Last May I came up with an idea for a short writing prompt called an “elbow.” You can read my introductory post about it here. Since then, I’ve posted only three, which appear on that same page, but I want to get back to that approach to writing prompts.
I don’t intend Elbows to necessarily make sense. The idea is to plunge in and start getting the words down while staying open to where the writing takes you. For instance, for the Elbow “chicken lips and skinny-dipping,” a writer might start out something like this:
What the hell does that mean? “Chicken lips and skinny dipping” makes me think of a rubber chicken wearing a bikini, although then it wouldn’t be nude. And it still doesn’t have lips. I think it was Aunt Barb who used to say something was “as rare as chicken lips.” I remember her saying it once about intelligent men, probably Uncle Marcus in particular. I don’t know if intelligent men are all THAT rare, but I do know I wouldn’t have wanted to see Aunt Barb in a bikini. She was a heavyset woman with rolls of flab around her upper arms and thighs—how do I know that? I guess one time she wore a sleeveless top and shorts to some barbecue. That must have been the day we were celebrating Jonesy’s graduation from mechanics school…
And the writer is off and running (although even that much length isn’t really necessary). Could be a portrait of Aunt Barb, a memory piece about that barbecue, or maybe something happened at the barbecue that leads in still another direction. As I said in my introductory post about Elbows, the idea is to get a flash of inspiration by getting the words going without too much forethought.
There used to be a game at some of my childhood festivals where you paid a quarter to sift through a big box of sand. Whatever money you unearthed with three scoops of poured sand was yours to keep. That’s kind of what I hope Elbows will do: give you a big box of sand with little treasures you can sift out later and use. Why not give it a try?
ELBOW: pumpernickel with stale crust