This Week, Write About Someone You Have Lost

Everyone has lost someone.

Everyone has lost someone at some point, in some way. Loved ones pass away. Friends fade. Romances cease to exist.

This makes loss one of the most relatable subjects in storytelling.

It’s not fun to think about, it’s usually not funny. But not all relatable things are.

What makes loss such a powerful starting point for a story? For one thing, everyone deals with their grief differently. No two characters have the same reactions, the same coping mechanisms. You could write a dozen stories about grief and not produce two that are remotely similar.

For another, if I were to suggest to you, “Write about a person you’ve lost,” you can’t come back with the “I don’t have anything to write about” excuse so many aspiring writers use.

Everyone has something to write about here. It doesn’t have to be about death. It doesn’t even have to be about a person. One time I found a worm in our garden, and that worm was my best friend for about five minutes, but I dropped him on the ground accidentally and never found him again. A major childhood tragedy, let me tell you.

See? I could write an entire story about that stupid worm (RIP). You have a lot of weird and random memories up there in your brain. You also have very strong and not quite so laughable ones, that’s true. My last year of college, I lost two very significant people in my life, six months apart.

Recalling your own grief, and writing about it — you’re not faking emotion there. It’s the perfect way to practice writing a story about or from the perspective of a character who is grieving. When you do things like that, you have to draw from your own real-world feelings. That is how you convey the kind of emotion in a story necessary for readers to draw connections between a fictional person and their real lives.

Those are the kinds of stories people love. Stories they can read that make them think of themselves. It’s not selfish. It’s human nature. “You” is a known tool for writing an effective title or headline. People love to know that something someone else is writing relates back to them somehow.

So that’s what I encourage you to do this week: write about someone you’ve lost. I’ll do it, too. It can be funny; it can be serious. You can show it to someone or post it on your own blog or website, or you can keep it to yourself, if it’s private. My hope is that it inspires you to continue writing about yourself as a means of getting into the right mindset to tell stories about fictional people … for real people to read.

Try it out. See what happens. Maybe you’ll get a new idea for a story. (Sorry in advance…)


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

How to Use Facebook as a Useful Writing Prompt

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Every once in awhile, there are days we need a little extra help.

As we’ve pointed out more than a few times here, writing isn’t as much of a solo activity as you might think. When you get stuck, and need something to get you started up again, it’s honestly not very likely you’re going to be able to do it on your own. You’re going to need someone else to push you.

Someone else, or an entire social network. Facebook, to be exact.

Here’s how to use FB to jumpstart your writing when your progress has come to a halt.

Don’t just follow news sites; explore the comments (carefully)

We say carefully because, well, comments sections can turn into deep, dark black holes if you don’t proceed with caution. Sometimes it’s not even the news stories themselves, but every Facebook commenter’s unsolicited opinions about them, that can generate a string of fresh ideas in the back of your mind.

See what’s out there. What are people’s biggest hangups about everyday life? How to people respond to this or that stereotypical person being talked about in the media or on a user-generated content site? Comments sections, especially on Facebook, are an excellent way to gain a better understanding of how people behave, and if nothing else, you might get another quirky character sketch out of it for later use.

Just don’t go overboard. When you feel yourself getting sucked in, run away. Fast.

Join a writing group or follow pages like this one

Especially during WriMos, writing groups and writing-related pages on Facebook are filled with questions, observations and even writing prompts themselves. Not only can you find potential writing “partners” to word war or sprint with, but also, when you’re running low on ideas and need something to get you going, it’s hard not to find a post that will give you exactly what you need when you need it.

You can even reach out to these communities and say, “Hey, I’m feeling a little blocked right now. Anyone have a random prompt that can at least get me going?” You might be surprised at how many fellow writers are willing to jump in to help someone in creative need. Sometimes just a few hundred words of bouncing off of a stranger’s prompt can motivate you to go right back to your current project and start working on it again.

Start your own Facebook RP

Roleplay writing communities are everywhere on the Internet, and they’re great for writing practice and meeting fellow writers. You don’t have to make a commitment to one of these communities to practice in a similar style, however. If you’re running low on ideas, a simple Facebook status might, or might not, be able to spark a few new ones.

Post a status along the lines of, “Can you continue this story?” followed by a paragraph of fiction. Many of your FB friends will probably scroll right past it, but some of them might actually join in and write a paragraph in succession to yours. You can either wait and see if anyone else adds onto theirs or “answer” back. It’s fun, it’s informal and you might even make someone else’s day a little better in the process, too.

As long as you don’t spend too much time on it, Facebook can be a worthwhile place to find the inspiration that’s gone missing. Even if you don’t log on very often, give it a try. If it doesn’t work for you, at least you’ll be able to take a short break from writing in the process. But it’s worth a shot.

Think social media is too much of a writing distraction for you? Check out this post to weigh the pros and cons of writing and SM.

Image courtesy of eweek.com.