In preparation for National Novel Writing Month, it’s sometimes helpful to do warm-up writing exercises. In fact, any time you’re gearing up for a large writing project or any kind of writing project, it can be beneficial to first warm-up your writing muscles, as it were. After all, before runners compete in a marathon, they do basic stretches to warm up their leg muscles. Those warm-ups are, in a way, exercise for exercise’s sake. The marathon is the main event, the warm-ups don’t really matter except inasmuch as they help you prepare. In the same way, writing warm-ups can help you prepare, while being low-stakes in terms of effort.
Warm-ups can take just about any form, but I find it interesting to be given first lines and write from there. First lines are sometimes what authors anguish over the most, trying to get them absolutely perfect and then wasting all their creativity on that one line. Sure, the first line is important as a welcome to readers, but it’s not everything. So, for this post, just relax about the first line, let the prompts do the work, and concentrate on building an interesting story to exercise those writing muscles.
A writing community that I belong to recently posted some warm-up, first line prompts and I thought I’d share them here. Warm-up prompts can help you get your mind working and even supply you with new ideas to incorporate into your larger projects. Try out these prompts as your first line the next time you’re feeling stuck:
The dog belly flopped into the pool.
An alien zapped me with laser beams from his eyes.
I couldn’t believe I was standing in front of my hero.
Hail pelted the windows.
We were going to be rock stars at any cost.
Hope these inspired you to write! Happy Wednesday!
Not everyone writes the same way, so it must follow that not everyone responds to the same prompts in the same ways. Some people rely more on visual stimuli and are therefore more inclined to be inspired by a photo prompt. Others may prefer a written prompt, keeping the result in the same medium as the inspiration. Personally, I like to have a mix of the two — it’s nice to have words to prompt you toward a new piece of writing, but sometimes a picture can just hit you in the right spot to create something in response. So, today, I thought I’d give you two options for a Wednesday prompt — a picture prompt and a word prompt.
Your picture prompt for this week comes from the Easy Street Prompts blog, a great resource for prompts or anything else writing-related. The picture, which can be seen to the right, consists of a yellow trailer standing in the sun with a “for sale” sign in front of it. To the left of the trailer, you can see a red pickup truck, a black lamppost with the number “89” on it, and a stuffed dog in front of the lamppost. This picture is ripe with writing ideas: why is the trailer for sale? Who owns that red pickup truck — the inhabitant of the trailer or someone else? Did the trailer’s resident like the lamppost? Where did the stuffed dog come from?
Your written prompt for this week comes from the Writer’s Digest daily prompts page. The prompt reads as such: You had planned to attend a friend’s birthday party and plugged her address into your GPS system, but the system guided you to somewhere else. Oddly enough, there was a man waiting for you at this mysterious place. “Sorry I had to rig your GPS, but this is urgent,” said the person. Again, this is just waiting for someone to write something — who is this man? Why did he rig your/your character’s GPS system? Where did the GPS end up taking you? What do you need to do once you get there?
I hope these prompts have helped you get inspired! Now, go write!
It’s fairly easy to let your writing get swept away in the tide of schoolwork or other work. With other responsibilities in the way, writing is often the first thing to get cut out of your daily routine. This makes sense, since stopping your writing regimen has no real consequences for you. Homework needs to be done, work needs to be finished, and writing can always wait. But can it? Creating a writing regimen is important to instill in yourself a routine and keep up productivity. If you want to be serious about writing and actually produce some work, you need to write on a regular basis.
In that spirit, take this prompt post as an opportunity to make some time and get some writing squeezed into your busy day. Check out these prompts from the Creative Writing website and see if you can write a quick flash fiction piece based on one of them. Flash fiction doesn’t have to be any more than 250 words. You can certainly pound out 250 words in a short space of free time. So, go for it!
After your character loses his job, he is home during the day. That’s how he discovers that his teenage son has a small marijuana plantation behind the garage. Your character confronts his son, who, instead of acting repentant, explains to your character exactly how much money he is making from the marijuana and tries to persuade your character to join in the business…
At a garage sale, your character buys an antique urn which she thinks will look nice decorating her bookcase. But when she gets home, she realizes there are someone’s ashes in it….
Your character starts receiving flowers and anonymous gifts. She doesn’t know who is sending them. Her husband is suspicious, and the gifts begin to get stranger….
A missionary visits your character’s house and attempts to convert her to his religion. Your character is trying to get rid of him just as storm warning sirens go off. Your character feels she can’t send the missionary out into the storm, so she lets him come down into her basement with her. This is going to be a long storm….
As you may know from reading this blog, one of my favorite source of writing prompts is the site, They Fight Crime. For those of you who don’t know, the site basically supplies you with two very diverse and unique characters to write about and then places them together with the closing phrase, “they fight crime!” This is all well and good, but sometimes I get to thinking — what would these characters do if they had an argument over breakfast? What if they get a flat tire and are forced to spend three consecutive hours together waiting for a tow truck? What are they like when they’re spending a weekend together?
Characters are, to me, the backbone of any story because they provide the connection between your story and your readers. Characters will either be a reader’s best friends or those boring people she tries to avoid in the hallway of her apartment. Ideally, you want a reader to feel close to your characters and to feel as though they know them. This means showing a realistic and relatable side to those characters every once in a while. Even if they’re the most interesting people in the world, they still need to eat and shop and take a break at the beach every now and again. Show your readers those hidden scenes and you’ll help cultivate a connection between those reading your book and those starring in it.
