I have always been confused by writing prompts.  I understand the purpose; just not sure of how helpful they are. Someone recently asked me what writing prompts I use and I thought and thought, and thought some more.  I don’t really use them and I finally figured out why.  I looked at them as something to distract me from my book or my direction.  I wanted to stay focused on the story.  However, I am here to tell you I was wrong.  I actually can use writing prompts and continue the story forward.

So what is a writing prompt?  A writing prompt is simply a topic around which you start jotting down ideas. The prompt could be a single word, a short phrase, a complete paragraph or even a picture, with the idea being to give you something to focus upon as you write. You may stick very closely to the original prompt or you may wander off at a tangent.

You may just come up with rough, disjointed notes or you may end up with something more polished and complete a scene or even a complete story. The point is to simply start writing without being held back by any inhibitions or doubts.

Here are four good reasons for writing to prompts:

  • Sometimes it’s hard to start writing when faced with a blank page. Focusing on an unrelated prompt for a while helps get the creative juices flowing. If you write for just ten minutes on a prompt, you should then find it easier to return to the piece you intended to write. You may also find that if you stop trying to think so hard about what you wanted to write and switch you attention to the prompt instead, the words and ideas for your original piece start to come to you after all.
  • The things you write in response to a prompt may also end up as worthwhile material in their own right. The prompt may give you ideas from which a complete story grows or you may get fresh ideas for another piece you are already working on. It’s often surprising how much material you come up with once you start.
  • Writing to a prompt regularly helps to get you into the habit of writing. This can act as a sort of exercise regime, helping to build up your “muscles” so that you start to find it easier and easier to write for longer and longer.
  • Prompts can be a great way to get involved in a writing community. Sometimes writing groups offer a prompt for everyone to write about, with the intention being for everyone to come up with something they can then share. This can be a source of great encouragement, although knowing that others will read what you have written can also inhibit your creativity.

 

Examples of Writing Prompts

The following are twenty writing prompts that you could use to spark your imagination. If you want to use one, don’t worry about where the ideas take you or whether what you’ve written is “good”. The point is just to get into the flow of writing. You can come back later and polish if you wish to.

 

It was the first snowfall of the year.

He hadn’t seen her since the day they left High School.

The city burned, fire lighting up the night sky.

Silk.

She studied her face in the mirror.

The smell of freshly cut grass.

They came back every year to lay flowers at the spot.

The streets were deserted. Where was everyone? Where had they all gone?

This time her boss had gone too far.

Red eyes.

Stars blazed in the night sky.

He woke to birdsong.

‘Shh! Hear that?’ ‘I didn’t hear anything.’

He’d always hated speaking in public.

She woke, shivering, in the dark of the night.

The garden was overgrown now.

He’d never noticed a door there before.

She’d have to hitch a ride home.

‘I told him not to come back too!’

His feet were already numb. He should have listened.

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