Memoir Prompt #121: 

Do you have a favorite restaurant or cafe? Perhaps you remember one from a vacation or road trip that stood out from all the rest. Restaurants and cafes are great places to write about because there are so many sensory details to dig into and enjoy. So today I want you to write about the last time you were at your favorite restaurant or cafe. Get ready, set your timer for at least 20 minutes and remember to bring all your senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. 

What brought you to this place? Was it a special event, a random stop along a journey to somewhere else or a planned outing to try something new? Who was with you? What were you talking about as you drove up to the place? I want you take in the place starting outside when you first drove up and exited the vehicle. What does it look like? Is it in an urban, suburban, or rural setting? What are your initial thoughts, feelings and reactions? Can you smell the food? How does the smell effect your body? As you walk in, describe the place. What do you see, hear, and smell? Does someone greet you? What do they look like? How do you feel entering the place? Are you seated right away or do you have to wait? Can you smell the food as you wait? What are you thinking about and talking about as you wait? When you are taken to your seat what do you think of the surroundings? Describe them in detail. How is the staff? Do they treat you well? Do you have long wait times before you order or waiting for you food? What do you and the person/people you’re with order? What do you talk about as you wait for your meal? Do they bring bread, chips or anything to nibble on as you wait for your food? Did you order salads or appetizers? Now your food has arrived. What does it taste like? Describe it. How do you react to the first bites? Do you savor it with your eyes rolling back in your head? Do you shovel another bite in quickly? Perhaps you spit it out because you didn’t like it. Describe each item you ordered and tasted, including anything you tasted from the plates of others. Is there conversation as the meal is eaten? Take us through the meal including paying the bill and walking out. What was the overall experience like? What did you love and what did you hate? What was special about this place? How did the experience end? Did you drive off to your final destination, head back home, or do something else? Write through to a natural ending.

As you can see restaurants and cafes are an opportunity to engage every sense in a single place. It is a great exercise if you want to practice using all of your senses. But when you really think and write about a special restaurant or cafe you may find a bigger story hidding behind a place. Try writing about other places that include food and people. What is it about that place, the food and the people that really make it stand out?  What can you learn about yourself from these writings? Are there lessons there to share?

Fiction Prompt #121: Novel Delicacy Cafe 

The sun bounced off the dark shiny wood of the table across from Jenna, as if a mirror was angled perfectly to ensure the flash would blind her, at the exact moment the door to the cafe opened and the chime tinkled to alert the staff of a new arrival. She blinked rapidly in an effort to see who walked in, but all she could make out was a shape. It was definately a man, tall, at least six foot three and broad across the shoulders, narrowing nicely at the waist, and falling down to some legs that from the shape looked solid and thick. There was no one in Buckhead built like that, and she would know since she was born in this town and had never left except for a few vacations over the course of her life. She almost rubbed her eyes, but remembered that she had put on make-up that day for the interview she had with food critic from some big national paper. Was it USA Today or Huffington Post? She couldn’t remember. She had no idea how they found out about her little cafe, Novel Delicacy, in Buckhead California or why they want to interview her. It wasn’t like Buckhead was a vacation destination. The small town offered some hunting and fishing since it was nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, but that was about it. She loved the town and the people, but even she knew there was no draw for vacationers.

She heard Carla come from the back room. “Good morning. Welcome to Novel Deli…. Oh my.” 

Memoir Prompt #120: Where Did You Grow Up?

Today I want you to think about where you grew up. It might have been a big city, a small town, or perhaps in the middle of nowhere. As we go through the process of writing I want you to think about the small details that really remind you of the place, the details that bring it to life in your mind. So set your timer for at least twenty minutes and remember to use all your senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.

Start by describing what is around you. Is it tall buildings, trees, rolling hills, open fields or houses. What do you hear and smell? What stands out to you about this landscape? How does it make you feel? Does it intrigue you, scare you, excite your or bore you? How does this landscape effect the freedom you have to explore? What warnings are you given by your parents or gaurdians? What about the landscape fascinates you and draws you in? What is your favorite thing to do? How does this activity make you feel? Are you going against the wishes of your parents or gaurdians? What about this place scares you? Are there dangers lurking that you must avoid or are perhaps unaware of or disbelieving of? Really get into the details of the place, what you see, hear, taste, smell and touch. Also think about how each detail makes you feel. Write as much as you can about this place and what it meant to you as you were growing up.

