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The Real Thing Tags: writing prompts

I’m sure most of you will agree that using a prompt is a great way to develop a story idea and start writing. We wouldn’t have included the Monday Muse forum on this website if we didn’t think prompts were helpful. Almost all of us can rhyme off the titles of stories that have come to us from Monday Muse prompts.

So if a phrase or a sentence or a photograph can stir our imagination, what about using real objects? Last week I visited the Northern Ireland War Memorial Museum with our local writers group. We are working with the Living Legacies project and have been asked to create stories inspired by artefacts related to events on the battlefront and in Ireland during 1916. The museum collects artefacts related to Northern Ireland in both World Wars and they offered us a private ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the museum. As the main focus of the tour, the curator explained how they obtain artefacts for their collection, record and display them. During her talk we had a chance to examine First and Second World War artefacts much closer than most museum visitors are able to do.

Since I am writing a series of Short Reads and novels set during the Second World War in Northern Ireland, I was fascinated by the artefacts we had access to. My imagination was particularly captured by a herbal remedy first aid kit from the Second World War that had belonged to the curator’s father. He used it to treat patients for minor ailments such as diarrhoea on the battlefield and in an internment camp. I was also fascinated by everyday items in the display such as women’s utility stockings and boys’ leather boots. Items still available today but today’s versions are very different from their predecessors.

Why did these artefacts affect me more than just a photograph of the same items? It’s simple really. A photograph can’t capture the texture of an item or the weight of it as you hold it. Or the smell of it. Or any sound it may make as you lift and examine it. A photograph, especially an old, faded one, may not record the colour accurately either. But I could feel the smoothness of the delicate glass vials and the textured roughness of the leather case that held them. I also heard the tiny creaks the leather made as it was twisted this way and that and detected a faint musty odour from it. I could also see the powdered remains of the herbal mixtures in each vial and the pencilled labels on them which were beginning to peel off. I wouldn’t have noticed these details looking at a photograph.

Observing all these details set my mind racing and I could imagine the doctor on the battlefront. It would be easy to begin jotting a story about the man this item had conjured in my mind. So, for me, getting up close to real objects is a great way to set a story in motion.

You may not share my interest in wartime history, or even history at all, for that matter. But you can still find objects to inspire your writing. Why not visit a museum, a planetarium, an art gallery, a zoo, a park or any place that interests you and find an object there. Examine it closely. Use all of your senses. Jot down your reaction to it and any thoughts it stirs up. Let your mind roam until a story idea emerges. Your story may not even relate directly to the object. Maybe its colour or the sound it makes reminds you of something else. Run with the string of ideas the object conjures in your mind until you have a story you want to write. Why don’t you try it and let me know what happens?


Go Forth and Meme
Category: Writing
Tags: memes marketing

So what’s a meme? Although they’ve been around for a few years and I’d noticed them, I only discovered what they were called last month. Basically, memes are images combined with short captions. Videos and animated gifs can be included but let’s just stick to static images for this post. Often they are funny or ironic. You could say they are online posters to entertain net surfers (remember the paper ones that used to be pasted to walls and billboards?). And, if they are done well, they will resonate with the reader and stay in his memory.    

     Since this blog concentrates on topics of interest to writers, why have I chosen to write about memes? The answer is that, although they may have started out to amuse and entertain, if used skillfully, they can also be a great marketing tool. It’s a fact of the modern writer’s life that it’s necessary to promote your work to find readers. Memes can be a form of online ‘word of mouth’ marketing to draw readers to a writer’s website and social media pages.

     Until a couple weeks ago, when I was reading some of the witty memes making the rounds on the internet, it never occurred to me that I could create them too. I’m not a technical whiz so I figured it would be beyond my capability. But the popularity of memes means that loads of free, easy to use websites have appeared which you can use to make your own. All you have to do is either choose an image from the website’s stock images or download one your own to get started. Next you write a caption on the form they provide then you are ready to preview your meme. If you like it, you can save and keep it. Or you can try again until you are satisfied with your creation. Sites where you can make memes include,, and  

     One of the most important things to remember when using memes you create to promote your author platform (whether you have a website, Facebook page, Pinterest page, Twitter account or any other social media presence) is that subtle is best and most effective. Creating and posting an image of your latest book with a ‘Buy Me’ caption on it, isn’t a meme – well, not one that many readers are likely to read and pass on to their friends. The trick is to create relevant memes that will entertain and intrigue – and possibly inspire – so that the reader wants to find out more about you and your writing, and will also pass on the meme so others will discover you too.

     The type of memes you decide to create will depend on the genre your books fall into. Since I write mainly historical fiction I often create memes using historic photographs with captions relevant to my genre or even quotes from my own stories. I also throw in the odd meme which features a recent photograph with a funny or catchy caption related to reading or writing.

     Now that I hope I’ve piqued your interest in memes, I’ll stop here. I’m afraid this post is only a very brief introduction to memes and how you might use them. If you’d like more detail, Karen Yu’s article is a good place to start:

     Then why not give it a try? Create memes your readers will enjoy – and will pass on and on. Go Forth and Meme.


This Week On Writers Abroad, 11th May
Category: Site News

As we gear up for our next anthology, we take this opportunity to wish Val all the best for the future in her life and her writing. She is leaving the group but, before she goes, will contribute a poem to the anthology.

Monday Muse – Vesna has given us a variety of prompts to get us thinking and writing: a list of objects and concepts to mix and match, several last lines, three themes and a selection of images.

Blog – Chris N has written Time and Tide, our blog entry this week.

Bragging Stool – Glyn placed second in the Poetry Pulse competition. Paola’s piece about her appearance, with Rilla, on Ittadi, a popular Bangladeshi television show, has been printed in the June issue of The Oldie.

Anthology: Submissions for the next anthology are open. We have begun to read the material received and vote on it, as well as getting to work on our own submissions.

Our next formal chat is on Sunday, 24th May.

Hope everyone has a productive writing week. Happy writing everyone!


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