Writing Prompt #4: Book you are reading paired with random text

Today’s writing prompt comes from your own reading, because what you read can fuel your own writing, either deep within the opaque corners of one’s mind and-or self-consciously, welling up to the surface of things.

First, consider the cover of whatever book you are currently reading as general inspiration. See where the artwork takes you in the quest to create something new. You can also work in the text too if that proves useful.

I’m currently reading Under Twin Suns, an anthology inspired by Robert W. Chambers work, edited by James Chambers and published by Hippocampus Press. Pretty nice cover!

Second, pick a book of any sort, go to a random page and pick one sentence, again at random. Work that sentence as an ingredient into the soup that is your new creation.

I picked a random book from my collection, closed my eyes, opened the volume and plunked my finger down on the page. I opened my eyes and read, “Behind these apocryphal tales is the visionary technique of rising in the Planes.”

You can simply work the sentence into your work in progress—with proper attribution of course—or unlike Mr. Nero the Cat, you can try and think out of the box.

Some ideas that quickly come to mind as I type this are:

  • Sprinkle all of the words in your sentence throughout your text. This is what I did for a bit of microfiction I wrote back in 2019 called “I Want My Blanket,” that appeared in Sloth, published by the good folks at Black Hare Press.
  • Write down each word on a separate scrap of paper. You can then manipulate the words in various ways for your project. For example, you can pick one piece at random, use the word in your project, pick another word, and so on. Another possibility is to allow the scraps to fall and only use the ones that are face up or are face down, etc. William S. Burroughs liked to perform various manipulations with words using methods like these as well as many others.
  • Instead of using the words from the sentence you picked, try and find synonyms, antonyms, or (if possible) homonyms for some of the words.

If you came up with something using prompt, please let me know in the comments. I’d like to read your masterpiece!

6 thoughts on “Writing Prompt #4: Book you are reading paired with random text

    • Thanks, John. Mr. Nero sure liked thinking inside the box. 🙂 “The Road to Armageddon” about the Paraguayan War seems like it could take you to some dark country indeed. I wonder how it would be to pick one’s random quote by, say, going to the library and picking out a random book from the romance section or the science section and getting a book on quantum physics?

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      • Good thinking about picking a book of a library shelf! 🙂 The Road To Armageddon is probably THE reference book in English to read about the Paraguayan War. I’ve found it so well written that it almost reads like a novel and holds your interest well (it has to – 460-odd pages plus another 150 if you want to read the notes)! And it’s the second book of a two part history (I’ve read them both and this is the second time round for part two)! It really was a terrible war!

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        • That is quite a recommendation. I do enjoy history books that read like novels. Reminds me of a community college history teacher I had for two semesters of U.S. History where he lectured like he was telling a story and even managed to leave off on a cliffhanger each time. Pretty good stuff and even the people, who were in the class just because they had to be, were on the edges of their seats.

          I don’t know anything about the Paraguayan War, or even that there was a war, until I started reading your posts and seeing the miniatures you were creating for the period. You’ve got me interested in the books now. I have no idea when I’d get a chance to read them–so much of my reading now since I started this press is taken up with stuff I “need” to read; feels like being in college again in a way–but I think I am going to check intra-library loan (the Santa Cruz library system is pretty good) and see if they have them.

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          • I thought you’d be kept busy with the press, but I can imagine you’re enjoying it! 🙂
            The author of the Paraguayan War books is Thomas L. Whigham! The first book covers from about 1800 to 1865, so the first year of the war and everything that led up to it, but I still found that interesting enough. Both books tend to cover more about the personalities involved and different aspects of the war. If you want a quick read, the Osprey Campaign series book on the Paraguayan War is worth a read!

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            • Hi John. Yes, the press is taking up most of my time these days, though we’re on schedule thus far. We have all of the stories we need now for TLLG and July and some of August will be taken up with editing. Also plan on tweaking the cover a little too.

              Sounds like Whigham’s book, as you say, is the definitive read on the subject. I do like those Osprey books. I used to own a few of them, but I gave them away some years ago during a decluttering downsize back when I realized that I wasn’t going to paint a Bolt Action army because there wasn’t enough interest in my area.

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