MOTHER STORIES: STORY SAMPLES AND PROMPTS
In this workshop we will be writing 4 total stories. They can be fiction or Creative Non-Fiction or memoir straight-up, it’s completely up to you… You can use this workshop in any way that works for you! 400 words max.
I hope you will feel creatively inspired and will explore and take creative risks.
If you are stuck getting the material out, I find these unblockers to be helpful:
-Begin freewriting with the phrase “It had something to do with…” or “It had nothing to do with…” or “I remember…” or “That was the year we…”
and let your pen take over from there.
-Alternatively, begin writing about a character by using a slanted point of view, for example, writing in negation.. this can work very well:
“Her mother was not a girl scout and her mother was not a nun and her mother was not a simple person and her mother was not a dog lover…”
See if these simple techniques can help you unlock your stories..
Below are story samples and some open-ended prompts created from them. Only use the prompts if you feel they are helpful. The prompt words are optional but they can be very helpful for writers. If you’d like to give them a try, see if you can incorporate one or all of the optional prompt words in your first drafts.. They often take us to unexpected places. Another way to work with prompt words is to ‘borrow’ 5 words from a sample story.
“The Bug Man” by Meg Pokrass
published in The Best Small Fictions 2018, also appears in “The Loss Detector” (Bamboo Dart Press 2021)
(Author note) This is my story and it is a CNF piece. This situation really happened, although I did not have a brother.We did have a “Bug Man” in our lives, a handsome and kind man who came out to our house and sprayed for spiders. My mother was a realtor, and she recommended him for all of her clients. When he died, my mother and I were heartbroken. My romantic fantasy (as a child) about the bug man marrying my mother was real, and it lived in my mind… What the reader learns from the story, without saying so directly, is that there the child has no father, and the mother is lonely and stressed. If I had come out and said that the children had no father, that the mother was lonely, etc., I believe the story would have lost its pull.
Prompt: Write a story involving a young or teenage character and their relationship with their mother. Bring a feeling of loss into the story. The loss can be subtle or enormous. Let the feeling of loss invade the story like a disease.
Optional prompt words: tuck, coffee, rust, window, fur
I can’t read this story without crying. How Paley captures these moments that are so ‘normal’ with a parent, memorable in that they will never happen again, everyday mother moments that later in life, feel priceless and haunting. I admire the way the mother dies smack in the middle of the story, but instead of ending it there, Paley haunts us with the final memory that feels as if it hangs in the air like smoke.
Prompt: Give a mother character a thing to do that they always do, such as standing in a doorway or putzing in the kitchen. Show us the mother character in this place or doing this thing. See what evolves. Optional prompt words: trash, ride, mess, promise
“Why I Love Penguins” by MFC Curry Feeley from Ghost Parachute
Write a story about a quirky and memorable mother character who defies convention. Write the story through the eyes of the child. Show us a defining moment for this character. You can take this into surreal or fantasy territory.
Be sure to highlight their oddities and show us a luminous or ‘classic’ moment in which one or more characters are the most themselves. Optional prompt words: hook, walk-in, sheer, burlap, string
My Mother’s Dress Shop by Jeff Friedman
this is interesting because the mother never actually appears in the piece…just the dress shop and what’s in it…
Optional prompt words: cutting, grade, red, chest, bang
This is How I Remember It by Betsey Kemper
Write a story about a memory a character has of their mother during a difficult or traumatic moment in life. Optional prompt words: bruise, shape, blossom, mingle
“Mother’s Mating Call” by Meg Pokrass from Atticus Review
The vulnerable mother or the unwise mother
Write a story about a character who is trying to deal with a vulnerable mother who is in a new phase of her life. Themother may be ill, or may be divorced and joining a dating site, etc. Alternatively, write a story about a mother who is experiencing an interesting “new life chapter”. Make room for humor in this story. Optional prompt words: stick-on, pencil, open, picnic
“Lemons” by Francine Witte from Emerge Lit Journal.
Write a mother story, involving a surreal “lesson” a mother tries to teach her offspring. Go crazy with metaphor here! Let this one grow out of a dreamy feeling about a mother character, and don’t plan where it will go. It may be helpful to write this one when you first wake up or when you are tired at night, when your inner critic has gone to sleep…
Optional prompt words: hiss, sign, palm, joke, flick