When you are finished look over what you have written. How did this place shape who you are and how you approach life? Do you see where seeds were planted to shape your habits, thoughts and behaviors? What can you learn about yourself from looking back at this place where you grew up? What can you teach others from you experiences? Can you think of specific experiences in this place that had an important I impact on your life and the way you think? Perhaps you will want to write them next.

Fiction Prompt #120: Leaving Evergreen

Shelly was finally on the road. It was the first day of her vacation and she couldn’t wait to get out of the small mountain town of Evergreen. All her life she dreamed of going to the big city, she had even been accepted to San Francisco State, but then her mother was diagnosed with cancer and she had to stay home and take of her. It was a long battle that went on for three painful years. Being stuck in Evergreen was the least of her concerns during that time. No one should ever have to watch their mother, or any loved one for that matter, deteriorate right before their eyes. When her mother died three years ago she swore she would get out of Evergreen and never return. Unfortunately, the medical bills piled up, leaving Shelly with a mountain of dept. She finally paid off the last bill three months ago and began saving for her escape. 

She felt the excitement bubbling up inside her as her 2005 Toyota Camery hugged the tight turns down the mountain and away from Evergreen. She was spending a three days in San Francisco and three days in Los Angeles, scouting out where she would start her life over. She was thinking about going to school, probably a junior college to start, when the sun burst through the window like a laser beam, hitting her directly in the eyes, blinding her just as she was coming into a hairpin turn. 

Memoir Prompt #119: The Power of Music

Music has a powerful effect on us. It has a way of touching our emotions, connecting our body to sound, and connecting us to days gone by. Today I want you to pick one of your favorite songs. Take a minute and just listen to it. Then put it on repeat and keep listening to it as you set your timer. Remember to use all your senses as you write: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.

Begin by writing the feelings the song brings up. How do those show up in your body? Do you feel it in a particular part of your body? Does it bring a warmth, tension, energy or some other feeling? When was the first time you heard this song? Where were you? Who was with you? What were you doing? What was your first impression of the song? Did you like it, hate it, or did it really do nothing for you? Why? What about this song made an impact on you? Was it the music, the lyrics, or perhaps it was the way someone described the song or the song’s meaning to you? Following your thoughts until you come to a natural end. Perhaps the first encounter of the song leads you to a later experience, the one where you finally understood the meaning of the song, or at least the meaning the song has for you. 

You may be able to do this exercise several times for the same song, bringing to light different experiences you had where it played in the background of your life. You may want to try this for several songs, even songs that bring negative feelings. What can you learn about yourself from these songs and the experiences that surround them? Is there a lesson there you can share? Is there a story that unfolds when you follow the soundtrack of your life?

Fiction Prompt #119: The Bar Band

The music danced through the air, jumping and jiving to a beat that forced my body to move, making it impossible to stand still. I tried. But within seconds of holding my body still a toe began to tap or a leg began to bounce and sometimes it was a finger that ticked off the beat. Only a dead person could stand still listening to this band. I wandered into this small off the beaten track bar because I was lost. I didn’t bother looking to see much more than the name because there were a gathering of young men about a block down that were watching me approach in a way that made me uncomfortable. I’m a fit five foot six and can run fast, but I wasn’t sure I could outrun a group of men who knew the area. I figured my best bet was to duck into this small bar and call a cab. I never expected there would be a band, a really good band too, so I never expected to stay. I figured it was safe enough inside and I could still call a cab at the end of the night. But I was wrong about that, so very wrong. 

Memoir Prompt #118: Storms

What is the worst storm you have ever encountered? Were you prepared for it or did it catch you off guard? Today I want you to write about that storm. So set your timer for 20 minutes and remember to use all of your senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.

When did you first find out about the storm? Was it in advance, as it was coming in, or after it already hit? Where were you? Who was with you? What were you thinking when you first heard about or noticed the storm? Did you discuss it with someone? If you had time what did you do to prepare for the storm, if anything? If you didn’t have time to prepare, what were you thinking as the storm came upon you? If you heard about the storm in advance did the news predict the storm accurately? Did you believe them or did you think they were just sensationalizing how big the storm would be? Write what was happening as the storm came toward you and upon you. Who was with you? Who wasn’t with you, but you were worried about? Why wasn’t this person with you and where were they? What happened as the storm reached it’s worst? Did you lose power? Did trees fall or fly? Did the river overflow sending water up to or even through your house? Write through the worst until the storm settles and passes. Take stock of your situation after the storm. What impacts did the storm have on you, those you care about and your possessions? How did you come out of the storm compared to others in your area? What did you learn about yourself, your family, and your surrounding community due to this storm?

