Tag Archives: Writing Prompts

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 hplwriters@gmail.com.

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

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