Weekly Prompt: The Miniature Wife


During spring, we ran a daily social media writing prompt aimed at sparking creativity for those of us who were going on day thirty, forty, fifty of sitting inside our homes. Now that it's summer and the world is beginning to, slowly, unfurl its wings again, we wanted to think bigger. So much of writing happens in response to our experience and to other writing we encounter. The latter is what this new weekly series will focus on.

Every post in this series will include a weekly reading and a list of prompts in response to that reading. Some of them will be focused on craft; some will ask you to evaluate content. This idea was born from an MFA course I took that focused almost entirely on emulating the style of other writers and then reimagining that first draft into something that was our own but still had echoes of the original. It's also inspired by the heightened sociopolitical reality so many of us come face to face with each day. Writing can be for pleasure; it can be cathartic; it can be used as a tool; it can preserve memory; it can foster connection. Whatever it may be, I hope this series helps you find what you're looking for out of your practice.


Week of September 23

Reading: "The Miniature Wife" by Manuel Gonzales (a Wordsmith visiting author!)

Craft element to note: Absurdity. Similar to the use of genre elements in Carmen Maria Machado's "Horror Story," discussed in the last prompt post focused on fiction, the use of absurdity allows Gonzales to talk about a fairly common occurrence in a very memorable way. He takes the concept of a domestic dispute—a husband wrongs a wife, a wife in turn wrongs a husband, and this leads to emotional warfare—and turns it into actual warfare. This would be very heavy, except he alleviates it with further absurdity: the husband has shrunken the wife, and so the warfare is between that of a very small woman and a normal-sized man, which leads to quite humorous antics. (This is really Gonzales's speciality: the entirety of The Miniature Wife and Other Stories, the collection in which this story appears, uses absurd premises and characters to touch on normal events and situations.) The resulting story is creative and funny and inventive—aspects we rarely find in stories that discuss domestic unhappiness in direct ways.


  1. Gonzales sets us up in the story right away by announcing the situation: "The truth of the matter is: I have managed to make my wife very, very small. This was done unintentionally. This was an accident." Write a short story or an essay that explains within the first couple of sentences what the catalyst and the tension will be.
  2. Finish these statements: "I am at my wit's end when ________," "I would go to war for _______," and "My worst nightmare is ______." Nothing is off the table—think of the more exaggerated, ridiculous, or unlikely response that's still true. Use this as a premise for a story.
  3. Over the course of the story, everyday household objects become items of warfare. Choose an item from inside your house. How could you weaponize it? How could you use it for protection? Write a story that centers on a function that it was not designed for. (Such as needles being used to spear through and display the decapitated heads of spiders.)
  4. The story is built around the husband's job as a miniaturist. What is the most absurd, made-up profession you can imagine? How could the day-to-day functions of that job go horribly wrong? Write out what results.
  5. When we end, the husband, now shrunken, is approaching his wife's camp. All we know is that he's very weak but can't resist the thought of sneaking up on her in her sleep. We never find out if it happens, though. The story ends on a mystery. Write an ending.