Writing exercises

Do you use writing prompts when you get a big case of writer’s block or to spark your writing?  Here’s one from 2005, when the Grand Rapids Region Writers Group first started and lacked a speaker for their meeting.

The dead make good neighbors; I mean, they don’t trot over at all hours and beat upon one’s domicile door for a bit of sugar or whatnot; they don’t accost one after church and press ragged tickets upon one for some bally fete or another, nor bung off to Bath after dropping their beastly pets for me to watch; no, as a whole, your graveyard corpse is a quiet, peaceful sort of Johnnie.

(whew!  Talk about your run-on sentences)

Here’s what I wrote in the 15 minutes allotted:

I never minded living next door to the cemetery.  Except for the occasional police car parked in the drive, the officers taking a break from donuts and the high crime of our sleepy little town, hoping to catch a speeding car as they punched through the 30 m.p.h. limits coming out of town.  Halloween was even quiet, the citizens preferring old man Mooney’s yard to festoon with toilet paper or to upend small cars on Main Street.

I thought I had a good deal, living next to the quiet dead, who, as previously mentioned, make pretty good neighbors.

That is, until the drug drops started.

It seems the local riff-raff, the pillars of let’s-take-advantage-of-children society, decided the cemetery was the perfect place to conduct business.  Think about it.  The back of the cemetery was secluded, away from curious eyes, everything you’d want to conduct a drug deal.  And, if anything went wrong, they wouldn’t have to transport the body far.

This had gone for about a month, undetected by the local law, when the dead decided they’d had enough interruption of their eternal rest.


Do you use writing prompts?

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Free Read!

If you’re an Amazon Prime member, good news!  “What Do You Say to a Naked Elf?” is now a free read for Amazon Prime members at http://amzn.to/zqTlhz

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Birth Order Part 2, or Why Your Characters Behave the Way They Do

Birth Order Part 2

Last week, we looked at the peculiarities of the first born and middle child. In Birth Order Part 2, we’ll examine the last born, only child and twins. The way they behave can help you in crafting your story’s characters.

Last Born Children

Birth order part 2. The last born child.

Bess-Hamiti / Pixabay

Last born children fight hard to get noticed. They are often the class clown, the maverick, the life of the party. Their older siblings consider them spoiled.

Characteristics of the youngest include:

Manipulative Charming Show off People person Casts blame on others
Engaging Good salesperson Precocious Risk taker Outgoing


Careers include “On stage” professions – TV announcers and anchor people, salespeople (because of their ability to manipulate people). They like jobs where they can work alone and do things at their own pace.

Strengths Weaknesses
Outgoing, affectionate, creative, confident, uncomplicated, Spoiled, manipulative, immature, self-centered, impetuous, feel they live in the shadow, rebellious, absentminded


Why? “Taught out” parents let the kid fend for himself.

They are suckers for praise and encouragement. Their attention-seeking antics can be turned around with a “I’ll show them” attitude.

Famous last born children include Howard Stern, Jay Leno, Danny DeVito, Steve Martin.



Only Children

Birth order part 2. The only child.

isakarakus / Pixabay

If parents pressure the first born child to succeed, they pressure only child as much, squared. They are super perfectionists, super reliable, super scholarly and any of the other super*latives generally applied to the first born.

Depending on why he’s an only helps mold his personality. If his parents tried to have other children but could only have one, they heap all their energy and attention on him. He can become very pampered and spoiled and may have problems in later life with self-centeredness.

If he is an only child because of his parents’ conscious decision, he may have grown up with a very structured, disciplined expectation of being the “little adult.” Resentment at being deprived of his childhood might cause problems.

An only child’s personality can swing from responsible, upstanding citizen to scared and rebellious because they’re not in as much control as they look.

Strengths Weaknesses
Matures faster, gets along better with older or younger people, responsible, ambitious, perfectionists, conscientious, loves facts and details Self-centered, have difficulty sharing, attention seeking, fear of trying new things, worry too much, inflexible


Onlies tend to be critical, often lonely, and have difficulty relating to peers.

Careers include those similar to the first born child: law, medicine, architecture.

Famous only children are Robin Williams, Tiger Woods, Brooke Shields, Carol Burnett.



Birth order part 2. Twins.

zinavasini / Pixabay

Twins can take on any of the other birth order’s characteristic, so it is hard to describe them, but there is a distinction on which of the two is the leader.

The leader’s traits:

Most resemble first borns Aggressive Loud
Outspoken Opinionated Intolerant


The follower’s traits:

Most resembles shy middle child Shy Loner
Quiet Wallflower Undefiant


Twins may have identity issues, not feel unique, hide behind their twin’s shadow or feel overshadowed. On the plus side, they have a constant companion, someone who understands them. They are confident, multi-taskers and want to stand out from their peers.

Famous twins include Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren, The Olsen Twins, Fred and George Weasley.



Of course, not every first born is a perfectionist, and not every middle child is a peacekeeper. You can use these variables to think outside the box when it comes to adding depth to your characters.


The marital status of the parents is important. Your character’s parents’ marriage, separation, divorce, or remarriage has an effect on him.

Parenting style is also critical. A strict parent has different expectations than a more liberal one, regardless of birth order.

Parent birth order can influence a child. A first born parent will be more critical of their first born child.  A middle born parent will be less confrontational.


A gap of more than five years between siblings often creates a “second family” with the new child taking on the characteristics of a first born.

Adoption of a new child rearranges the dynamics of the existing child(ren) as does the blending of two families through remarriage.  Bumped up or down in order, resentment at being replaced as the oldest/youngest can cause friction.

A sibling with a physical or mental handicap causes the other children in the family to mature quicker, whether they are older or younger.

The death of a sibling bumps a child up or down. Children usually take the role of the sibling to keep the deceased child a part of their life. “Ghost” children occur when a child dies and another is born shortly afterward.



The Birth Order Book, Why You Are The Way You are by Dr. Kevin Leman

Ancestry.com, the importance of birth order

The Ultimate Personality Guide by Jennifer Freed and Debra Birnbaum




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