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writing prompts

Ever find yourself confronted with a blank, white page wondering what to write about as you get started? Fear not. There are a wealth of writing prompts out there to help you on your way. You may also find ways to weave them into projects you’ve already began as well.

Writing prompts come in many forms. Short phrases, objects, scenarios or photos can be used. They are meant to spark your imagination and inspire you. You can incorporate them into a story, poem, essay, or in some cases even a memoir, or you can start from scratch and see where they take you. You can twist and shape your story any which way. You have the freedom to determine what direction you are going to take the prompt. You can take a prompt literally or metaphorically, as well.

There are many good sites out there for writing prompts, as well as books. One of my favorite prompt writing books is actually geared toward poets. It’s the Practice of Poetry by Robin Behn and Chase Twitchell, but many of the exercises can be used for prose.

If you like fictional scenarios, I recommend Writer’s Digest’s prompts. Typing in “writing prompts” on Pinterest.com is also a fun place to get ideas.

If you look around you, you may find prompts in unexpected places. A coffee shop I frequent has sayings on placards on the wall. Graffiti on a bathroom stall door could even spark a poem. You could write a story that takes place in the year stamped on a penny in your pocket.

Writing Prompt Groups

Personally, I get most of my prompts from other writers rather than online. I’ve belonged to numerous prompt writing groups over the years. And some of my favorite prompts have come from people I know.

If you can’t find a prompt writing group in your area, consider finding some writing friends and create one. It can be as simple as sitting down at a table, each writing a prompt on a scrap of paper and swapping them. Reading excerpts after the writing is done can also be fun. And afterward, if you get stuck at home, you can phone a friend or text a fellow writer and ask them to send you a prompt.

Ten Writing Prompts to Get You Started

Pick out a photo of a celebrity online and riff off of it.

A fictional version of Bob Dylan made a cameo in one of my stories with his wild, tousled brown hair, for example.

Write the ending first.

Getting started can be the toughest part – so mix it up. Start with the last sentence of your piece and go on from there.

Incorporate all five senses.

What do you or your character smell, taste, touch, see or hear? This is especially useful for memoir writers because it jogs your memory.

Write about a personality trait.

It can either be a flaw or strength, depending on the circumstance or your point of view. This can be your own trait or your character’s.

Write two lines that flat out contradict each other.

Then, figure out how that makes sense.

Everything happens for a reason.

Do you or your character agree or disagree? (I have a friend who lived through cancer who hates this saying.)

Write a fight scene.

It could be an argument or actual blows.

Write what you don’t know.

Turn the old adage on its head and take your writing outside your comfort zone.

Write about the things you have forgotten.

This could relate to your childhood or not.

We regret to inform you…

…or congratulations. What words have changed the course of your life or changed your character’s life?