Midweek Writing Prompt: Experiment with Montage (11/12/14)

In my classrooms and workshops, I strive to create safe, welcoming writing communities where individuals feel free to explore ideas, stories, and concepts without judgment. After all, we need those spaces to get started. The judgment – of editors, professors, critical friends – will come later. But in the beginning, we need that soft, friendly embrace where anything is possible and everyone loves you. Let’s go there together.

When my schedule allows, I will post writing prompts for you to play with. I encourage you to write something and to share those initial efforts in the comment section, or even your response to the prompt – tell us what happened when you sat down to write. After all, some of these prompts will lead you down a path toward publication – I’ve seen that happen often enough to be confident in that statement.

Give it a try! 🙂


Writing Prompt: Experiment with Montage

This prompt involves experimenting with a new style. One of the best ways to improve your writing skills is to push yourself outside your comfort zone. We can often get stuck by comfort and familiarity. We have a particular approach or style and we keep using it over and over. When is the last time you tried a new writing style?

Montage writing is a series of fast, hyper-detailed, short words or phrases that give the reader a snapshot. Think of a quick series of photographs or movie scenes flashing quickly by. You don’t have time to stop and explain – you have to capture the essence of the place, the person, the idea in a concise series of words. In film, montage is a series of shots that tells a story without dialogue. Apply this idea to a place or a idea or even a person. Try to tell a story of that place or idea or person using only a short series of words or phrases.

Here are some quickly-rendered examples for you:

Place montage: Cream-colored walls. Photos sagging. Paper chaos. Office space.

Person montage: Smiling brown eyes. Huggable body. Unconditional lover.

Idea montage: “Boys will be boys.” Microaggressions. Headlines protest. Nothing changes.


Montage can be incorporated into a longer narrative, or even used as section breaks. Montage can be active or passive, lyrical or blunt. So push yourself outside your comfort zone and try something new. You will be pleasantly surprised at the results. And the more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll become with this new style.

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