Writing Prompt: Story Embryo

Before going to war, the Vikings would chant "Jafnan er hálfsögð saga ef einn segir!" which is Old Norse for "We want writing prompts!" Channel your inner Viking and get writing with this prompt brought to you by Grub Instructor Heather Wells Peterson 


Dan Harmon, creator of the television shows Community and Rick & Morty, has created a story-telling technique he calls the "story embryo." Based on patterns of plot structure, specifically Joseph Campbell's "monomyth," or "hero's journey," this technique divides stories into eight main stages:
1. A character begins in the world they are used to, a zone of comfort and familiarity. 
2. The character desires something. 
3. In seeking what they desire, the character enters an unfamiliar situation.
4. The character adapts to the new situation.
5. The character gets what they desire.
6. In obtaining their desire, the character pays a heavy price.
7. The character is returned to their original zone of comfort and familiarity.
8. The character has changed as a result of their journey, which changes the way they see their world.
Your challenge is to write a very short story--five hundred words or fewer--in which the character goes through each of these steps. This means accomplishing an entire step in just a few sentences, and requires careful attention to the words and phrasing that will do the most work for your story. Think carefully about each word you choose, aiming for efficiency, clarity, and focus. In order to encompass an entire story embryo in just five hundred words, you must distill your prose to the most significant details. This prompt will also help you to plot a story by concentrating on character, conflict, movement, and change. 


Looking for more inspiration? Click here for more Writing Prompts on GrubWrites.

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About the Author

Heather Wells Peterson has her MFA in Fiction from the University of Florida. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in Subtropics, American Short Fiction, Lit Hub, Lucky Peach, Bellevue Literary Review, and The Collagist, among others. She and her agent are currently submitting her first novel to publishers, and she has just finished writing her second. She has taught various kinds of writing--including fiction, creative nonfiction, and screenwriting--at the college level since 2011.

See other articles by Heather Peterson
by Heather Peterson


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