Say hello to a series of creative writing prompts in disguise. Some of these can also be used as acting prompts. I intend to create one for you every Monday and link to this page. I welcome you to respond with your original ideas or short stories based on these prompts. Feel free to leave them as a comment on this page or on the pages that the following exercises link to.
Monday, November 14
Go to a store where they sell used items, such as a resale shop or an antique mall. Look around for articles of inspiration. Even if you frequent antique stores, look at things you normally wouldn’t. What is the story behind the old typewriter? Did it belong to someone who changed the world, or someone who died without ever having the courage to send in their memoir? If you find something that sparks loads of creativity, buy it and keep it in your writing area. Or maybe you will find an object that becomes significant to your main character. Keep it as a souvenir to represent all the work and sweat that you poured into your book. You may even put up a little shelf, and collect an item for each book you write.
Monday, November 21
Take a walk, but pretend you are anywhere but where you are or anyone but whom you are. Try to see your town or neighborhood through fresh eyes, as your character would see it. Try to think your character’s thoughts as you go along. You might notice something you never have before, or find a fascinating new twist for your WIP.
Monday, November 28
(Or, didn’t I do this already?): Choose any creative writing prompt (there are some on my resources page), and write a scene. When finished, put it away. Tomorrow (or next week), get out a clean sheet of paper (or open an empty word processing file), and write the exact same scene. Same plot, same conflict, same outcome. But don’t peek at yesterday’s until you’re all finished. Do this for as many days as you like, then compile your work to come up with your best possible scene! If you like the results, try this prompt with your WIP.
Monday, December 5
Take on the role of your main character, and have a conversation with a friend or an unsuspecting stranger 😉
Take on the viewpoints and attitudes of your character. It would be best to try to get into some sort of discussion in which you do not agree so that your character can defend himself, thus revealing his personality and motivations more fully. Actors could use this prompt as well as writers!
Monday, December 12
Begin by asking three really bizarre or open-ended questions. Be sure to include some dissimilar elements to force creativity. Take out three sheets of paper. Write all three questions 1 time on each sheet. Answer the questions differently on each piece of paper and write a one-paragraph synopsis of a story that could be created from the answers. Next, choose the one with the most potential, and go for it!
Monday, December 19
A prompt disguised as vegging out: Watch a documentary or a foreign film that you have absolutely no interest in. Give it at least 20 minutes of your life, and see if you can’t learn something new. If interest picks up, watch the whole thing, and learn lots of new things! Alternatively, you could watch a movie dealing with a new topic or that takes place in a different culture, even if the movie itself is American-made.
Monday, January 2
Next time you go out, find some strangers and write about their life. Best if you overhear part of their conversation (sometimes fact is stranger than fiction), but if not, go with it anyway. Write about their day or week up to this point. What brought them here today? Or write about the rest of their day. Where will it take them?
Monday, January 9
Go through some old photos. Find a picture for which you remember nothing about the situation, and make it up.
Monday, January 16
Go through your stuff and find some things to give away. Try to get rid of anything you haven’t used for the past year. Even that thing you bought with high hopes, but just never got around to trying out. Perhaps it’s a self-help book, a food dehydrator, or a cute blouse. After dumping your stuff off at the Goodwill, take a moment to write about the item that was hardest to let go of. What becomes of it in its new home? Does it sit on a shelf for the next three years waiting to be sold? Does the purchaser use it right away? Or does it float from owner to owner? Perhaps something happens concerning the item that changes the life of the next owner. Does it change for evil or for good? You decide. Consider writing from the perspective of the item itself.
Monday, January 23
You might want to get a partner for this one. Each of you should draw a picture that depicts a story you have in your mind. The story should be from your own head, it shouldn’t preexist. Shhh… Don’t tell your partner what you’re thinking. Then, swap pictures and write a story based on the ideas you get from the other person’s pic. If you don’t have a partner, you could just find a neat pic on the web, write a story about it, and later look to see what the picture was supposed to be about.
