Writing Prompt: By the Time You Read This

Goal: To focus on the small things that can happen, plot-wise, and to open up your mind to possibilities.

What to do:

Set your timer for 10 minutes (this is to avoid overthinking it).

  1. Fix your mind on your main character (or one of your main characters) in a story you are writing.
  2. Have the character sit down to write a letter to someone he/she is intimate with, who happens to be not close by at the moment. (It can be an email, if that helps you work, but make it be an email that won’t be read for at least twenty-four hours, as an immediate reading of the email would destroy the point of the exercise).
  3. Begin the letter, “By the time you read this” and make a detailed list of all the things that will have happened by the time the intended recipient of the letter actually reads it.

For example:

By the time you read this:

  • The chicken will be roasted, the garlic and rosemary scent spread throughout the house, the new potatoes baked until their skins are crisp.
  • The baby will have bathed, and smell sourly of her grandfather’s Old Spice shaving cologne that she insists must be rubbed on her back before she allows herself to be dress.
  • The cat will have insisted on having her belly scratched, and will have shown her appreciation by gently biting the hand that strokes her.

Source: “The Making of a Story” by Alice LaPlante