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I am a big fan of story prompts whether they consist of a word, a sentence, an idea, or a photo. The story prompt serves as a launch pad for creativity and it prompts the writer to see inward, consider possibilities, and think how the reader will respond.
On Steemit, the #freewrite group of writers tackles a daily story prompt provided by @mariannewest. Nearly 250 writers participate by writing whatever comes to mind in five minutes. Some of the output rambles around as the writer latches onto a prompt. Other writing comes away seemingly polished regardless of the writer using The Most Dangerous Writing App, a sadistic writing tool promising to give you the finished work as long as you don’t stop writing. Pause for only a second and it eats your words! Needless to say, I am not a fan. I am all for writing as fast as you can and throwing it away. However, I do like to read it first.
Amazon offers a number of writing prompt books. Writers Digest serves up a weekly offering of Creative Writing Prompts. Even if you choose not to write something to fit that prompt, each one often leads to another idea.
Sometimes an entirely random idea pops in my head, which then leads to a story. I read about a white Redwood “ghost tree” standing on the coast of California. A few days later I heard a lawyer complaining about a long deposition – a pre-interview of a witness. This led me to combining the Redwood with a deposition to write A Moment of Pure Truth. I like to think this story might not have started without the story prompt.
I make a habit of writing at least 500 words in the morning. Some of it is trash; bits of ideas and random observations. Some of it ends up in my Scribbles or Conversations. Most of it ends up deleted. Every once in a while, I find a random idea or sentence that might make a story. I then use this idea for further writing later in the day or week.
Story Prompts in the Wild
- You can ask your friends and family for a prompt. What is the first word you can think of? They will probably wonder why you asked, but they can always read the final draft.
- An editor may also give you a prompt. I will pay a lot of clams if you write about a physicist who hates the weird and wonderful world of science. Yeah, I can do that.
- Read the newspaper. Discounting the threat of “fake news” what better place than the newspaper to prompt your next story? Some of the best mysteries start out as news headlines.
Wherever a story prompt comes from it is bound to result in something you can use. If anything, you can always shake out the cobwebs and get on to the real writing.
Leave me a reply and let me know what you think. All feedback helps me get better.
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Photo by Amber Holmes. Used with permission (She’s my cousin!).
© 2018, Michael Shawn Sommermeyer. All rights reserved.