Thursday, July 1, 2010

Around the Block with Guest Blogger: Kaye Spencer

Win a Free copy of The Dance and Learn about how to get around Writer's Block with guest author Kaye Spencer!

Welcome, Kaye!

Here's what she had to say...

Prompting Yourself out of Writer’s Block with Story Prompts

Writer’s block happens. Fortunately, as a writer I’ve never hit that brick wall, but as an English teacher (junior high through community college), I’ve encountered many students who, when faced with a creative writing assignment, complain that they can’t think of anything to write about. So to help nudge them out of their writing reluctance, I give them story prompts (story starters) to kick-start their metaphoric writing motorcycles. I’m always amazed at the different perspectives that result from the same story prompt.

Several of my own stories began as story prompts, although my prompts tend to visit me via pictures/images, song lyrics, and off-hand comments. I tuck these ideas away until the time comes when I need a story idea, then I pull one out and dig in. This works so well for me that I have a 100K+ words western historical, Broken Bridges, that spawned from a picture of a man and woman leaning out of the windows of parallel taxis and barely able to reach each other for a kiss (I turned the taxis into carriages). Everything in this story grew from that single picture.

My current book at Cobblestone Press, The Dance, began as a writing prompt for a contest. This was the prompt: Character A is a quirky critic who's secretly attracted to Character B, an eccentric artist who lives in the apartment right above Character A. Character A is on a deadline to get her review finished but Character B is making a lot of noise and it's very distracting.

In fact, my next book will launch the western line at Breathless Press in November 2010, and it also began as a story prompt.

Here is an example of the story starter activity I use my students:

Choose one of the five story starters/prompts listed below. Write a 500-1000 word opening for your story using that story starter somewhere very close to the beginning of your story. Try using the prompt as the very first line of your story, but it’s not critical that you do so. [note: for extra creative fun, come up with story “enders”]

The prompts are in 3rd Person, but you are at complete creative liberty (and encouraged) to change the Point of View (POV), change the genders, and tweak the story starter itself to suit your inner Muse.

Remember, the story starter you choose should be the opening line of your story, however, to paraphrase Captain Barbossa…the word count and exact wording of the story starter are more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules…so don’t let either limit or hamper your creativity.

1. They had nothing to say to each other…
2. The last time he saw her, she…
3. Ghostly shadows quivered on the wall, the storm raged outside, battering the castle walls. She moved her chair closer to the fireplace, desperately wishing…
4. Trembling and blinking back tears, she punched his number into the phone…
5. She tore down the alley, burst through a darkened doorway and crouched low. Behind her, the noise escalated…

So, let your creative thoughts run freely and don’t hamper the words with grammar, conventions, and mechanics at this point. JUST WRITE!!! When you’ve finished your mini-story, tuck it away for that rainy writer’s block day when you need just a nudge of inspiration to begin writing your next book.

A Note from the Book Boost: This is amazing advice, Kaye! Thank you so much for sharing your teaching expertise with us. I'm sure a lot of folks will find this very helpful. For me, I don't have trouble knowing what to write only finding time to actually write it all! LOL Thanks for joining us and please tell us more about The Dance.


Janae Palmer, a reclusive city girl facing a book review deadline, is at her wit's end with her upstairs neighbor, rodeo bullfighter Owen Quinlan. He's cranked-up his music, and she's on a mission to give him a lesson in manners. Having fantasized about getting him in bed, she gets more than she'd planned after a knock-out introduction. Owen is more than willing to share in her fantasies, but when his rodeo life comes between them, the words of a song will either give them the courage to go on together or leave them with only bittersweet memories of The Dance.


Her eyes popped open. Divorce? That would account for why he hadn’t seen his boys for a while. Running back through the days since she’d discovered Owen Quinlan’s existence, she couldn’t recall a woman or children visiting him and, having been so fervently confident that he was single, she’d never noticed if he wore a wedding ring. Craning her neck, she peered at him, but he’d shoved his left hand into his front pocket. Giving the living room a cursory appraisal, she found no evidence of a family. No pictures or toys and certainly nothing suggesting a female influence, but a trip to the bathroom would tell her for sure, and she appeased her conscience with the excuse that she wanted to see her face so it wasn’t really snooping. Besides, he had told her to make herself at home.

Dropping her key lanyard on the end table, she made her way to the bathroom and closed the door. While soaking a washcloth in warm water, she tilted her head to inspect the reddish-purple mark rising over the bridge of her nose and the tiny hint of bruising developing under her eyes. She wiped away the remnants of dried blood, but gave her shirt up as hopelessly stained. Satisfied she’d cleaned herself as best she could, a quick search of the bathroom drawers and medicine cabinet revealed only a sundry of the usual male toiletries. A glimmer of hope returned. Spying a bottle of Brut cologne, she removed the lid and breathed in the heady aroma. Closing her eyes, she imagined smelling this on Owen’s skin. Good God, this scent should be illegal.

