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Writing Prompt: Create a Story About a Famous Author

27 Mar

A great story has well developed characters; even a hero has flaws and even the worst bad guy has sympathetic qualities. Many authors write about historic characters and must extrapolate from details about how that person lived their life and documents like letters that they left behind, what their motivations and beliefs were. Some of my favorite characters out there are based on authors.   Joyce Carole Oates has a whole short story collection, Wild Nights!, featuring stories about significant moments in the lives of Poe, Dickinson, Twain, James, and Hemingway.

For today’s exercise think about an author and positive and negatives qualities they would have. Think what types of language they would use when speaking to others and how they would interact with the world around them. What would they choose to eat, what music would you have them listen to, how would they dress in private and public?

You can do some research online. For New Jersey residents, I recommend checking out The Literary Reference Center, which you can access with your Hoboken or other New Jersey Library Card thanks to the New Jersey State Library and the Institute for Museum and Library Services. I did some research on Poe and learned from the Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, that “Poe’s literary executor, R. W. Griswold, overemphasized Poe’s personal faults and distorted his letters. Poe was a complex person, tormented and alcoholic yet also considerate and humorous, a good friend, and an affectionate husband” (p1-2). That’s given me an idea for a darkly funny short story featuring him.  I’m not the only one that thinks Poe is great inspiration; you can check out The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard and The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl to see how authors have incorporated him into their fiction.

Once you have spent some time creating your character portrait, you may already have some story ideas, but if not think of what situations you could put your historic author in that would highlight some of the traits and behaviors you have learned about. Your story could involve them being a writer or instead focus on something completely outside their writing life.

What author would you chose to write about? Share them in our comments. Also let us know if you would be interested in connecting with other writers in an online writing group. You can also reach me at

This is the second in our new blog post series of writing prompts. We will continue to share our favorite books and media with you earlier in the week, but now each Friday we are sharing writing prompts to get you creating your own great work! The stay at home order that is in effect for NJ (and similarly in many other states and countries) is the perfect time to start working on that novel or other piece of writing you usually do not have time for.

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Reference

Friday Writing Prompt: My Most Memorable Trip

20 Mar

We realize that a lot of our readers may be looking for things to fill their days right now.  We love sharing our favorite books and media with you and will continue to do so, but now we are starting a new feature on Fridays, Writing Prompts to get you creating your own great work!

March 20, 2020 Writing Prompt: Favorite or Most Memorable Trip
Right now a lot of us are working or schooling from home and some of you may be under quarantine, but lets instead focus on the best (or most memorable) trip you ever had.  It could have been a fun camping trip as a teen or it could have been your first time traveling overseas to Paris on your honeymoon.  Think about what made the trip specifically memorable.

Think what you experienced with all of your senses.  What were the unique sights and sounds?  Did you taste anything especially good, you tried for the first time, or something so awful you’d never eat it again?  What did it feel like being there; what was the weather like?  Smell is one of the most evocative senses so if you remember the scent of pine, fresh baking bread, or the ocean waves include it in the piece.

You can also talk about the people you interreacted with.  Did you meet someone new; are you still in touch with them?  If you went on the trip with a friend or family member, how did the trip change your relationship?

You might want to see if you have any pictures from your trip and reach out to talk to others who might have been on the trip with you for their impressions.

Prefer fiction, do some research on a travel destination of your dreams to use as a setting. Did you know eBCCLS has some always available travel guides; check them out now for some ideas.

For speculative fiction fans create a new world or land that exists in your imagination.

For you poets out there this topic would make a terrific poem!

You can share in the comments what destination you are planning to write about!  Also let us know if you would be interested in connecting with other writer’s in an online writing group.  You can also reach me at

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Reference

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