Posted by: victanguera | May 12, 2010

Writing Prompt #185

Everyday, we make commitments to one another, little verbal promises to fulfill. Maybe we agree to meet a friend for dinner or promise to cut the lawn. Or maybe we agree to pick up someone’s suit from the drycleaners so they won’t be late for a business meeting.

Unfortunately, things can come up that force us to make choices. If another friend phones you with an emergency, do you break a previously scheduled dinner date? Neglect the lawn? I find it easier to break promises I’ve made only to myself.

What kind of values do your characters have around keeping promises? Would they break an agreement to hang out with their girlfriends if their boyfriend asked to do something? What kind of message does it send to another individual if they can’t keep their word? So what if it is an emergency? Does that trump their commitment? How would they define emergency? Broken bones? Blood? Emotional trauma?

So for today’s prompt, think about the kind of promises characters could make to one another. Write a scene where one character is put in a situation where they have to choose between keeping a commitment and another person’s demand for their time. What happens?



  1. I generally like it when characters break promises or make oaths they fail to fulfill. It can be small, but it’s still a broken promise and, at least in fantasy, such things tend to have actual power.

    Digression: One reason I detest the anime “power of friendship/love” motif since, well, the MC never really fails at it. I think it’s more interesting to try to hold to something broken and make it whole — or something new from what it was.

    Also, even more aside, that reminded me of some interesting reading on the nature of plans, summed up: announcing your plans to others satisfies your self-identity just enough that you’re less motivated to do the hard work needed. So if you tell people “I am going to do X,” you are less likely to really do it. I wonder how that applies to promises, since one of the prevailing ideas is that it’s only the limits/oaths we set for ourselves that really count …

    • Yes I agree with your first statement. An inability to keep a promise or oath is often termed a plot.

      Interesting concept that if we speak aloud a goal or desire, we are less likely to achieve it. Well bummer, there are a number of things I want to do that I’ve mentioned to others. Well, that just doesn’t work for me. Off to make that a fallacy.

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