Welcome to Challenges 2021
Year 2020 has been rough, the entire world convulsed with the pandemic, climate disasters, economic meltdowns and toxic politics. As the WEP team came together to brainstorm for the directions we take in 2021, we thought our writing prompts must reflect these real world issues we are all going through. And after the runaway success of the February 2020 prompt based on Vincent van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night, it was a no-brainer to extend that to this year. So we reached into and drew from world art, at once inspirational, evocative and comforting. Each one worth a thousand words ... neat!
So here we are - another thought provoking and creative, yearlong writing blogfest from your own creative writing community. Join us for these Challenges, developed after hours of brainstorming by your WEP hosts over the past months, and amp up your writing mojo. Many of our members and long time participants end up expanding their flashes written here into a novella; some have even gone on to getting published. Who knows, yours could be the next star!
A quick recap of the house rules - we welcome any genre except erotica, max word count 1000. Present your interpretation of the prompt in flash fiction, poetry, or creative non-fiction. Remember the blurbs here are just to get your writing muscles warmed up; you can take them or leave them as you wish. Help yourself to an option here, or devise your own inspiration and blaze your own unique trail. It's totally up to you.
First, a big round of applause for Olga Godim, our inhouse badge designer par excellence, who has drawn up another set of sumptuous badges in consultation with the team for display on our sidebars. Put the annual badge on yours and let's get writing!
February - celebrate...with some sumptuous art!
What could be more appropriate for Valentine month than Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss?
This shimmery, early 20th century painting of a couple embracing in a patch of wildflowers has riveted art afficionados across the world for decades.
Gustav (1862-1918) was an Austrian painter, a prominent member of the Vienna Secessionist movement. He is well known for his murals, paintings, and other object d’art.
The Kiss is one of his later, critically acclaimed works from what is known as his ‘Golden Phase,’ characterised by the use of gold leaf and exuberant, geometric patterns. Read more about Klimt here.
Use this amazing painting to kick off a romantic love story of star crossed lovers. Or maybe a much married pair who’ve been together for years. Of unrequited or lost love. Or any love of the other gazillion types.
For unValentinish souls, remember that there are kisses other than romantic ones. The kiss of life, the kiss of death, the kiss of betrayal, the angels’ kiss in spring. The mystical thousand ways of kneeling and kissing the ground.
One golden artwork, a zillion directions to go. Pick yours and run with it. We’re cheering for you. And can't wait to see what you come up with!
Freedom Morning is a watercolour by Claude Clark, the African American artist and art educator, painted in 1941.
“As a child in the churches, the schools and the community, I dreamed of a destiny. My search became a single purpose for the dignity of Black Americans.”
Claude Clark was born in Georgia in 1915. His art characterises the African American diaspora experience. He faced prejudice, poverty and racism but did not allow these to deter him. He mixed his own paints from the trashed tubes in art schools. When he could not afford the expensive brushes and cleaning agents, he developed his unique technique with the palette knife. Read more about his remarkable life here.
The interpretation of art (and prompts!) is in the eye of the beholder and this artwork is rich with possibilities.
Will you let Freedom Morning spark a flash of hope for a systematically suppressed character?
Will someone break free - of chains, of the past, of a closed mindset - after years of living with them?
Or maybe someone will watch a brand new sunrise and come to a decision to start life afresh? Rise to a challenge? :) Overcome a hardship?
Take the artwork as a whole or in part and seed that into imagination. Your canvas is unlimited.
The Great Wave is an iconic work created in the 1820’s by Hokusai. Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) was a Japanese artist from the Edo period. He was a master of Ukiyo-e, a genre of woodblock prints and paintings very popular at the time in his country. Ukiyo-e translates loosely as ‘images of the floating world.’ The Great Wave of Kanagawa, also condensed to The Great Wave, is part of a series called Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji, is Hokusai’s most well-known work. Have a peek at the series here. And read more about Hokusai here.