Monday, January 30
Read the first 75% of any book you’ve never read. Stop. Now outline the rest, and write the last scene! This would be fun to do with partners.
Monday, February 6
A prompt disguised as making history: Write a memory that has stuck with you for ten or more years. But change the outcome. Change it to something more tragic, or witty, or adventurous. Anything you like! It would be interesting to have your change bring about unexpected consequences…
Monday, February 13
Go somewhere that you already go on a regular basis. The grocery store, college, your mom’s house, church, etc. Only this time, keep an eye open for story ideas!
Monday, March 19
Think of someone you know well, but whose personality is nothing like yours. Write what would happen to your lives if you switched bodies for a day. You can pick a mundane day or a day that will affect the rest of your life.
Monday, March 26
Throw away something that you hate. Maybe it’s a trinket that you hate to dust or a pet rock that reminds you of the horrible summer you spent away from home. Maybe it’s a pair of earrings that were given to you, but you can’t bring yourself to wear. How would you feel if what you threw away turned up again the next day? And the day after that? And the day after that? Perhaps your husband saw it in the trash and thought it was a mistake. Each time, you become more creative in getting rid of what you despise, but it always finds its way back. What does it mean? Are you supposed to keep it? What will happen if you attempt to rid yourself of the thing again?
Monday, April 16
Go through some old photos. Find a picture for which you remember nothing about the situation, and make it up. I think it would be fun to try a poem for this one!
Monday, April 23
Go somewhere you wouldn’t normally go. Transportation museum? Antique mall? Local baseball game? Find some inspiration for a story or put a character from your WIP into the setting you just visited.
Monday, April 30
Describe a setting to a blind person, or a deaf person, depending on the mood of the piece.
Monday, May 7
Think of a recurring dream or a dream you have never forgotten, even after many years. Write out the dream as well as you can remember, and then either finish the story, or write a beginning for it. Maybe both!
Monday, May 14
A prompt disguised as talking to strangers: begin a conversation with the next person you meet. Be it in line at the grocery store, someone you bump into in the park, etc. Write a story based on what little you now know about their life. Try to remain true to their personality, instead of merely plunking yourself into their situation.
Monday, June 4
Go to a thrift shop and purchase an outfit, or choose something out of your closet that’s totally out of character for you. Complete the ensemble with accessories and attitudes that complement what you’re wearing. Now, go hang out in places that would attract your alternate ego, and test out your new duds. Do people treat you differently? Do you treat them differently or feel any different? Now find a quiet place to relax and write about your experience. Apply it to a character in one of your stories. Actually, you could begin the whole exercise with a specific protagonist/antagonist in mind. Just remember to stay in character as much as possible throughout your little expedition.
Monday, June 11
The next time you go out of town, imagine what your life would be like if you lived in the place you are visiting. Make up a new life for yourself: new house, new job, new friends, etc. – write it down, and see where the story takes you!
Monday, June 18
Research something you know absolutely nothing about. Pick up a magazine that you would never have considered buying, and flip through it for inspiration.
I always thought it would be cool to build a science fiction story off of a Popular Science article, for instance. I also know nothing about horses. I wonder what kind of inspiration I could glean from Equestrian? Or a mag about outdoor survival? Visit your local library, and see where your imagination takes you!
Monday, June 25
Explore ways to volunteer in your area; then choose an opportunity, and spend an afternoon helping out somewhere. Not only does it encourage a helpful attitude, and help you grow into a better citizen, but it may very well spark a story idea or two. How? Well, you’ll be working with new people, many of whom will show up to help for entirely different reasons – community service, involvement in an organization, a former recipient of the service being provided, etc. They all have a story to tell. And if you are lucky enough to meet the people you are helping out, even better! On top of all that, you’ll be dropped into the middle of new scenery, new dynamic relationships, and new ways of thinking. Give it a try – even if no stories are forthcoming, you’ll be glad you did!
