WFMAD Day 14 – Do You Dare?

Do you dare disturb the universe?

This question is what holds many of us back from writing, or from writing the things that we really want to. Because our lives are ordered and comfortable and to become creative just might mess all that up.


I’ve met so many people who want to write, who talk with tremendous passion about wanting to pour their hearts on the page, but they can’t…. quite… bring themselves to start. Or to scribble for more than a few days. Or to stop allowing unimportant things to sabotage their dream.

If you fit into that category, let me share a phrase occasionally heard in my house. It is used by my husband and me when trying to point out (with great love and tenderness) that the other partner needs to loosen up a bit and have some fun, or try something new, or get out of a rut.

The phrase? “You’re going to die.”

It’s inevitable; the one fact you can know for certain about your life. You will die. Sorry – you have no control over this.

You have total control, however, about the pursuit of your writing dream. If you don’t write, you will one day die. If you write, you’re still going to die, but you will have disturbed the universe in the best possible way. You will have explored your heart more fully. You will leave behind your stories. The ripples of your creativity will touch countless lives and butterflies will sing your praises.

OK, maybe not that last bit. But the rest is as true as you care to make it.


“Giving characters free will, instead of outlining them in detail before the writing begins, allows a story to flow naturally and allows the characters to become more real and more interesting than they could be if they had to act within a rigid profile created in advance of the actual writing….” Dean Koontz

Set…. Don’t turn off the Internet until you complete step one of the prompt below. Then turn it off. In fact, see if you can leave it off for the next 24 hours. I dare you.

Today’s prompt:

1. Pick a random name.

2. Write down the name and follow it with this “grabbed the car keys and closed the door quietly so no one would wake up.”

3. Next line write AND THEN

4. Next line write another action that your newly named character did. Don’t overthink this. Just move the story forward by one sentence that has action in it – no internal narrative, no dialog, no long-winded description.

5. Repeat Steps 3 & 4 until you have written 50 sentences of sequential action. The point is to exercise the pure storytelling muscle in your brain (hence the AND THEN) while allowing your imagination free rein.


13 Replies to “WFMAD Day 14 – Do You Dare?”

  1. Thank you for that, Laurie. I ended up continuing to write long after fifteen minutes.

    This blog reminded me of your character, Mr. Freeman, from Speak. Does he represent, in a way, that creative part of you that needs to write, to truly live?

    Just wondering…do you often use basic storytelling for some of the scenes in the first draft of your books? And after that, then write in the emotional depth of the character, and the details, and the internal dialogue? ….I hope that makes sense.

    And is that always how you find the names for your characters? =]

  2. Falling out of my chair laughing. You and BH can both be so intense, but you are a great match. “You’re going to die.” I’m going to remember that one.

  3. I think that leaving the internet off for 24 hours will be more challenging than fasting for that long, but you’ve piqued my rebellious streak, so I’m giving it a shot. So if I succeed at this, you won’t hear from me until tomorrow.

    Thanks for permission to disturb the universe. You manage each day of the WFMAD to speak directly to my internal dialog, shaking it by the throat mostly, and reaching my self that still wonders if my soul deserves a voice.

    I’m nervously eager to pursue this prompt–“fun” is a muscle I struggle to locate and exercise. My occasional uses of it are fairly halting and awkward, but I think I can use summadat. See you tomorrow! Maybe I’ll return unrecognizable, eh? oh–p.s. I totally going to honor you by adopting that line, “You’re going to die.”

  4. That line gets used in my house, too, usually in an Italian-Brooklyn accent because we caught it in “Moonstruck.” It really hit home after I developed a major blood clot in one leg at age 40. That was 13 years ago, but to this day I try to live every day as if it were going to be the last.

    I also use the line “no regrets.” My beloved grandmother died at age 97 regretting things she hadn’t done, and not long after I decided that I was not going to be her. I figure, we’re only guaranteed this one shot–we better use it well.

    So, I disturb the universe, I eat a peach or two, and right now I’m taking on a topic that some people (including my parents) will have trouble with, but which is one I care deeply about. But if I don’t, who will?

  5. I am official going to begin saying “You are going to die” to everyone, including myself, who is afraid to take a chance to change.

    I followed the exercise today and ended up with fifty eight sentence of a new idea I hatched the other day. It was crazy how basic everything was when you remove dialogue and thinking. It gets the point across, which was what I needed today.

  6. Oh! I had fun with this prompt!

    I ended up with a cute little scene between an adult brother and a sister on an icy morning. He is sneaking out of their parents’ house and catches her sneaking home after being out all night.

    Who knew?


  7. “You’re going to die” is officially my new motto! As for the prompt, will I do it? Probably not. Is it a good one? Definitely. Now, I’d love to explain why I think so but I’m so hungry that I can’t even begin to think about what to write.

  8. I have been following along with you on this challenge. This post really, really hit me. I wanted to write for so long. Dreamed of it, but always told myself that I couldn’t, or that I shouldn’t. Then last year I finally started writing. Because I didn’t want to look back on my life and wonder what might have happened if I’d just followed through with my dream. I have a goal to finish my first novel by the end of this month. Your posts have helped inspire me so much. Along with your books, especially Wintergirls as living with the pain and consequences of eating disorders are very close to my heart.
    Thank you so much. You’ve helped me more I can say.

  9. I love these prompts. Some more than others. Anyway, this sequential action one really spoke to me. Thinking of it one sentence at a time let my imagination go wild and not get panicky at not having a long term answer. The fifteen minutes flew by- my character, Ethan, left the house upset, jogged 5 miles, through a rainstorm to the beach where he could sit and think, soothed by the ocean waves. He meets a dog, who is also “lost”, and a new friendship is formed, cemented by the roast beef sandwich they shared. It was so neat not having to plan out the story, but let it happen! Thanks, Laurie, for your guidance.

  10. I apologize if you have explained this and I missed it. In the photo on today’s prompt, is it your work board for a chapter or a novel?

    I haven’t been posting, but I’ve been trying almost all of your prompts and really making time in the day/week for my writing and plotting to make it stay there once school starts in a week.

  11. Wrote fifty-five sentences. It is freeing to not take my writing so seriously, like worrying about whether someone else will call it chicken poo. I learned you can write a scene quickly with this writing tool. Thank you so much.

  12. I am catching up. One day at a time. My computer died on Friday morning and remains at Best Buy, where I left it. Begging and pleading did no good. I simply have to wait and be patient.
    Frankly, being without the computer has been great, except I’ve lost my daily contact with this challenge. Tonight I am borrowing a computer to do three days of work in one evening while my family is out swimming and attending a mock trial at Williamsburg. I chose to stay back at the hotel and beg use of a computer.
    I very much enjoyed this challenge and found it fascinating. At least where it took me after twenty minutes of writing. I may decide, at some point, to follow the character who emerged through the challenge.
    And Katherine, be brave and tell your story. I, too, had serious blood clots in my early forties. It changes your life. It changes your way of thinking.
    And for me, the incident led me to writing.

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