Have you ever sat down to write and found that all your ideas had vanished?
Of course you have, you’re a writer!
If you feel like you have nothing to say but you still want to write SOMETHING, a writing prompt can be just the thing to get you started.
When I feel stuck, I find that using a prompt helps me to get back in touch with my writing skills. Playing around with different ideas through prompts shakes things up a bit and reminds me that I *can* write, after all.
I think of prompts in the same way I think of warm-ups in an exercise session – a way to loosen up my (writing) muscles and get them ready for the task ahead. The stories and scenes I create from a prompt might just be part of my process or, sometimes, they help me figure out new ways to approach a story I am already working on.
If you want to play with words and warm up your writing muscles, here are 5 prompts to have some fun with.
A family secret rises to the surface
Some questions to consider: Is the surface literal or metaphorical? Who wants to keep this secret? Who wants to reveal it? What are the consequences of revealing the secret? What are the consequences if it remains hidden?
Someone has cheated to achieve success
Some questions to consider: Who is telling this story? Did the person really cheat? Whose rules were they playing (or not playing) by? Who is affected by the cheating or by the success? If the cheating is revealed, will the success be lost?
A person is crying in the last row of a theatre
Some questions to consider: Are they crying because of something that just happened or is it because of a memory? Why does the fact that they are in a theatre matter? What kind of theatre is it? Who can see them crying and what does that person think? Are they embarrassed to be crying?
Someone is on the phone and says ‘I’m just lonely, I guess.’
Some questions to consider: Is the person complaining or just noticing something? Is there someone on the other end of the phone or are they leaving a message? What would their loneliness look like to an observer (i.e. how could you tell by looking at them that they were lonely)? Do they want help? What kind? What is going on that created their loneliness?
A person is dancing wildly, alone on a dance floor
Some questions to consider: What brought them here? What does ‘dancing wildly’ mean in this context? Are they aware that they are being watched? How do they feel while they are dancing? What purpose does this dance serve for them?
I know that some people object to prompts because they may not apply to their work-in-progress. To each their own, of course, but I stand by my belief that any writing that you do makes you a better writer.
Any practice that sharpens your skills will serve you in the long run.
Even if you don’t use these scenes and stories for your current project, trying out some prompts like the ones listed here can help you find more playfulness and joy in your writing process.