Leaving the bathroom, she peeked into his bedroom and a perfunctory scan lifted her spirits further. It was definitely a guy’s bedroom. Stealing a sheepish glance over her shoulder, she tiptoed into the bedroom to check it out more thoroughly. Boots and jeans were in a heap by the opened closet door. A cowboy hat was perched on its crown on the dresser. There were rodeo photographs tacked to the walls and stacks of magazines and books beside the unmade bed. She ran her fingers along the sheets where the slight indention of his body remained then lifted a pillow to her face and breathed in the lingering scent of his cologne.

With a reluctant sigh, she replaced the pillow and returned to the living room, this time to look around with serious interest at the myriad of rodeo paintings and photographs propped, hanging, or strewn about the room. Eventually, her gaze came to rest on the easel and the eight-by-ten, black and white photograph tacked to the wall beside it. Walking to the canvas, she studied both painting and picture with the slow realization that Owen was creating a color rendition of the moment in time when a bucking bull charged a rodeo clown leaping to the aid of a cowboy tangled in the rope around the bull’s girth. Under closer scrutiny, she recognized him under the grease paint, spandex, and baggy cut-off overalls.

Owen strode into room, alternately talking and listening, and stopped beside her. Stealing a peek at his left hand, she bit her bottom lip to conceal her delight that he didn’t wear a ring while jealously wishing the smile on his face was for her and not for the woman on the phone.

Want More Kaye?

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For a chance to win a free copy of The Dance, leave a question or comment for Kaye. Winner will be drawn in one week and posted in the Recent Winners box on the right hand side of the blog. Please check back to see if you've won and contact us to claim your prize!


Sable Grey said...

Hey Kaye! I don't get to play in the contest because I already have a copy of this awesome book. Great contest!

Andrea I said...

It was interesting to read your post. I was one of those college students who struggled with creative writing. My husband and I took the class at the same time,an A for him and a C for me.

Kaye Spencer said...

LOL, yes you do happen to already have a copy of this book.

Kaye Spencer said...


For the next several months, I'll be blogging at my website on a weekly basis about writing. My target audience is the aspiring & novice writer. I'm covering the core basics at first then I'll move into more detail on down the road.

Here's my website:

Don't give up on writing if you have a story to tell.

Fedora said...

Kaye, this book sounds terrific--I've been loving stories that feature cowboys :) And thanks for the writing prompts--I think I may try something like that with my kids. One of our summer activities (which they aren't thrilled about some days!) is writing. I usually give them a topic and ask for a couple paragraphs a day. Story starters might be a lot more fun!

Sable Grey said...

One of Kaye's prompts actually spawned a story I wrote and just got accepted by a publisher. :)

Kaye Spencer said...


Story prompts are great. Try having your kids write "tandem" stories. Give them the prompt, have one of them write the first paragraph, then the next sibling continues with a logical paragraph, and so on.

It can be great fun.

Fedora said...

That's a good idea, too! Thanks, Kaye--we usually have a couple friends over with us, and maybe I'll try a round-robin type story with a prompt tomorrow :)

Kaye Spencer said...


I'd love to hear how it turns out. I hope they have a lot of fun with it.

She said...

Good idea to use writing promps. I can remember freshman English in college. The professor would bring in music and have us write to it. We also had to do free thinking writing. That was fun. Loved your trailer. Love the blurb from The Dance.

Kaye Spencer said...


Thanks. The video is great, isn't it? lol I've tried the writing to music activity with students and it works well, too.

Debby said...

Ihave always struggled with writing but I try and try. Thanks so much

VenusBookluvr said...

This sounds fantastic -- I can't wait to read it.

Thanks for the writing prompts, I will add these to my "files" in case I need them :-)

Kaye Spencer said...


As I encouraged Andrea in an earlier comment, don't ever give up on writing if you have that creative urge inside you. Join your local (or nearest) RWA chapter or look on line for writing support groups. Take a creative writing class at a community college. There's no time like right now to begin.

Kaye Spencer said...


A writer can never have too many story ideas filed away, that's for sure. ;-)

kmf3933 said...

Sounds like a good read

Kaye Spencer said...


Thanks. In fact, it is a good read. ;-)

Fedora said...

Kaye, I did a variation on one of your prompts with them Friday, and I do think they had a lot more fun with it than our "typical" sessions. I'll have to give the round robin a try this coming week! Thanks again for the excellent suggestions and for sharing about The Dance!

Kaye Spencer said...


I'm so glad the prompt activity worked for your kiddoes. The round robin should be great fun.