Writing Prompt #1

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
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+)
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
  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
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!


3 thoughts on “Writing Prompt #1

  1. 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

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