version of the prompt. It can’t just tell the obvious. It has to be a Maggie version, or a Brenna version, or a Tessa version.
So I’d like to propose a challenge for writers on Figment. I’m going to give you a prompt that I already did with the other Merry Sisters of Fate. And I’m going to give you the links so you can see what three different authors did with it. And then I’m going to challenge you to take that prompt and do something so absolutely you with it that no one else could possibly come close.
The prompt is Rip Van Winkle. Do you know the story? No? Google it. Here’s the abbreviated version: A man falls asleep for a few dozen years and when he wakes up, everyone he knows is dead. Basically.
When you have a prompt in your hands, the first thing you want to do is ask yourself a few questions:
– What is the most interesting part of this prompt to me?
– Can I exaggerate that part?
– What do I want my story to mean?
– What am I trying to SAY?
– How do I want readers to FEEL when they’re done reading it?
Okay, those last three questions are really all the same question. The thing about an idea is that anyone can have one. The thing about meaning is that it’s something only you can do. Write a version of Rip Van Winkle that makes it important to you, and only you, and then it will be interesting to nearly everyone.
Ready, set, go.