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Writing prompt #1: If music be the food of love

Updated: Jul 16, 2021

Several of the writers I've worked with this past year are writing love stories. Sarah Silbert is one. Sarah wanted to give her novel a jump-start, so we collaborated on a writing workshop together. Thus, the new year began at Korongo with a free writing workshop about love and romance. At the end of the workshop, the eight participants decided to keep going by writing to a series of prompts, which will be posted here on Wednesdays. After six weeks, we'll meet again. The first prompt is from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night—the opening lines, in fact, which are spoken by the lovesick Count Orsino:

"If music be the food of love, play on,

Give me excess of it, that surfeiting,

The appetite may sicken, and so die."

And bang—we are into the play, which revolves around unrequited love. The duke is passionately in love with Olivia, a haughty noblewoman who spurns his affection. Enter Viola. The shipwreck that leads to Viola's sudden appearance on the scene is the catalyst that sets the play in motion.

The first exercise in our six-week series of prompts is simply to write a scene in which a lovesick protagonist unburdens to a trusted friend, holding nothing back. Extra points for including music and /or food.

When I say "write a scene," I don't mean tell the whole story, from beginning to end. I mean a scene—a moment in the story, a turning point. It could come anywhere in the narrative. I almost always begin writing a story somewhere in the middle, then work backwards. I look for crucial moments, moments when Something Happens, and I begin writing there. I write a bunch of scenes, and then I string them together. For now, just write one, and make it full of longing coupled with despair. Try writing two pages, keep your fingers moving, don't censor yourself, and see what happens.


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