Thursday, September 8, 2011

On Writing Prompts

"I don't know where my ideas come from, but I know where they come to. They come to my desk, and if I'm not there, they go away again." --Philip Pullman

Sometimes I need a kick start. It's like I need to throw ideas, words, letters in a big bowl and pull them out at random--or string them together like beads--to see what happens. I need something to stimulate the creative side and silence the editor. When this happens, I might pick up a book on writing and do an exercise the author suggests. I might borrow an idea I've read about in a blog. Or I might play a word association game. Often I start my day with a prompt, just to loosen up.

Recently I turned to Monica Wood's The Pocket Muse.

One idea Woods presents is this: Choose ten random letters of the alphabet, and write them at the top of a blank page. Example: C W I T S N E M B R. "Using words that begin with these letters, in the same order, write an opening sentence...

Woods gives a sampling from one of her writing workshops: "Cindy's winning?" Ian teased, suddenly nervous. "Everett may be right."

Here's what happened when I gave it a try:
(I closed my eyes and typed randomly at the keyboard to get these letters, BTW)
And? "Instinct suggested Louie fling vegetables but quiet empathy zilched lobs."

Silly, maybe, but fun. How about you? Want to give it a try? I'd love to see what you come up with. Who knows, maybe it will be the start of something new and unexpected...

Do you use writing prompts? What are some of your favorites?

(In case you want more ideas, another fun place for writing prompts is found here at Squidoo.)

*photo courtesy:


  1. I love what your alphabet prompt produced, given that a book I'm currently working on includes a scene where a character throws vegetables! :)

    I haven't used prompts much, though they're fun. My response when the next scene just won't come is to get myself moving physically. Sounds weird, I know, but if I go DO something, it seems to get my brain going, too. (I may try the alphabet thing, though, just for a change!)

  2. I like this writing prompt. Its a cool idea. I use writing prompts sometimes.

  3. That is some impressive word game there. I will have to see if I'm feeling brave enough to dare that one. :O)

  4. Hi, girls!

    Peggy, you've piqued my curiosity. :-) Who is this character, and why do they throw vegetables?! And I agree with you about getting up and moving. That's one reason I've been able to maintain a walking routine for exercise--new ideas or an "aha" moment on a current project often come on my walks, and so I look forward to heading out!

    Rachna, glad you liked the prompt idea. Feel free to share your results if you decide to try your hand at it... :-)

    Diane, hope you work up the courage to try this, too. I bet you--and maybe your kids--would love it!

  5. This is a very neat idea--I'll have to try this out :)

  6. What fun, I'm going to try it!

  7. This is a really fun prompt idea! Thanks for passing it on. It would be neat to see what different writers come up with for the same set of letters, too.

  8. Ha! What a fun prompt! I love what you came up with :) That's definitely a good exercise to get the brain flowing!

  9. This is a cool idea. I might have to try that with my kids. :)

    I don't do writing prompts. No need to. I have enough to keep me busy. All I need to do is go for a run and that stimulates my creativity. If that's not enough motivation to run, I don't know what is.

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