Tag Archives: writing prompt

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I wonder about people.  I look out the window of an office building and watch people zip around in their cars (they look like odd-shaped bugs) and nobody really seems to be going anywhere, they’re just going.  Rows of cars like caterpillars around the rim of a flowerpot.And they sit in their cars and they have no idea that I’m up here looking down at them.  Wouldn’t care if they did know, but maybe there’d be fewer accidents on the silly roundabout.

People are just strange, and I put myself at the head of that list.  But sometimes I just sit and wonder.  Is that semi parked in the driveway in front of the building full of explosives?  Is the driver who just went into the building going in to get his girlfriend or use the restroom?  Is he aware that a minivan just went right over the curb to get around his truck?  Does he care?

What about the driver of the minivan?  Is it actually a kid taking his mom’s car for a joyride, and he’s going to crash it into a ditch a few miles away?

Then there’s the lawn maintenance guy zipping around on his 4-wheeled toy.  Is he just zipping because that’s his job?  or does the lawn really need to be cut?  Would he even notice if he came out one day and the whole place had been covered in concrete, or would he just zip around as usual and mow the concrete?

Some day I think I’ll go out there and just drive around and around and around and around that silly roundabout and see how long it takes people to notice.  🙂

By Lauren Ritz


Writing from Prompts

Do you ever need a break from your novel-in-progress but don’t know what else to write? Or are you ready to start a new project but don’t have a good idea?

One way to break free from that kind of writer’s block is to write from prompts.

Never heard of writing prompts? Here’s the idea: someone gives you a scenario, an image, a setting, a line of poetry, a song lyric, a news story, a single evocative word, etc. Then you write a story inspired by that prompt—or by a combination of prompts.

Basically it’s a way to force your mind to break out of a rut by challenging you to make a story work when it’s coming from an external source of inspiration.

Prompts might only result in a piece of flash fiction (less than 1,000 words). Or even a single scene or vignette. Or perhaps a short poem. If you get very lucky, your brain might take a prompt or prompts and turn them into a whole potential novel.

For example: my current novel in progress came from three prompts. First, I was spending a lot of time in my garden a few summers ago, and I decided to write something that involved gardening. Second, I’d recently written something about princesses and wanted to try another princess story. Third, I’d recently completed a short story set in the Aztec civilization, and I wasn’t entirely happy with it and wanted to try again. Those three ideas came together when a blog I followed issued the challenge to complete a ten thousand or more word story in two months time. So I used the prompts: Garden, Princess, Aztec, and I started a story in a Mesoamerican milieu about a princess with magical powers over plants. Eventually the princess became a priestess and her powers became linked to her god, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I got a great idea for a story that I loved by combining three prompts from three different sources. I have enough material in my mind for several novels set in my alternate Mesoamerica, now.

So where can you find prompts? Anywhere. Do you have a Google or Yahoo homepage with news articles? Collect the most interesting and thought provoking ones. If you write science fiction, subscribe to scientific magazines or blogs. If you write history or fantasy, try subscribing to periodicals or blogs on history, culture, anthropology, etc. Make notes of interesting details from everyday events. Write down interesting lines from books or poems, or even snippets you’ve overheard from strangers in the grocery store. Do Google image searches and save your favorite pictures of places or people. You never know when the prompts you’ve collected will spark a new idea in your mind, or provide a needed break from an on-going project.

If you need even more of a kick-start, some writer’s blogs regularly post prompts. Children’s fantasy author Gail Carson Levine ends nearly all of her blog posts with prompts. Podcast Writing Excuses ends all their episodes with writing prompts, and you don’t even have to listen to find them—all are transcribed into the blog posts on their website. I belong to a prompt-based writing challenge Live Journal community: Pulped Fictions (one caveat—you must have a Live Journal account and apply for membership to view the prompts). Also, a quick Google search for “writing prompts” resulted in a long list of places on the web to find prompts to get your mind spinning.

Let me finish off with a few prompts of my own:

Garden

Aztec

Princess

Use just one or use them all. I 100% guarantee that your story will be vastly different from the one I came up with.

Do you have a favorite place on the web to find prompts? Or a writing-prompt success story to share? Share them in the comments—I’d love to hear from you.


Writing Prompt: Spicy with a chance of indigestion.

Bullying. We hear a lot about it. We’re all against it. And more than likely, most of us participate in it. Me? Not me. I’m educated. I’m civilized. I’m a good person! And yet . . . if you’re being completely honest with yourself, you may just be a bully. Even on a minor scale.

In this exercise we’re going to downplay the act of “bullying” and call it “social conditioning.” Now before you start sending me hate mail, let me state my official opinion: I am strongly opposed to bullying. I don’t know how I made it to the ripe old age of . . . ahem, 25 (hehe) without the safety and protection of the anti-bullying bubble. HOWEVER, somehow I survived the isolated incidences that might have been considered bullying by today’s standards. Back then we called it . . . wait, we didn’t call it anything. We just had to deal with it.

“Social conditioning” is a necessary part of life. Whether we like it or not, it ensures people conform to social norms. Rules. Expectations. Standards. You want to go a week without bathing? Too bad. You WILL get shunned. You want to monopolize every conversation by bragging about all your accomplishments? Go ahead. You WILL be loathed. You want to wear a suit made out of fur? Real fur? You MAY instigate a demonstration. Sure, all you really want is to “be yourself.” That would be nice, wouldn’t it? But the truth of the matter is, without social conditioning there would be way too many freaky people out there.

Your job: Take the stance I’ve just developed and run with it. Put your protagonist in a difficult situation and force him to face and/or reveal his tolerance, his support of “social conditioning” —through action and dialog, of course.

Done? Surprised? I thought so.

By Nichole Jarnagin