Showing posts with label writing prompts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing prompts. Show all posts

Saturday, September 3

Let's Write! Writing Prompt: You wake in the dead of night ...

You wake in the dead of night, deep in the forest with no idea how you got there.
You’re holding a dead flashlight and enough [fill in the blank] to choke an elephant.

Challenge: Write 250 (or more) words and try for a twist ending.

These challenges are designed to help us all improve our skills as writers. And, let’s face it, 250 words doesn’t take all that long to write!

I’d love to see what you come up with, please share!

Friday, February 27

Crafting An Effective Writing Prompt

As many of you know, for the past few months I’ve been posting one writing prompt a day on Google+ (I’ve begun archiving them on Pinterest), a practice which has given me ample time to reflect on a deceptively simple question: What makes a good writing prompt?

What Is A Writing Prompt?

First and foremost, a writing prompt is one that—as the name implies—provokes someone to write. In this writing prompts are a bit like jokes. Can a joke really be called a joke if it doesn’t make anyone laugh?

Some connoisseurs of prompts are picky and demand that one only write about one’s characters and then only in the third person. I disagree. I encourage folks to reply in whichever person strikes their fancy (and, let’s face it, prompts are an invitation to try out unfamiliar and perhaps quirky styles of writing, such as second person future tense). And if one wishes to recount something about one’s own life (or one’s re-imagined life), that’s fine! 

After all, writing prompts invite quirkiness, they invite experimentation and stretching one’s writing muscles by doing something one has never done before, whether this is writing about a certain subject matter or writing in a person or tense one has never tried.

3 Characteristics of Effective Writing Prompts

I’ll be the first to admit there is no formula for creating a writing prompt which gets people to put pen to paper and write something. But, with that caveat, here are a few qualities I’ve found most of my popular prompts shared.

1. An effective writing prompt is short.

A while back, I experimented with the length of prompts and discovered that the shorter the prompt the more responses it got. So I’ve made it a rule: If a writing prompt can’t fit on a 3 x 5 inch index card, it’s too long.

2. An effective writing prompt asks something about the writer/reader.

Or, possibly one of the writer’s characters. But I’ve tried posting conundrums having to do with one’s characters rather than the writer/reader themselves, and it seems to me that most of the popular prompts have asked about the latter.

3. An effective writing prompt has a clever twist, something that captures the writer’s/reader’s imagination.

This is something that is definitely more easily said than done. It isn’t as though one can sit down at one’s desk and say to one’s muse: I need a clever twist, please. At least that’s never worked for me, you may have better luck!

What I’ve found is that if a particular thought fires up my own imagination, if it makes me puzzle about how I’d write a response to the prompt, then it’s probably going to have the same effect on others.


Perhaps prompt writing is a bit like comedy in this sense. One has to expose one’s work to the public to see what will catch. If a person laughs (/responds to your prompt) it’s a keeper. If not, back to the drawing board.

That’s it!

If you’d like to read some fun prompts pick up a copy of “642 Things To Write About: Young Writer’s Edition,” or Ryan Andrew Kinder’s excellent volume of prompts, “1,000 Awesome Writing Prompts.”

Talk to you again on Monday.

Friday, December 21

Ready. Set. Write!

Ready. Set. Write!

Today I decided to combine this lovely picture with the subject of my blog--writing!--and create a writing prompt. (See: Writing Prompts: Defeat Writer's Block And Generate Ideas)

A Writing Prompt: The Girl In A Mask

This young lady is gorgeous isn't she? I wonder what she's thinking, I wonder where she is and whether she wants to be there. What do you think?

Here are some more questions about the girl in the picture. Try to answer at least two:

- What does she most desire?
- What is her greatest secret?
- Does she love anyone? If so, who?
- Does anyone love her? If so, who?
- What does she like most about herself? What does she dislike most?
- Does she hate anyone? Why?
- Who or what does she fear?
- What makes her angry? Embarrassed?
- Is she jealous of anyone? Why?
- Does she like to laugh? Has she laughed recently?
- What is her favorite food? Favorite book?
- Why is she wearing a mask?
- What is her name?

If you'd like to share your answers, please do! :-)

I think she's at a party planning to do something scandalous as payback for a past slight. Which, naturally, won't go as she thinks and will, instead, bring about a disaster of epic proportions.

Other articles you might like:

- How Many Drafts Does It Take To Write A Novel?
- The Cost of Balance
- If Instagram Can Sell Your Photos Without Your Permission, What Is Next?

Photo credit: "try to look behind my mask; there are a woman" by MahPadilha under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Saturday, December 1

Writing Prompts: Defeat Writer's Block And Generate Ideas

Writing Prompts: Defeat Writers Block And Generate Ideas

Writing Prompts

Writing prompts are a great way to begin a writing session; I think of it a bit like a vocal artist warming up her voice by singing scales.

And, unlike the improvisations of a vocalist, the result of our intellectual calisthenics persists, whether in a digital file or scribbled in a notebook ready to be mined later.

I just finished reading a great article about writing prompts written by Simon Kewin called Writing Prompts 101.

Simon notes that one of the wonderful things about prompts is that what you write in response to a prompt can be entirely unstructured.

You can jot down ideas in point form--or even words--and use the prompt to begin free associating.

The prompt is there to give your writing a place to start, an initial focus.

Simon writes:
You may just come up with rough, disjointed notes or you may end up with something more polished and complete, a scene or even a complete story. The point is to simply start writing without being held back by any inhibitions or doubts.
So, why use writing prompts? Simon writes (I'm paraphrasing):

1. Defeat Writer's Block

Imagine you're hard at work on a murder mystery and, for some reason, the words have stopped flowing. This happens to me sometimes when I reach the "and stuff happens here" part of my outline.

Simon writes that a way to re-prime your idea pump (as it were) is sometimes to do a short and entirely unrelated piece of writing.

Set your alarm for 5 or 10 minutes and write to a prompt. Afterward, go back to your story. Keep in mind that if, suddenly, you start getting ideas for your story you can just go with it! You just have to write for 5 or 10 minutes, it can be unrelated to the prompt. The prompt is just there to start you writing, to give you that initial idea.

2. Gives You NEW Ideas

Ever had an idea just out of reach? Sometimes taking a break and allowing ourselves to do unstructured writing lets these sort of ideas connect with our conscious mind.

3. Helps Get You Into The Habit Of Writing

Simon suggests we think of our daily writing as an excersize regime to help build our writing 'muscles'. After a couple of weeks you'll find writing easier and you'll be able to write longer.

4. Community Involvement

Various websites publish a daily writing prompt and provide space for writers to show what they wrote or just chat with other writers.

This can be a great way to meet folks interested in the same things you are. Simon suggests these sites:

Developing Your Own Writing Prompts

- Read news stories. Sometimes I think: Oh, this would have been a great story if only ...
- Visit Flickr and look at images. What just happened? What will happen?
- Cloud gazing. What do you see? (By the way, cloud gazing works with any random phenomena.)
- Listen to a song. What was the song about? What was the theme?

If you have a writing prompt you'd like to share, please do! :-)

Other articles you might like:
- NaNoWriMo Ends. Editing Begins!
- Amazon Sweetens the KDP Select Pot For The Holiday Shopping Season
- Crowdfunding: Cutting Out The Middleman

Photo credit: "Four Storms And A Twister" by JD Hancock under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.