Skip to content

Writing Prompt #1

May 3, 2010

Writers seem to be mixed on the use of prompts. Some love em, some hate em. Some just don’t need em. For some, they’re the perfect little nudge that finally gets the ball rolling.

As I write this, I sit in my East Texas home. I have a small garden plot outside, which I’ve been fertilizing with compost for the past year. The soil is rich, ready for seed. But without one, it produces nothing, waiting barren until a wild weed floats in on the wind.

That’s pretty much my writing process. With a mind full of experiences, ideas, stories, observations, I can stare at a blank page for hours, overwhelmed with options. For me, any sort of writing prompt, whether it be an exercise from a book or a random string of words given to me by a writing partner, is enough to give me focus. The idea takes root. The story grows from there.

To that end, I’ve both developed and discovered many kinds of writing prompts over the years. My favorite type of prompt is a randomized collection of story elements. In fact, years ago I created a deck of cards called “Story Seeds” with which you could “deal” the different aspects of a story. They make for a fun device and, from the feedback I’ve gotten, have helped many writers kickstart a story.

So for the inaugural writing prompt of the Clarion blog, I’d like to share a few completely randomized story seeds. Before you read the prompts, think of a number from 1 to 5. That’s your story.

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
Story Seed #1

This story takes place … DURING THE INQUISITION
  in … A WELL
  found … IN THE COUNTRYSIDE.
The story centers on … A TECHNOPHILE
  who comes up against … A SERVANT.
At some point, someone discovers … A WING.

Story Seed #2

This story takes place … IN THE DISTANT FUTURE (YEAR 3000+)
  in … A SEWAGE SYSTEM
  found … IN THE MOUNTAINS.
The story centers on … A DIPLOMAT
  who comes up against … AN ASSASSIN.
At some point, someone discovers … A NATURAL RESOURCE.

Story Seed #3

This story takes place … IN A FEW MONTHS
  in … A CEREMONIAL SPACE
  found … IN A LARGE TOWN.
The story centers on … AN ACCOUNTANT
  who comes up against … AN ANIMAL EXPERT.
At some point, someone discovers … A ROPE.

Story Seed #4

This story takes place … DURING THE APOCALYPSE
  in … A KITCHEN
  found … IN A DENSE URBAN AREA.
The story centers on … A DELIVERY PERSON
  who comes up against … A MILITARY LEADER.
At some point, someone discovers … A SANDWICH.

Story Seed #5

This story takes place … IN COLONIAL AMERICA
  in … AN ATTIC
  found … ON THE BEACH.
The story centers on … A SUPERHERO
  who comes up against … AN ENTREPRENEUR.
At some point, someone discovers … A HOLE.

This is just one type of prompt I’ll be introducing over the coming months. Was it helpful? Do you want more like this? Do you have other exercises or prompts you’d like to share that really get your juices flowing? Any and all comments are welcome, either here or privately at “the writer at justin whitney dot com”. (Let’s see how long that email stays spam-free.)

One last thing: if you feel so inspired, share what you came up with – post a synopsis or short snippet here. We want to see what your fertile minds create!

About these ads
3 Comments leave one →
  1. Mishell Baker permalink*
    May 4, 2010 6:18 am

    A useful resource for those who, like me, can’t resist reading them all first but still want to be at the mercy of the gods of randomness:

    http://www.random.org/

  2. May 4, 2010 6:54 am

    Back in the days when I was writing novels for HarperCollins, editors would sometimes want me to send several short plot paragraphs for them to select from. I discovered that reading the brief synopsis paragraphs for movies in TV Guide often sparked ideas. The new ideas never resembled those in the TV Guide but rather sprang up seemingly full grown, like mushrooms in a lawn. It was as if once my subconscious got into the “mood” of reading the short plot ideas, it started generating them on its own.

    For this reason the short plot outlines you produced in this blog might easily create new plots lines for your readers, quite unlike those you’ve outlined.

    The mind is a wonderful, magical tool once we unleash its powers.

    –Duncan Long
    =====================
    Freelance book cover illustrator for HarperCollins, PS Publishing, Pocket Books, Solomon Press, Fort Ross, and many other publishers and self-publishing authors. See my book cover illustrations at: http://DuncanLong.com/art.html

  3. May 8, 2010 9:36 am

    I chose 3, and it turned out to be scarily appropriate to a project I’m working on. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,173 other followers

%d bloggers like this: