It seems to me that your request for suggestions as to how we write outside the box could use a little meat on the bones, so I will give examples from my entries. Then I’ll apply that to the homework. I hope this helps folks, but I don’t want to make this a “read Steve’s writing” thread hijack, so I hope other folks will follow suit with their examples—I would LOVE to see concrete examples of how others do it. There is, of course a LITTLE out of the box and then there’s WAY out of the box. Some of my examples will be one and some the other.
For those who might actually want to read some of these, I am giving the links. For those don’t have the interest, I’ll give little parenthetical descriptions.
Here are a few things that I do:
1. Does the topic remind me of any events in my life or the lives of friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers, etc., that I could fictionalize (sometimes significantly)? The Milkman's Blizzard
(Hot and Cold entry—father and son build an igloo in the backyard and then a fire in the igloo to roast hot dogs (this entry was disqualified because I messed up on word count)); Of Birdhouses and Daughters
(In & Out—a family’s reactions to birds going in and out of a bird house, including the fact that a wren killed a bunch of chickadee nestlings to take over the birdhouse); Eternal Spring Hopes
(Spring entry—as Spring arrives, a mother reminisces about the Spring her son was introduced to alcohol and drugs by older children, but trusts God for the son's restoration).
2. Is there some aspect of craft that I want to practice? If so, how do I do it with this week’s topic? The Black Book
(Black entry—I wanted to work on atmosphere. (Jan had qualms about this one)); The Difference
(South America entry—I wanted to work on a dialogue-driven piece. (This entry was marred by several missing words early on and because the original version was about 3 times the word limit and lost a lot in editing—but it still shows dialogue.)); Alone in the Woods on Christmas Day: A Prose Poem
(Christmas Day entry—I wanted to learn how to write a prose poem).
3. Is there a way to substitute just one element of an otherwise “first list” idea and come up with something unique? So, this is an alternative to throwing that list away. I Hate Christmas Cards
(Christmas cards entry—first list idea: cards received by businesses=>a man who hates these cards receives one ... but it's from God); The Devil's Dance
(Australia entry—first list idea (after googling): Australian places; bush bards=> Bush bard tells a tall tale about the Devil claiming he owned Australia … until God sent him a singing telegram); The Way it Was
(England entry—first list idea: famous English people=> C.S. Lewis=> Lewis died the same day as President Kennedy => what if Walter Cronkite had reported on that); Once Upon a Time in a Litter Box
(India entry—first list idea: famous Indian people=>what if you could bring a bunch of them together at the same time? => “You are Cordially Invited to a Gathering of Fictional and Legendary Characters from the Stories Of and About India.”); The Descendants
(USA entry—first list idea: America’s godly heritage=>how much we’ve lost=>comparing the past and present=> Puritan, John Winthrop in a time machine); Homework
(The Kingdom of God entry— first list idea: parables of the Kingdom=>what if Jesus gave the disciples a homework assignment of writing parables?); Sentient Terrestrial Parental Coping Mechanisms
(Adolescence/Teen Years entry—first list idea: each generation always thinks its kids are the worst ever=>who could evaluate this claim?=>an alien (as in ET) evaluates this claim for his Master’s thesis); Tricks of the Trade
(Asia entry—first list idea (after googling): bonsai trees=>a demon is assigned to study bonsai techniques for insights into how to stunt the growth of Christians).
So now the homework:
The command to “Fire!” (a gun)
The Great Chicago Fire
1. I have a relative whose car caught fire INSIDE the tunnel under Baltimore’s Inner Harbor—what a mess that caused!
2. Before I was a lawyer, I was a forester (really). Once I was doing a prescribed burn that got away from me, and the fire nearly burned a man’s barn down.
(Either of these could be straight stories or incorporate spiritual lessons.)
1. Showing, not telling—lots of possibilities here (heat, light, warmth, safety, comfort, fear, pain—but might still need an additional idea to get OOTB. (Straight or spiritual lesson.)
2. Second person POV—MC is trapped inside a burning building; use second person POV to create heightened sense of fear.
1. Story about the Great Chicago fire from the POV of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow.
2. Story about the Great Chicago fire from the POV of Horatio Spafford, the author of the words to “It is Well with my Soul,” looking back in time. (In a series of tragedies Spafford’s only son died; Spafford was financially ruined by property losses in the Great Chicago fire, all four of his daughters died when their ship sank in a transatlantic crossing, after starting their family over the Spaffords lost another son.)
3. A tense, scary story of someone (an old lady?) being held at gun point by the MC who is being egged on by an accomplice to “Fire!” The last sentence reveals that it is a five-year-old with a water pistol.