Monday, July 9
Remember pretending? It’s that thing we did when we were kids. See if you can conjure up a little anxiety or fear as you walk. Is someone following you? What about a ferocious bear (if you’re in the woods)? Or imagine that you are on a mission that you must accomplish at all odds. If you don’t find that information you’re looking for, the whole world is going to explode! Or maybe you are on your way to meet your favorite person, but you aren’t sure they’re going to show up. What kinds of things can you drum through your brain as you take step after step?
Monday, July 16
Mute the television. Based on people’s gestures, make up plots and conversations. (My husband and I do this anyway to avoid stressful conversations while watching reality television shows, such as American Chopper.) Then write about the scenario you created.
PS: Be prepared to laugh a lot!
Monday, July 22
Here’s one that I think will be really fun for you all. And not only will you be inspiring your muse, but you will also be relieving some guilt at the same time. You know that guilt you get when you’re spending time writing instead of playing with your kids? Well, check this out:
Take a half hour to an hour out of your busy writing schedule to inspire a new character in your story. Only instead of staring at the wall trying to come up with ideas, let your kids do the work. Tell them you want to play a story with them, and ask them how they want it to go, and who they want you to pretend to be. While playing with them, follow all of their leads, no matter how crazy or unbelievable, and just see where their imagination takes you. When nap-time rolls around, spend a few minutes jotting down the ideas that you just gleaned from playing a round of make-believe!
Monday, July 30
A long time ago, I read a book called Tales from Mos Eisley by Kevin J. Anderson. (I used to be one of those teenagers who read every Star Wars book in sight!) The premise of the book was pretty neat. Anyone remember the scene from A New Hope where Luke Skywalker meets Han Solo for the first time? Okay, but do you remember all of the different aliens in the cantina on that particular day? There are bounty hunters, musicians, thirsty patrons, and troublemakers. Anderson wrote a whole book using one little trick – he wrote a chapter outlining the day of each individual in the bar at that moment. So here’s my challenge to you: go out for a meal, and enjoy yourself, but pay attention to your surroundings. Who’s there? Why? What have their days been like so far? What will happen when they leave? If you’re alone, why not begin writing right there?
Thursday, September 25, 2014
This one is the length of an entire blog post, mostly bc I got wordy. The link to it is here: A Prompt Disguised as Playing Games
If you don’t have time to read the original though (there’s writing to be done!), here it is in a nutshell. Play a video game or a role playing game, or draw a picture or use any craft you can think of to model an idea for your story. Watch it come to life, and be ready to roll with it as new ideas develop. MineCraft is my son’s favorite game, and he has used it to find story ideas. What are your favorites? Could you start as fan fiction, and then alter the story a bit to become all your own?
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
A Prompt Disguised as Stealing
Once again, the full post is a bit longer than the following prompt:
Based on the first few words of their story/poem/essay, what do you imagine the writing prompt to have been? You will most likely have no idea what the parameters were originally, but come up with some based on the result that you see in someone else’s writing. Now, be careful to remember that this is just an exercise in creativity, just like the one I posted the other day about using the classics as a jumping-off place. If you come up with a good story, don’t ever be tempted to take credit for someone else’s words. Make sure you only write original material.
Monday, June 22, 2015
Find or print some graph paper, and design your dream home. Or a haunted house. Or the floor plan for a passenger spaceship. Imagine what life would be like if you lived there, and begin to build a plot and characters based on your sketch. Years ago, my son and I drew a floor plan for a castle, complete with surrounding farms and businesses (blacksmith, herbalist, etc.). This exercise in creativity became the launching pad for a story that we began, based on the life of one of the castle’s occupants. It was the first time I had ever witnessed my son enjoying the writing process, and I still have the floor plan and the story to this day. I blogged about it here.
Monday, June 29, 2015
Go somewhere that you’ve been only once before. Perhaps you tried a trial membership at a gym, or checked out a health food store, but the proprietor was too chatty, etc. The point is, you never went back for some reason. Go back, and look for a story there.