If you have been in many storms consider writing about each one. It is amazing what we learn about ourselves, our habits and our community when we look back at such impactful events. Is there a lesson or message in there that you can share?

Fiction Prompt #118: Wind Storm

The wind whipped the trees outside Caitlyn’s house, bending them as if they were mere twigs, sending their blossoms swirling in the air like snow. She could hear the howl loud and clear over the voices coming from her television. The newscast yesterday mentioned heavy rain but never said a word about high winds. If she had known, she would have brought in trash cans and made sure everything outside was secure. Just then, the television lost signal leaving her alone with nothing but the sound of the wind as it rushed past her house. She hoped the power would stay on, she didn’t like being without electricity. The harsh weather and no power was too close to the types of scenes she saw in horror movies, the thought alone sending a shiver down her spine. Her black and white tuxedo cat, Wink, paced the room, unsettled by the building storm. She squatted down to coax Wink over when the room went black.

Memoir Prompt #117: That First Sale

Sales. I’ve found that people usually fall into two camps when it comes to selling; they either love it or they hate it. I suspect the reason we align ourselves in one camp or the other has to do with several factors including: self confidence, our parent’s influence and thoughts on sales and sales people, our first experience at selling and all the experiences that we have in relation to selling or being sold to over the course of our life. So today I want you to look back at the first time you had to sell something. It might have been to raise money for your school, or an organization you were a part of, or it could even be as part of your first job or a family business. Whatever the reason, think back to that moment when you first found out about the opportunity. Now set your timer for 20 minutes and let’s get started. Remember to use all your senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.

Where were you when you found out about the opportunity to sell? Were you alone or with other people? What were the first thoughts to enter your mind? What was happening in your body? Was your heart racing, your palms sweating, or stomach turning? What was it you were going to be selling? Why were you selling it? How long did you have to wait to begin and what was going through your mind and happening in your body as you anticipated the coming day? Did you talk to someone about the coming experience? Where did this talk take place? Who was it? What were their thoughts? Did their thoughts align or differ from your own? Take us through this discussion. How did you feel at the end of the discussion? Did your feelings and thoughts change toward the coming experience? Now take to the day of your first sale. Where were you? Who was with you? Did they help you or let you take the lead? Did they step in to assist at any time? What was going through your body and mind when you approached and started to make the first attempt at a sale? Take us through the moment. Did you make that sale? If yes, how did that feel? If no, how did that feel? In either case, did it make you try harder or did you want to give up? What action did you take and why? Was someone there encouraging you? Take us through to the end of this first experience. That may be the end of the day or the end of the event. In the end how did you do? How did you feel? What support or discouragement did you get? How did this experience impact your views on selling? 

Consider trying this for various opportunities where you had to sell something and the compare them. Do you see growth or a change in perspective? What triggered that change? Is there something in there that could help others?

Memoir Prompt #116: I Love/Hate That Song

Today I want you to think about music. We all have our favorite music, our favorite artist and even our favorite song. But I don’t want you thinking about your favorite music, song or artist. No, today I want you to think about a song outside what you normally listen to, a song that caught you by surprise in either a really good way or a really bad way. So set your timer for twenty minutes and let’s get started. Remember to use all your senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.

Where were you the first time you heard the song? What were you doing? Who was with you? What caught your attention first: the music, the lyric, the singer’s voice? Describe the song. What was your initial reaction: positive or negative? How did this reaction appear in your body? Did it provoke a physical reaction inside of you? Did it make you act out in some way? Or perhaps both? If you were around other people how did they react to the song? Was it in alignment with your reaction or in opposition? Describe your interactions with other people as this song played out. What feelings did the song bring up for you? Were those feelings attached to a specific person or event in your life? If you initially liked or disliked the song and then changed your opinion as the song progressed, what caused you to change your thoughts and feelings about it? How did that change affect your body physically and your outward movements and interactions? Write through to the end of this moment.

Consider trying this for several songs and compare them. Are there certain triggers (music, lyric or voice) in the songs that create a positive or negative reaction in you? Are these emotions tied to people or events in your life? If so, what is about the people or events that creates such a strong reaction in you? What can you see and learn about yourself from this exercise and what other stories may be hiding behind the music? As you can see, this exercise not only helps us work on incorporating sound into our writing, but it can also be a catalyst to stories we may not have remembered otherwise.