Remembered and celebrated for his comic play The Importance of Being Earnest, his gothic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, and his brilliant epigrams (“If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you”; “A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?”), Oscar Wilde would’ve turned 158 years old tomorrow. And in honor of the late, great writer’s birthday, today’s prompt takes its inspiration from the witty world of Wilde.
In addition to the two quotes cited above, Wilde left us with hundreds of others that continue to entertain, inform, and inspire. Below are a handful of these, along with a corresponding writing prompt. So choose one. Choose two. Or choose all five. And then … write like Wilde. Which is to say write dangerously (“An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all”), without moderation (“Everything in moderation, including moderation”), and without regard for your audience (“The play was a great success, but the audience was a failure”).
1. “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.”
Begin a piece about reading an entry from your own diary (or about a character reading from their own diary) two decades after the entry was written.
2. “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
Begin a piece from the point of view of someone who is NOT the same sex, ethnicity, age, height, and weight as you are. (If you want a place to start this piece, let’s say the character’s driving a car in a fierce autumn rainstorm at 9:09 a.m., racing to get to work — a job this character can’t stand.)
3. “You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes, or for their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear.”
Think of someone you love, or that a character loves. Then describe, in as much detail as possible, the metaphorical song this beloved sings. (Is it a pop song, love song, heavy metal song, speed metal song, folk song, country song, rap song, honky tonk song, Broadway song, rock ballad, R&B ballad, instrumental track, etc.?)
4. “One should always play fairly when one has the winning cards.”
Begin a piece about a gambler on an incredible winning streak (or, perhaps more plausible, a gambler on an incredible losing streak).
5. “There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.”
Begin a piece, which MUST be a tragedy, about a character who, since the moment of birth, always gets what they want.