How a Random Word Generator Confirmed a “Writing Year”

All writers use writing prompts at some point—it’s almost a given. Whether looking for non-fiction prompts or ideas for a short story (or even a novel), many writers turn to the prompt for inspiration.

When looking for writing prompts, I see a lot of really good prompts for fiction—but the non-fiction ones seem more difficult somehow (though this may not be the case for everyone). Either they just don’t resonate or they don’t seem like a topic that my readers would want to read about.

For some reason, I recently forgot about my best source for non-fiction writing prompts: looking up “writing topics.” So turned to another fallback: random words. Random words are fun, anyway, because you learn some new vocab along the way.

Going to, I chose the setting of receiving three random words—and here’s what came up:

Obviously, these words have a connection—at least to writers—so I did a test to see if most of the word trios I got had a connection of any sort.

Every other grouping I got was completely unconnected.

Other writers are sure to see the importance in this synchronicity, as it describes some main parts of a writer’s process:

Compose. Obviously, this is the first part of the process: creating the story or piece itself, the first draft or rough draft.

Flow: Catching any issues with flow is crucial when editing—if a piece doesn’t flow well, it won’t be as effective or will end up being complete nonsense. Again, this applies to both fiction and non-fiction.

Quotation: In this day and age, just about all writers hope to find quotable quotes in their works to share with potential readers and catch their interest.

Why is this important? To tell the truth, it may not be.

Then again, a friend in high school—also a writer—once said, “I don’t believe in coincidences.”

At any rate, it’s a good way for a writer to start a new year.

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Your Favorite Characters: Why Characters’ Youthful Dreams are Often Relevant

"Know Your Characters: Their Young Ambitions Matter"" (blog post) | |

Looking around online, you may stumble upon infographics and lists that offer questions to help build characters — or offer journaling questions for yourself. Questions from either category can be useful for characterization — but it’s easy sometimes to overlook the why. In the series “Your Favorite Characters,” we’ll look at some of these questions and explore exactly why they matter.

A character’s younger aspirations were is a question mentioned every once in a while, as in this graphic for writers:

If your character is an adult, why do we care?

It’s obvious why a child’s aspirations are important in a children’s book (or an adult book with young characters); but with adult characters, does it matter?

The answer is likely “sometimes.” Let’s take a medieval character named Sir Jaredd. There may be absolutely no reason to dwell on Sir Jaredd’s past ambitions or childhood dreams. But did Sir Jaredd always aspire to become a knight? If so, how did he get there? Did he tread a difficult path, or did it seem easy, as if he were destined for the role?

Or did he absolutely hate the idea of becoming “one of those authority figures”? Was he originally a rebel, and why did he change his mind?

Looking Back from the Present

In the end, there are probably a lot of times when a character’s past aspirations do not need to be mentioned in a story. For example, it didn’t seem necessary in most of the pieces posted up until now on this site and may only have been of importance in “The Missing Servant” if the king somehow had a marred childhood that caused him to inflict his own pain on others — and as a result, wanted to rule over others to do his own evil will. Interestingly, that detail would have created a very different story in which the reader might actually pity the king…maybe.

But is it helpful for the writer to simply know in his or her mind where that character came from, even if it isn’t mentioned in the piece? Absolutely. A huge part of a character’s past is made up of childhood aspirations. Did they follow a certain path, and if not, why? Did someone have a change of heart frequently? Is the character therefore undecided on a lot of things in life — and within the story?

As always, it’s up to the author to decide how much to reveal; but well-rounded characters surely had aspirations when they were young. Didn’t everyone?

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A Mixed-Media Approach to “Four Seasons” Art: Winter

"Creating a 'Four Seasons' Mixed-Media Collage: Winter" (blog post) | |

In the last post, we talked about a new approach to the “Four Seasons” theme: a framed vignette inspired by printers’ trays. That post talked about the method behind the madness in the materials and process creating the autumn piece. Here, it’s all about winter. And as in the autumn post, photos follow of a few supplies used, and the remaining materials are listed at the bottom.

The Background

"Creating a 'Four Seasons' Mixed-Media Collage: Autumn" (blog post) | | authorbrennapierson.wordpress.comThe background was a piece of scrapbook paper from a paper pack and the right side was a piece of painted bristol board in a teal tone. Teal is a cool shade that seems like it would go with all the seasons, and certainly a blue hue works well with the idea of winter.

"Creating a 'Four Seasons' Mixed-Media Collage: Autumn" (blog post) | | authorbrennapierson.wordpress.comMartha Stewart stencils from Michael’s provided a Christmas tree for the left side, and Faber-Castell Gelatos in the pastel variety were used to fill it in.

Some very small stamps from Art-C, which also came from Michael’s, had stamps with “wish” and “joy” — and both seemed appropriate for winter, mainly for Christmas. These were applied with a light wash of FolkArt’s acrylic paint in Antique Copper.

Collage and Scrapbooking Pieces

"Creating a 'Four Seasons' Mixed-Media Collage: Winter" (blog post) | |

Again, the Art-C “Everyday” Ephemera Collage Pack had the perfect sayings on cardboard stock to use for winter and the Christmas season: “picture perfect,” “my happy place” and “believe.” A light wash of the Antique Copper and Desert Turquoise paints were brushed on as a border.

Metal Embellishments: Keys and Keyholes

"Creating a 'Four Seasons' Mixed-Media Collage: Winter" (blog post) | |

The chosen Tim Holtz Idea-ology key for winter was “memory,” again focusing more on Christmas (it’s difficult not to with a winter collage). E6000 glue affixed the metal pieces, with the keyhole going onto the scrapbook paper and the key being glued to a piece of Antique-Copper-painted washi tape.

(The key does make the frame heavier on one side when you hang it. See here for correcting a tilted frame.)

The finished product:

"Creating a 'Four Seasons' Mixed-Media Collage: Winter" (blog post) | |

View the autumn “Four Seasons” piece here, and stay tuned for spring and summer!


Main materials used:
Tim Holtz Idea-ology Keys
Tim Holtz Idea-ology Keyholes
• Art-C Ephemera Collage Pack: “Everyday”
• Art-C Stamp: “Wish” and “Joy”
Americana Acrylic Paint: “Desert Turquoise”
FolkArt Acrylic Paint: Metallic “Antique Copper”
4×6 frame from Michael’s


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