Writing Angry in the Storm | Plus Writing Prompts

Updated: Nov 23, 2021

Snow pouring down into a forest of scant trees makes this whitewashed scene hard to see.
Once Upon A Time

I began this novel with anger. East Texas, for some reason, attracts a lot of cults, and one of them squats in the woods about fifteen minutes outside of my university. When the group would congregate in major walkways, dressed in holier-than-thou skirts and top hats and almost certainly fasting to the point of delirium, students would warn one another of their presence. “Watch out; the angry church people are there today.”

“I get so tired of these Christians.”

I hate that when people think of Christianity on campus, this is the Christianity they see. Sometimes I go on campus to start conversations with people about religion; I’m always conscious, during these meetings, of what I’m wearing. When I wear skirts, people are less likely to stop and talk to me because they know what the cults look like. If I wear shorts and a university t-shirt, which identifies me as a student, more people stop and are more open to a conversation. I wanted to shout at the top of my lungs something that would show the world the difference between false, dogmatic, rule-based cults and true religion that’s based on logic, trust, and love. Nothing really came to mind, though, so I left the thought alone.

Storms and Brews

While this dissatisfaction was incubating, I began my Young Adult Literature course. Theories behind structure, style, and form captivated me, and I realized there was a lot more to YA Lit than the cheesy romance I’d seen on the shelves.

Then it snowed in Texas.

A lot of snow.

People called it Snowmageddon; almost everyone lost power, and most people lost running water, too. We were trapped inside, with a world that had come to a halt, and I had a story to tell.

So, I started writing.

I don’t write dark things, or I haven’t in the past; this got dark, fast. I think it was because what I was writing was important. Olivia (my protagonist) had a lot more going on than just her “mild cult”. She faced a school system that failed her, a family that failed her, a first love that turned horribly complex and hurtful in a moment. Watching her hurt, struggle, heal, and persist broke and healed my own heart, and at the end of the snowstorm I had a rough draft that was no longer angry. It was overwhelmingly hopeful.

What Writers Do

It was also way too short. YA novels, my professor informed me, had to be at least 75,000 words to be competitive once they hit the shelves; this had to do with how consumers view books as worth their while. Publishers can't sell a 90-page book for near as much as they can sell a 300-page book, and the average reader likes to see there are some hefty chapters to keep them busy.

Olivia had to get bigger. This was a strange challenge for me; at first, I felt as if I’d said all I needed to say. I took a break from Olivia and started working on other projects, some of which turned into concepts as big as Olivia; others fizzed out after a week of excitement. When I returned to Olivia, I realized I’d been watching the world during that break through her eyes.

Would Olivia see a grocery store like this?

What does Olivia think about football?

Does Olivia just “move on” after what happens to her?

The first two questions could be answered with my own experience, but the third required a viewpoint outside of myself. I found an organization that specializes in the battles Olivia faced (no spoilers, but if the book ever gets published, I’ll be sure to promote the organization as much as possible because it deserves it) and scheduled an interview with a team member to ask the questions Olivia would ask. That helped my perspective tremendously, and with that interview, the novel officially left the space of a work written in anger, in response, and instead became a work that could help others.

Through Olivia’s reactions and the reactions of those around her, I was able to share a story that sadly won’t be unfamiliar to teenage girls across the country. Olivia allowed me to share that story and end it with hope, healing and love. I’m so excited to see where she will go next.

(Side note: I’ve started anthropomorphizing my projects. It’s a problem, but everyone close to me has adjusted to it and now understands when I refer to novels as friends or buttheads. I hope I’m not the only one with this quirk...)

Plus Writing Prompt:

Plus Writing Prompts is an initiative I’m starting to help writers break bad pandemic habits of working in an isolated environment. It is a community centered on collaboration and encouragement! I’m going to post a writing prompt with every blog post, and you, the writer, will have a blast and write great things. Then you’ll share your response, and I’ll pick my favorite four each month and read them on YouTube (with the author’s permission)! It’s not a lit journal or anything like that; Plus Writing Prompts is just a way for writers to connect and hype one another up. So, without further ado:

Write a 250-word piece about something that pisses you off. This can be fiction or nonfiction; you can even write a poem, if you want! The only rule is that you have to write EXACTLY 250 words. No more, no less.

Then take that 250-word piece and rewrite it with a positive ending.

If you’re comfortable, share it with us!

  • Post it in the comments

  • Send it to me with the button below

  • Share it on Twitter and tag @ehillwrites

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