We deal with emotions every day, why not use them as a writing prompt? At this time of year, there is one emotion in particular that is fairly common. Some kind of combination of excitement and anxiety, I’m not sure what it would be called.
This emotion comes to some by the first day of school. For others, it comes as buck fever. There are other methods of experiencing this emotion, I am sure, but the two I mentioned are strongly related to this season.
Not everyone is familiar with this malady. It occurs when a hunter has a buck in range. The symptoms may include shaking, hyperventilating, inability to think, intensified or selective hearing, and a strong dose of adrenaline. Buck fever may allow a hunter to take a better shot, or the opposite. The intensity of the excitement and anxiety, however, is always quite memorable.
With the increased awareness of certain senses, the experience has a unique perspective. The weather has little to no significance, nor do spectators. The window of the scene is very limited and quite detailed at the same time.
First Day of School
I have to believe that most everyone remembers the feeling of the first day of school. Interestingly enough, the specific day and the details tend to blend together or be less important. However, the feeling is still very familiar.
You’ve prepared thoroughly for the day, and probably arrive early. With a tingly feeling in your stomach you press on, eyes, ears, and mind wide open, trying to soak in every detail. The effort of perfection is exhausting, but the excitement carries you through the entire day. Once that day is over, everything is suddenly less shiny than the perspective before.
While anxiety doesn’t quite describe the emotion expressed in these scenarios, it is present in both. Everyone responds and reacts to anxiety differently as well as many other emotions. This pesky emotion can be healthy and unhealthy depending on the level as well as the emotions that accompany it. Almost any emotion can be bundled up with anxiety.
The prompt is this: to write a scene through the perspective of a character that is dealing with anxiety packaged along with other emotions for the situation. You may choose to write about a first day of school, first day of work, an intense adventure, the climax of a story or battle. The accompanying emotions may be anything from excitement to adrenaline, or anger to hope.
This prompt will help in a number of ways, including developing the character. Everyone responds to emotions differently, and it says a lot about the character. I actually have a story in progress based on this concept. But as you write through the perspective of an individual and use the emotions, you are able to tell the story as well as tell more about the character than you ever could otherwise.
Rather than stating that a character is superstitious or skittish, you can express that through their perspective. The bad luck omens or the creaks in the stairs will blare out at the reader like a foghorn and not only express the characteristics, but also pull the reader into the emotions of the character.
Another important skill that this prompt will help with is being able to just write the next scene. I can’t tell you how often I find myself in the middle of writing a story and I know exactly what happens next, but I still struggle to write it. This strange feeling is only understandable if you’ve felt it. Some may refer to it as writer’s block, but I feel like it is almost just like buck fever.
With the excitement of having a story developed and coming together, there are moments of being almost paralyzed. Wanting so badly to have the story written that you don’t feel like you can write. The solution is to block out the very next step. Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird suggests looking through a 1 inch window and writing what you see. What I do is ask myself “what needs to happen next?” then forcing myself to write it.
This prompt will help you in focusing in on that next detail and completing that one scene. But in doing this, you are able to better understand yourself and how you deal with this kind of emotion of anxiety bundled with who knows what. Good luck on your anxiety prompt and always feel free to share!