Sunday, June 21, 2015

Writing prompts and hip creases

I applied to the Writers On the Verge program a month ago or so, and as part of my application, I had to do this: 

Write a paragraph from page 253 of your autobiography. * 500 words

I think this a fantastic writing prompt, so I wanted to share it with you. The possibilities are endless. What point in my life will this page cover? How much can I squeeze into one paragraph? Do I start mid-sentence to be unique? But what if everyone else starts mid-sentence? What's interesting enough to share, but not too interesting so that oh isn't it convenient that you opened the book to THAT page of all the pages? 

I eventually made these life/death decisions, and here's what I submitted:
I was thinner then, and an intern, so the director used to stuff me into tight, strategic spaces. That particular day, I’d been loaded into a garbage bin. I held the boom microphone in my sweaty grip, pointing it in the direction where the dialogue would be coming from, and was told to stay invisible. The director called me Whatsyourname, which made me question my whole life thus far, every choice I had made that brought me to this point: broke, nameless, in a trash bin. And then Marcus walked on to the set. I was secretly in love with Marcus and his luminous half Chinese/half black skin. He was the star of this shitty movie, but his background was theatre so he shouted all his lines and the director was too scared to tell him not to. Earlier, when we were all on break and eating sandwiches, Marcus told me to get the hell out of his face. I hid in the bathroom for an hour, my boom and I stuffed in a stall. He apologized later, saying he was sorry if I felt he had hurt my feelings, but he was Method and responding as his character would. I asked Marcus if his character was a first-rate a-hole, and he took it personally, which was confusing for us both. Anyways, when Marcus walked on set that day, he gave me a look like I deserved to be stuffed in the garbage bin. Then he took off his pants and his underwear, and started thrusting into the actress’s hip crease. The camera angle was off because the cinematographer wasn’t getting paid, so the sex looked terribly unconvincing. It was the cinematographer’s fault that the film never made it out of the can. Or it was mine. I was too weak to hold the boom out of frame; it was always dipping into the shot.
I think this prompt is a good place to start when you have writer's block. Assign yourself a page number from your "memoir" and go to town. The freedom from context, intent and especially motivation was wonderfully liberating for me. Not to mention fun.

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