Monday Writing Prompt #1 — Ab Lincoln

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

April 13, 2009 -- 11:06 p.m.

This blog is a M-F, if you haven't noticed. Every Monday will be writing prompt day. I've noticed that temporarily stretching my mind on other projects can make me come back to a novel/short story I'm sucking on with renewed vigor. Prompting is a sure cure for writing blocks.

Title: "Ab Lincoln"
Genre: Alternative History
Type: Situation (vs. character, setting, etc.)

Instructions: Relax. Take two deeps breaths. Write "teh winner is mme" five times on your keyboard and stare at it. Accept that you will make typos. Except that your grammar won't always be perfect — first drafts can be liberating, not strangling. Now, when you feel ready, write 250-500 words on the prompt below. When there are actually people reading the blog, feel free to post your prompt in the comment spots. This is a time to mess around—to let your inner editor curl up and die. You can either write it like an essay, a short story or a series of bullet points. Punctuation is optional.

Now: Imagine what would have happen if Abe Lincoln had been born "Abagail" Lincoln. Does history make the man or does the man make history? Who would have stepped up to take Abraham Lincoln's place? Would the Civil War have been delayed, or even deterred? Would the Confederate stares have broken up anyway? Would Ulysses S. Grant ever have risen to the top? What would happen to Abagail? Would she still have felt the same sense of mission? What would have happened? Would Abagail have dressed in drag and longed for a sex-reassignment surgery, or would her body shape her expectations? And what about John Wilkes Booth—would he still shoot the next guy, or would he go on to have a successful stage career? What would the ramifications be on our modern world. What would have been different if Abe Lincoln hadn't been born in his log cabin, but on a southern plantation?

Done? You don't have to answer all the questions—in fact, you can make up your own questions and answer them. But this is what I'm thinking about today.

Finish before going onto the next section, which relates this prompt to your current project.

Okay, now think about how the characters in your own story. How much of their greatness comes from within them and how much from the circumstances? Are their actions dictated by their gender? How much social mobility do they have? If your hero stepped back, would the Gods of Kleptash just move on to the next guy? What happens to the next guy? How do the history of our characters shape our characters?

The bottom line is: what are the things that make your character unlike any other? What are the circumstances that make the conflict? What brings the two together? These are the most fundamental problems left unaddressed in beginning writing (and some older writer's too). It's like a mystery novel: even in speculative fiction, we need to have everything all wrapped up and rational, even if real life isn't rational.


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