In America, today is a time for celebration. While no living Americans have ever felt the sting of King George’s cruel taxes, they still partake in the annual celebration of independence by grilling hot dogs and shooting off fireworks.
We all long for independence. It’s hard-wired into the human spirit.
Perhaps this is because we all know what it feels like to be trapped. Have your circumstances ever penned you in? Have you ever been forced to look to something or someone else for sustenance, when you would rather be standing on your own feet?
That’s what today’s writing prompt is all about.
Let’s tell a story about finding independence!
Writing Prompt: Find Independence
For today’s writing prompt, choose from one of the scenarios below in which a protagonist will have to fight for his or her independence from something or someone else. Feel free to make it personal or completely fictional.
It’ll be more fun than a pair of sparklers!
Independence from a Relationship
Often we surrender independence for the sake of relationships, hoping and trusting that the sacrifice will be worth it. Write a story in which the protagonist is stuck in a negative, neglectful, or abusive relationship, and chooses to escape from it.
Challenge: Think outside the box here – don’t settle for cliche forms of negativity. How can that relational dependence be a problem without being soap operatic?
Independence from a Job
Americans love the idea of working for themselves. Write a story in which a protagonist is able to successfully extricate him or herself from a bad job.
Challenge: Make the departure bittersweet. Show how independence can come with the weight of responsibility and the pang of loneliness.
Independence from Money
There’s a big difference between enjoying money and needing it. Most of us need it. Write a story in which the protagonist strives to free him or herself entirely from the need of money.
Challenge: Consider all the ways we can “pay” for things. How can we grow “rich” without ever getting a raise or winning the lottery?
Independence from Addiction
Often we run to food, alcohol, shopping, gambling, social media, and other worldly pleasures to ease the ache and pain of life. Write a story in which the protagonist begins making the difficult choices necessary to overcome an addiction.
Challenge: Put a relationship in your story, where the addicted character is not the protagonist, but the process of “helping” exposes character flaws in the protagonist!
Independence from Religious Rules
Americans are very fond of religious freedom. Write a story in which the protagonist chooses to find god in his or her own way despite strong bonds to a particular religious background or lifestyle.
Challenge: Since faith and religion are different things, explore the possibilities of being deeply religious and faithful, or being deeply faithful but not-at-all religious.
Independence from Technology
When I woke up this morning, the very first thing I did was check my phone. Clearly I’m far from independent!
Write a story in which the protagonist chooses to remove technology from a certain section of his or her life, and explore why.
Challenge: Avoid stranding your character on a desert island. Rather, force him/her to choose independence and fight for it when convenience, and social norms, demand that the technology be used.
Independence from Self
Perhaps the greatest force of antagonism in your life is locked inside your head, a little voice that demands perfection. Write a story in which the protagonist finds a way to separate himself from the false ideas, beliefs, and personalities within, and finds independence from the “false self.”
Challenge: Write the scene with no dialogue.
Independence from Nation
As an American, I often wonder what my life would be like if I had been born elsewhere. In what nation, or nationality, would I put my pride then? Write a story in which the protagonist must find a new identity after losing, or surrendering, his or her old national one.
Challenge: While a “refugee” story would be both appropriate and timely, avoid this temptation and stretch your imagination. For what other reasons would we willingly give up our national heritage? Why would we do this, and what would the consequences be? Note that this isn’t an “American” writing prompt, though it can be if that’s how you choose to read it.
The Cost of Independence
Just like many other nations, America won its independence at a great cost. Thousands of men and women died who never got to see the nation they fought for, hoping that their sacrifice was worth the loss. And sure enough, a new nation was born that sought to build a form of representative government.
Yet just a century into the life of that “independent” nation, another war ripped it in half, this time over the independence of millions of men and women: Slaves, who would be free and fully American. It took yet another century for laws to be passed, and enforced, that would protect their right to be such fully free citizens.
Independence has a cost. One man’s bondage indicts another man’s comfort, power, or wealth. To win freedom, to gain independence, there must be a sundering, tearing, or divorce.
Independence also isn’t equally perceived by all interested parties. It isn’t as black-and-white, or perhaps red-white-and-blue, as we always wish. I may see your independence as foolishness and slavery. You may see mine as entitlement and privilege.
Independence is both beautiful and messy. That’s why I hope your writing can explore it in honest and deeply human ways. I hope you can celebrate this day, whether as an American or one of the 6.7 billion non-Americans on July 4th, by telling your own story of independence in a way that lights the fireworks of your imagination.
Happy Fourth of July, and Happy Writing!
Choose one of the eight writing prompts above. For fifteen minutes, freewrite a response to it. Share your response in the comments below!