Quills and Thrills: Writing Prompt Week One

Good afternoon, Thrillers!

Welcome to Quills and Thrills: Creative Writing for the Google Generation! Not sure what Quills and Thrills is?  Find out here!

Figurative Language Throw Down Challenge

Prime your mind for creative thinking every week with the Figurative Language Throw Down Challenge! Check out the rules for the weekly challenge before playing.

Thanks to @SSMindSchool for this week’s challenge!

Five Minute Burn

Your first writing prompt will require pre-writing using a nifty method I like to call a “five-minute burn.” Here’s how it works: I’ll set a timer for five minutes. As soon as I say go, you will start writing without stopping until the five minutes are up. If you run out of things to write about, simply write “IDK IDK IDK” over and over again until something comes to you. The trick is to keep your pencil moving. Don’t worry about erasing errors or scratching out mistakes. Just ignore them and KEEP WRITING!


Ready for your prompt? Here it is: How would you define writing and why is it important to you?

If you’re following along at home, use the video below to keep track of your time.

Time is up! How did you do? Take a moment to reread your burn. If you come across a phrase or word that you really like, underline it.

Now, we’re going to revise our burn to be a publishable piece of writing. Here’s your new prompt: Use imagery and figurative language to define the importance of writing in your life.

Before you start revising your burn, check out two tricks of the writing trade below to help you jazz up your writing a bit.

Trick #1: Imagery

Authors use imagery to paint a picture in the minds of their readers using only words. Imagery always plays on one of the five senses: taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound. Check out the video below for examples of imagery appealing to each of the five senses:

John Steinbeck was an imagery pro, painting beautiful images in his novella, The Pearl. Can you find sentences appealing to each of the five senses in the passage from The Pearl below?

From chapter one of The Pearl by John Steinbeck
From chapter one of The Pearl by John Steinbeck

Trick #2: Figurative Language

Often, authors will strengthen their imagery by using figurative language. Figurative language is any statement that makes a comparison between two unlike things. The most common types of figurative language are:

  • Metaphor – a comparison of two unlike things without using the words like or as.
  • Simile – a comparison of two unlike things using the words like or as
  • Personification – giving an inanimate object human characteristics (so the comparison is of an inanimate object to a person)
  • Hyperbole – a comparison of two unlike things resulting in extreme exaggeration

Check out the video below for some fun examples of figurative language

Other types of figurative language are listed below:

  • Overstatement – Exaggerated language
  • Oxymoron – A figure of speech that combines two apparently contradictory elements, sometimes resulting in a humorous image or statement: tight slacks, jumbo shrimp, deafening silence, and baggy tights are just a few examples.
  • Symbolism – A person, place, thing, event, or pattern in a literary work that designates itself and at the same time figuratively represents or “stands for” something else. Often the thing or idea represented is more abstract, general, non- or superrational than the symbol, which is more concrete and particular.
  • Allusion – a reference to a literary or historical event, person, or place. For example, in Jane Smiley’s novel, 1,000 Acres, the father figure is Larry who attempts to divide his land among three daughters a la Shakespeare’s King Lear. Someone who has a great burden may refer to it as an albatross – an allusion to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” wherin the narrator is punished for his crime against nature by having to wear a heavy albatross (sea-bird) around his neck until he repents.
  • Allegory – a prose or poetic narrative in which the characters, behavior, and even the setting demonstrates multiple levels of meaning and significance. Often allegory is a universal symbol or personified abstraction such as Death portrayed as a black-cloaked “grim reaper” with a scythe and hourglass. From the Old Testament we get the allegory of the “Prodigal Son,” which has come to represent anyone who leaves family and friends for an extended time and then returns to the fold.
  • Conceit – A comparison of two unlikely things that is drawn out within a piece of literature, in particular an extended metaphor within a poem. Conceits might be the idea of tracing a love affair as a flower growing, budding, coming to fruition, and dying, for example. Hair might be spun gold; teeth like stars or pearls, etc.
  • Litote – A figure of speech that emphasizes its subject by conscious understatement. For example, the understated “not bad” as a comment about something especially well done. George Orwell wrote, “Last week I saw a woman flayed and you would hardly believe how much it altered her person for the worse.”
  • Metonymy – A figure of speech in which an attribute or commonly associated feature is used to name or designate something as in “The White House announced today…” A famous metonymy is “The pen is mightier than the sword.” In this sentence the pen stands for publishing (and we can extend that to all media) and the sword for the military.
  • Chiasmus – A figure of speech by which the order of the terms in the first of two parallel clauses is reversed in the second. This may involve a repetition of the same words: “Pleasure’s a sin, and sometimes sin’s a pleasure” – Byron.
  • Paradox – A statement that seems contradictory but may actually be true. A popular paradox from the 1960s was when war protesters would “fight for peace.”
  • Synecdoche – When a part is used to signify a whole, as in “All hands on deck!” and “The rustler bragged he’d absconded with five hundred head of longhorns.” Hands stand for the whole of the sailors, and the rustler obviously took more than just the heads and the horns of the animals he was stealing. William Shakespeare penned a famous synecdoche in Mark Anthony’s speech to the citizens in Julius Caesar, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears.” Frank Sinatra’s famous song, “I left my heart in San Francisco” is another example of synecdoche. In fact, song lyrics are filled with this particular literary device.
  • Apostrophe – An address or invocation to something that is inanimate, such as an angry lover who might scream at the ocean in his or her despair. Many are familiar with the title line of a famous Christmas carol, which exemplifies apostrophe: “O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie…” The poem, “To a Skylark” by Percy B. Shelly is a good example of apostrophe: “Hail to thee, blithe spirit!” He addresses the skylark. Shelly does the same in “Ode to the West Wind,” when he opens with O wild West Wind, though breath of Autumn’s being…”
  • Juxtaposition –  The location of one thing as being adjacent or juxtaposed with another. This placing of two items side by side creates a certain effect, reveals an attitude or accomplishes some purpose of the writer.

Which types of figurative language are evident in the excerpt from John Steinbeck’s novella The Pearl below?

From chapter three of The Pearl by John Steinbeck
From chapter three of The Pearl by John Steinbeck

Revision Time

Now that you’re well-versed in the concepts of imagery and figurative language, it’s time to revise your five-minute burn to reflect what you’ve learned! Your new writing prompt is below:

Use imagery and figurative language to define the importance of writing in your life.

You may decide to write a poem, a piece of prose, a screenplay, or you may even create a video representing what writing means to you. After all, your definition of writing doesn’t have to align with Google’s definition of writing.


That’s All, Folks!

Check out my response to this writing prompt: My Soul in the Mirror.

Also, if you publish your own response to this prompt somewhere on the interwebs, please share it with me by linking to it in the comments below! Just make sure to check out the Ten Commandments of Digital Citizenship before creating your own blog or YouTube channel. Safety comes first!

Check out the writing prompt for week two for more Quills and Thrills fun.

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