So, for today’s prompt, try taking a pair of characters from They Fight Crime and putting them into a normal, realistic situation. But make sure to retain their highly unique qualities when you write. To get you started, consider these characters:
He’s an underprivileged chivalrous shaman looking for ‘the Big One.’ She’s a pregnant hip-hop socialite looking for love in all the wrong places…they have a shopping day in downtown Chicago!
He’s a short-sighted coffee-fuelled boxer possessed of the uncanny powers of an insect. She’s a beautiful streetsmart barmaid who believes she is the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian queen…they eat breakfast!
He’s a bookish coffee-fuelled astronaut with a robot buddy named Sparky. She’s a foxy foul-mouthed soap star in the witness protection scheme…they wait for the plumber to show up!
Some of the most fun and interesting fiction I’ve read has come from the author Jasper Fforde. Fforde’s surreal plots and colorful scenery have captivated me in every one of his books. Something that I think Fforde does very well is to take the ordinary bits of our world and blow them out into wild and fascinating proportions. For instance, in his Thursday Next series, he talks very often about Thursday’s family life — she’s a wife and the mother of three children — but makes that wild and interesting. Next has an eccentric uncle who tinkers with literature-hopping devices, her son is often visited by his future self who works for the time travel agency, and she has a stalker who’s simply trying to catalog her life for a biography he’s writing. These extraordinary details make ordinary bits of the Thursday Next story pop off the page and engage the reader more effectively.
So, today’s prompts are taken from a creative writing site and from the fabulous They Fight Crime! website. The prompts from the former site are relatively normal and ordinary slice-of-life prompt ideas. The prompts from the latter site, however, are often wild and out-of-this-world. Try combining one of the ordinary prompts with one of the wild prompts and see what you come up with!
Prompt Set #1
Ordinary: After your character loses his job, he is home during the day. That’s how he discovers that his teenage son has a small marijuana plantation behind the garage. Your character confronts his son, who, instead of acting repentant, explains to your character exactly how much money he is making from the marijuana and tries to persuade your character to join in the business…
Wild: He’s a shy playboy paramedic who hangs with the wrong crowd. She’s a wealthy red-headed research scientist trying to make a difference in a man’s world. They fight crime!
Prompt Set #2
Ordinary: At a garage sale, your character buys an antique urn which she thinks will look nice decorating her bookcase. But when she gets home, she realizes there are someone’s ashes in it….
Wild: He’s a fast talking day-dreaming rock star searching for his wife’s true killer. She’s a plucky snooty college professor who hides her beauty behind a pair of thick-framed spectacles. They fight crime!
Combine some stereotypically boring stuff with some stereotypically interesting stuff and see what comes out in your latest writing piece. And most of all, have fun with it! Now, go write!
Often, when working my way through writing projects, I find the best question to ask is: what happens next? This may seem like common sense, but sometimes writers get wrapped up in formatting their dialogue correctly and placing commas in the right place to remember that a story needs to flow logically and in an entertaining fashion. Next time you get stuck, just ask yourself: what comes next? If I was reading this story, what would I want to come next? Then, write that!
This week, I snagged some more prompts from the creative writing site that I recently found. These prompts seem to beg the question, what happens next? So, read through these prompts and ask yourself how the story should progress — then write! Now that the weather seems to have cooled down, why not take a pad and pen outside and get some writing done? Try out these prompts on for size and come back next week for even more short story ideas:
Your character has to tell his parents that he’s getting a divorce. He knows his parents will take his wife’s side, and he is right…
At the airport, a stranger offers your character money to carry a mysterious package onto the plane. The stranger assures your character that it’s nothing illegal and points out that it has already been through the security check. Your character has serious doubts, but needs the money, and therefore agrees…
Your character suspects her husband is having an affair and decides to spy on him. What she discovers is not what she was expecting…
A man elbows your character in a crowd. After he is gone, she discovers her cell phone is too. She calls her own number, and the man answers. She explains that the cell phone has personal information on it and asks the man to send it back to her. He hangs up. Instead of going to the police, your character decides to take matters into her own hands…
For the past weeks, the prompt posts here at the blog have been filled with short, snappy ideas to get your mind working. While it’s true, as I said last week, that quick prompts can get your brain going, some writers might need more of a developed idea to go on. I know that sometimes when I sit down to write, the first thing I do is list bullet points of what I want to include in the story. I jot down characters I want to include and main ideas that I want to hit upon while I write.
The creative writing site I’ve been referencing lately offers some prompts that are lengthier and add more depth to a writing prompt, just as those bullet points might. In this batch of posts you have ideas for stories about scandal, danger, drunkenness, and anxiety. A wide array of plot ideas lie in these prompts, so give them a try! Choose one of the prompts here and see where it leads you. Begin by jotting down those bullet points and then start writing!
Here are this week’s prompts:
A babysitter is snooping around her employer’s house and finds a disturbing photograph…
At a Chinese restaurant, your character opens his fortune cookie and reads the following message: “Your life is in danger. Say nothing to anyone. You must leave the city immediately and never return. Repeat: say nothing.”…
Your character’s boss invites her and her husband to dinner. Your character wants to make a good impression, but her husband has a tendency to drink too much and say exactly what’s on his mind…
It’s your character’s first day at a new school. He or she wants to get a fresh start, develop a new identity. But in his or her homeroom, your character encounters a kid he or she knows from summer camp…
I hope these help you write some interesting stories!