Dial-a-Piggy: More Writing Prompt Mischief
Did you grow up with your parents playing this game on your tootsies like I did?
- "This little piggy went to market;
- This little piggy stayed home.
- This little piggy had roast beef;
- This little piggy had none.
- And this little piggy cried, 'Wee-wee-wee,'
- All the way home."
The market piggy is the big toe, the stay-at-home piggy is the second toe, all the way down to the tiny baby toe crying "Wee-wee-wee." I loved when my older siblings played this game with me. I loved playing it with my own four sons and their forty pearly-pink piggies. Oh, those were the days. Now three of my four boys are teenagers, and it would take something pretty extreme to make me touch their feet.
When I went back to school to get my Master of Fine Arts in writing for children and young adults, I enrolled in a creative writing class, and my instructor, Hannah Barnaby (author of the award-winning young adult novel, Wonder Show, about circus carnies), assigned the piggies as one of our first writing prompts. I've used it often in writing classes since. And so, Insiders, I pass it along to you. Here's your prompt:
Pick a number from one to five. Use a die, and reject any sixes that come up. That's your piggy. Write their story. If you rolled a three, for example, you'd write about the piggy who had roast beef.
Now, you can make that your prompt, and run with it. It's enough. Have fun. But for extra challenge, here are some enhancements: Roll or pick another number from 1 to 5. With that number, choose a format to write in:
- Prose fiction
- Police brief
Ready for even more challenge? Once more, choose a new number from 1 to 5. Add the corresponding item to your story:
- A sextant
- Wellington boots
- Breakfast cereal
- A saxophone
- A mime
(If you need to use a synonym for one of them, feel free.)
Here's mine: 2-4-4
- One sad little swine from Milwaukee
- Pitched a jazz gig to his honky-tonky.
- Folks moaned that his sax
- Was a dying duck’s quacks,
- So he stayed home, played chess with his donkey.
Here's another, 5-3-5:
Location: Corner of Bleeker Street and Main. Front of an upscale apartment high-rise.
Victim: Female pig, young twenties, dressed for an evening out on the town. Alive, but traumatized. No obvious injuries. Curious white and black markings on her arm and neck. Some sort of washable paint. Medics tended to her, then released her to her apartment.
Summary: Victim reports having attended a circus and trapeze performance in the theater district. Something to do with clowns. After the show, she walked home. Reports a perpetrator, dressed in a long black trenchcoat, following her. Victim began to run. Mysterious perpetrator made chase. Victim squealed loudly as she ran; several citizens called to report the high-pitched sound. "Wee-wee-wee" was reported as a direct quote by more than one caller. Victim reports having made it all the way to her building, but while she fumbled for her key, assailant reached her. Held handkerchief to victim's face. Victim remembers nothing after that, until police found her unconscious on the pavement. Reports her pearl necklace and her purse missing.
One eyewitness, whose reliability seems questionable, claims to have watched the altercation from his third-floor apartment. He reports curious behavior on the part of the assailant, after he had apprehended the victim's valuables. With his hands, he "drew" a large smile upon his face, then "zipped" his lips shut, and ran off.
Recommendation: Talk to the warden at the criminal asylum about possible escapees.
So, Insiders, I challenge you to Dial-a-Piggy (or Roll-a-Piggy, if you're using dice, though that doesn't sound very enjoyable for the pig). If it hasn't already become obvious, I'm a big fan of using silliness to develop your writing skills. There's something so wonderfully freeing about nonsense and misbehvior. Work it. Own it. To quote Bruno Mars, "Flaunt it."
I'm indebted once again to Sally Gardner, one of my childhood piggy-wigglers, for her illustrations.
Three Irrelevant Facts About Me:
- I have very few actual skills, but I'm pretty decent at pie crust.
- I'm scared of the sewer drain grates you find in parking lots and sidewalks. I'm certain the next one I step on will be rusty, and I'll fall to my spine-crushing death.
- I have tried several times, but still haven't figured out how to write a good picture book. Perhaps brevity is not my thing. I still hope to someday.