I’m a great believer in forced limitations—stories/modes of composition that have some pre-enforced limitation that requires us to find creative and unique ways out of a bind (as writing is, among other things, a form of creative problem-solving). Lipograms, formal poetry, all these things tend to spur creativity. So, with that in mind, a writing prompt:
Do a three to five page story (it can be longer, but if you’re stuck and looking to get un-stuck, sometimes shorter is better) in which, in the last paragraph, a character ends up alone in a motel room. A few rules:
• Make it a MOTEL, not hotel, room. They are different and the potential for unease, squalor, and the gravity of loneliness is greater in a motel.
• The character who ends up alone in your last paragraph MAY be your main character, but it doesn’t have to be the main character.
• Do not, no matter how great your misguided intention, have the character(s) alone throughout the story. Remember Flaubert’s great observation from his notebooks that things exist in fiction when they are worked upon by other things…that the sunlight doesn’t exist for the reader until they see it coming through a window with dust specs floating in it…that the wheels of the cart don’t exist until you hear them rolling over cobblestones. The same is true of people—they exist much more vibrantly in fiction when they are worked upon by other things and other people. Have your characters interact. Give your main character a desire and have him or her act on that desire with others.
• The story need not limit itself to the motel as a setting. It only needs to end with the character alone in the motel—anything else is up to you.
Biography of Rob Roberge: Rob Roberge is the author of the upcoming book of stories, Working Backwards from the Worst Moment of My Life (Red Hen, Fall, 2110), and the novels, More Than They Could Chew (Perennial, Dark Alley/Harper Collins, February 2005), and Drive (Hollyridge Press, 2006). He teaches writing in the MFA program in Creative Writing at Antioch University Los Angeles, in the MFA program in Creative Writing at UC-Riverside’s Palm Desert, and in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, where he received the Outstanding Instructor Award in Creative Writing in 2003. His stories have been featured in ZYZZYVA, Chelsea, Other Voices, Alaska Quarterly Review, and the “Ten Writers Worth Knowing Issue” of The Literary Review. His work has also been anthologized in Another City (City Lights, 2001), It’s All Good (Manic D Press, 2004) and SANTI: Lives of the Modern Saints (Black Arrow Press, 2007). Newer work is scheduled to appear, or has appeared, in Penthouse, Black Clock, and OC Noir, part of the series that includes San Francisco Noir, LA Noir and Las Vegas Noir. He plays guitar and sings with several LA bands, including, among others, the punk pioneers, The Urinals. In his spare time, he restores and rebuilds vintage amplifiers and quack medical devices. For news and more info, visit & or email at www.robroberge.com or on Facebook.