Monday, August 13, 2012

Three Cheers for the Mighty (Fun) Prompt!

Writing prompts can help get us started or continue writing, and even when they don’t quite work the way we want them to, they can be a lot of fun.  Books and websites abound with good ideas, and we’ve all got our favorites, but I think WbtR would be remiss if we ignored the power of these creative tools.    

There are several ways to utilize prompts, some of which depend on the genre.  This website, for example, has a list of lines that part of a story can be written around.  You can use the line as a launching point, a focal point or just a kick in the butt.  The lines are not especially interesting or unique, but once you get going, you can always edit out the line completely.

It was the first snowfall of the year.
He hadn't seen her since the day they left High School.
The city burned, fire lighting up the night sky.
She studied her face in the mirror.
The smell of freshly-cut grass.
They came back every year to lay flowers at the spot.
This time her boss had gone too far.
Red eyes.
Stars blazed in the night sky.
He woke to birdsong.
'Shh! Hear that?  ' 'I didn't hear anything.'
He'd always hated speaking in public.
She woke, shivering, in the dark of the night.
The garden was overgrown now.
He'd never noticed a door there before.
She'd have to hitch a ride home.
'I told him not to come back, too!'
His feet were already numb. He should have listened.

A variation of this technique is to write a scene based on an already famous line or quote.  The internet is spilling with sites like this one, which can overwhelm you, so if you want to use this method, I suggest opening the webpage and selecting one random quote without even reading the entry.  You can also run your finger down a page and use whatever line your finger stops at.  Remember, though, if you keep the quote in your final version, you will have to deal with copyright law.

Need help creating interesting characters?  One way to get started is to examine an object and turn it into a human being.  For example, I have a white headband on my desk.  If my headband were a person, what would s/he be like?  What physical attributes would s/he possess?  What belief systems would s/he hold?  Write a couple of paragraphs in which your new person introduces him/herself.  Or stick your new person in a sleazy hotel room and watch what s/he does.

If you’re going for something more poetic (or weird), you can turn this technique around by anthropomorphizing the object.  Now my headband might still look like a headband but have blue eyes, long lashes and a serious acne problem.  And it might have a lot to say about me and my messy desk.  Go ahead and try it.  Give objects the power to talk.  What would the things on your desk say about you?

Now let’s hear it.  What are some of your favorite writing prompts?

WbtR member Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt writes fiction, non-fiction and poetry in her office, which doubles as the family room.  When she is not distracted by her cat Fiona who insists on sitting on Katherine's already cluttered desk, or her other cat, Cosmo, who meows for the sake of meowing, Katherine gets a few lines written between trips to let the dogs in and out.

1 comment:

  1. Here are some great ideas from a guy I've been blogging with for six years now. He does these flash-fiction prompts--totally fun!