The immediate response to this prompt could be to relate it to the tsunami of 2004 or the Japanese nuclear disaster. And it is a small step from there to jump to the climate issues we are facing round the world, the unprecedented weather patterns and natural disasters small and large.
But a great wave need not be always of water – it can be a great wave of refugees. And of soldiers. Or protesters and last but not the least, voters.
Equally a great wave of an emotion – pain, love, bitterness, rage, nausea, which one will your characters feel?
It could even be a small wave, we'll leave the size up to you – the wave of a hand, the flutter of a flag. Or cravat/tie.
So many places to float away to, which one will you choose with this prompt?
Norman Rockwell was an American artist and illustrator, widely known for his illustrations for the Saturday Evening Post. This particular artwork – The Freedom of Speech, was created as a part of a series called The Four Freedoms based on a wartime speech given by FDR. The painting depicts a young, working class man standing up and expounding his ideas to a group of older, white-collar men. It was inspired by Rockwell’s visit to a town meeting where a man rose to voice an unpopular view. Read more about the Four Freedoms and explore Norman’s other works here.
This prompt has rich possibilities. Particularly topical as authorities have veered towards authoritarianism and people across the world have exploded in unrest.
Books have been banned and burnt, film shows have been mobbed by fundamentalists, newspapers/editors have been gagged, cartoonists have been shot dead, journalists and activists jailed or killed for trying to voice ideas, question authority and inform the public. Controversies on the role of social media and internet have further muddied the waters.
On the other hand, there have been fearless voices rising and speaking out. From celebrities like Meryl Streep and Greta Thunberg to lesser known but equally important local citizens and activists.
But, just as the young man in Norman’s immortal work, your interpretation need not have the huge sweep or weight of world affairs.
It can equally be a small town teenager speaking up against a bully, a young woman rising to defend a project idea to her employer, a marginalised community representative finding a spot on the local radio station.
Even a writer fighting a proposed cut by their editors - yes, you can go meta! ‘A million ways to be, you know that there are!’ :)
The Scream by Edvard Munch was a shoo-in for October - this challenge is devoted to the horror genre in honour of the Halloween/Samhain/observances of the other world spirits. Go as creepy as you like. But other genres are welcome too, there’s no genre police here, except that non-negotiable no to erotica.
This is a world renowned artwork symbolising the horror and angst of the human condition. It has since its creation in 1893, become an iconic representation of modern life. Read about The Scream here.
Edvard Munch was a Norwegian born artist who split much of his working life between Berlin and Paris. Mental health issues ran in the family, so Munch had occasion so observe its effects from close proximity. He was much influenced by Impressionists and post-Impressionists such as van Gogh.
The prompt is wide open to interpretations - who will it be that screams? And why – in pain, terror or exultation?
Will it be a human scream that rends the air? Or an animal one? Or a scream from another world altogether? Or will it be a cosmic scream of the planet?
A silent scream in colours, like the one Munch felt in a sunset sky above a fjord? Or an articulated one in sound and words? Just a gasp or piercingly loud? That’s up to you, we’ve got our ears cocked and ready listening for it.
This one depicts a classic subject by an Italian Master and needs no introduction. Narcissus is a well known character from Greek mythology – his story has been repurposed and retold all through the ages. Caravaggio was one of the prime movers of Italian art scene of the 16th/17th century and a good few of his artworks are based on the classics. He was a controversial figure in his lifetime, but has come to be recognised as an artist with far reaching influence on modern painting. He was a master of chiaroscuro and developed the use of shadows in art.
This particular painting can be interpreted many ways – will you update Narcissus’ story to fit a modern timeline?
Or retell it from a different angle/POV, perhaps a Narcissa instead?
Explore the mental disorder that is known after Narcissus and its impact on caregivers/physicians/family?
Or perhaps go in a different direction entirely - make Narcissus quite incidental to the story – maybe the painting is only a prop in the setting?
Remember there is no right or wrong interpretation, you can make the prompt front and centre of your entry. Or not. Totally your call. Think out of the box, or rather, frame – and delight us with yours.
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