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Writing Prompt 10: Are we there yet?

11 March, 2008

The topic set for this year’s Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize was the phrase, ‘Are we there yet?’

This prompt appealed to me as soon as I read it because it is so rich with possibilities. You may immediately think of a whingy child in the backseat during a long car trip. But what else comes up when you play with the words ‘we’, ‘there’ and ‘yet’?

Let the question lead you to reflect on different kinds of inner and outer journeys and destinations, as well as those who make them.

You can freewrite, starting with the question itself and see what your mind brings up.

You can address the question directly in a story, poem or piece of non-fiction, such as memoir.

You can use the idea as a theme for a story, without including the question itself.

You can write about something that happens in transit. Example: something about a road/plane/train trip. Or bicycling, bushwalking, etc. What you write may relate to a major trip, such a cruise around the world. Or a small trip, such as taking out the garbage. The ‘transit’ may be in the past, present or future.

You can use the question as a ‘diving board into other literary territory’. Perhaps an image or issue popped into your head as soon as you read the question. If not, try brainstorming. These questions may help:

  • What is the destination, the ‘there’?
    Is it a physical location? If so, it is a desired one? Or a place no one wants to go?
    Is it an emotional state? A different kind of consciousness? A new understanding–and if so, about what?
    Is it a stage in life?
    A ritual?
    A game? Once you know the ‘there’, you can create a situation for it.
    Is it a physical state? A significant stage in our lives? (Thanks to JustPaisley for these two ideas.)
  • Who is asking the question? And why?
    A child? An old person? Or?
  • Who are the ‘we’?
    What is the relationship between the one asking and the one being asked?
  • What is the mood?
    Light-hearted? Scary? Humorous? Romantic? Or?
  • What are the consequences?
5 Comments leave one →
  1. 17 March, 2008 3:33 am

    A little late with this but I just got ’round to your site. This is a fun, light one. Thanks!

    “Snowbird Mania”


  2. greyscaleterritory permalink
    14 March, 2008 10:35 pm

    Sorry! That link doesn’t want to work! So here is the long version!
    I like your description of a map being only as real as the will to be drawn by the compass.
    It reminded me of when I was bushwalking in the wilds of Kakadu–no trails, no roads, no people. Getting to our destination depended on working out a stretch of land on the map, then examining the land as we walked to see how the topography fit. A trap was making the topography fit the map, convincing yourself that this bluff must be this one on the map when it wasn’t. The compass pointed out the true situation, compared to our individual ‘will’ of what looked right.


  3. greyscaleterritory permalink
    14 March, 2008 10:34 pm

    Love this prompt! I must join in! I have written some haikus.

    Are we there yet?


  4. noahthegreat permalink
    14 March, 2008 12:57 am

    I like how the questioner is challenged, i.e., juxtaposing the question with the ‘truth’ of sensory details.


  5. 13 March, 2008 1:02 am

    i had seen this site a few weeks back when deathsweep did a princess and the peas story for one of your prompts and have wanted for some time to work on one of the prompts you offer… today i have finally done so… here is my poem entitled….

    are we there yet?

    thank you for the wonderful inspiration…..
    And thank you for sharing your thoughtful poem. Interpreting the ‘there’ as a physical and/or life change–that’s an imaginative twist I like.


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