Daily Archives: September 14, 2011

Sep 14

Mary Deal Tells Us About Writing Prompts

Writing Prompts
by
Mary Deal

For those who have not been to my website, here is one of the articles presented there.

Writing prompts and story ideas can be found in lists all over the Internet. How many times have you searched to find topics that might serve to shake a story out of your muse? A list of words or phrases just might trigger your creativity into action. Then, when you find such a list, you are not enthused by its offerings and you continue to search for more.

Story starters that encourage descriptive writing abound around you. Everything you see day-to-day is writing prompts. If you don’t see life that way, I encourage you to take another look.

Take new interest in the things you take for granted. Let your mind wander from the probable to the improbable. Fantasize about things and events. Give them a new spin.

Here are a few samples of story ideas taken from everyday life that might help you see what’s around you in your world.

Imagine you’re walking down a road. Usually you see rocks and you side step and walk on.

If you’re a fantasy writer…

What would happen if all those rocks lying dormant for eons suddenly came to life? They pop. They explode. Wow! Would they be friendly? Or would they be alien, just waiting for the right moment to change the universe?

Want to write a mystery?

Suppose one of those ordinary rocks had fresh blood on it?

A romance?

You find an envelope caught under a rock along the road. It’s open and money is sticking out. You want to get the money to its rightful owner so you read the note inside. It’s a heartfelt message about….

See where I’m going with this? Writing prompts are everywhere.

In my day to day life in Hawaii, just this morning, I saw or heard the following writing prompts out of my window from where I sit composing this bit of descriptive writing at my desk.

~ The man across the street is trimming branches off a tree with a buzz saw. He stops suddenly and tries to see into the window of the house. (Someone from inside that house may have called to him. But as a mystery writer, I can make a real thriller out of that teeny bit of action.)

~ A kid runs down the street, like he’s real scared. Now I hear a siren coming close.

~ A dog limps across my yard. It has a broken leg, or its favoring an injured leg, and hobbling. A moment later, another dog crosses the yard. Looks as though it’s had one leg amputated.

~ A car passes by on the street. The girl looks like she’s gushing all over her guy, the driver. She’s almost in his lap. They look blissfully happy.

~ I hear a strange intermittent sound and it doesn’t sound like any of the neighbors using a power saw as they repair their houses and structures. The sound is most curious, choppy, like someone hacking something. I can’t get it out of my mind.

~ I hear a loud bang, like a gunshot. It comes from the next group of homes adjacent to this small neighborhood. I hear another.

~ The woman in the house to the left is standing out in her yard. She never just stands there. She’s always on the go. Her husband comes out. They talk. They hug. She cries. He comforts.

The best writing prompts are right around you. However, if you wish only words or phrases to trigger your muse, then here are a few samples.

Buried money and valuables in a box

White powder on the kitchen counter and you don’t bake

Loving a married person, then learning that person is divorcing

A child who leaves alien footprints

An ugly knot growing on your thigh that gives off a pulse

Learning your spouse is a murderer in hiding

A horrific recurring dream that gets closer and closer

Lightning always striking only your house

The neighbors on your left practice swinging with the neighbors on your right

A rock containing clear facial images that seem to pull you in

A grotesque Halloween mask that looks like the guy’s real face

A drop of acid rain

Unidentified creature footprints

This list is just a sampling of possibilities.

When searching for writing prompts, keep in mind that it is said only twenty types of stories exist. All stories have been written. This is true, but every story contains a different setting, unique characters, and unusual occurrences and endings. That is how we’re able to create new plots all the time.

As you seek mental stimulation through prompts, begin by having an idea in which genre you wish to write. Genre is what you need to decide first. Take for example, this prompt:

A car passes by on the street. The girl looks like she’s gushing all over her guy, the driver. She’s almost in his lap. They look blissfully happy.

A romance writer will turn that scene into, perhaps, one of a happy couple of kids. Then life pulls them to opposite ends of the world. They meet again years later, only by chance, depending on the circumstances of the plot, and realize that they still love each other.

A mystery writer could turn writing prompts such as this into a thriller where the girl is gah-gah over the guy, but he’s got other plans. He turns out to be a serial rapist!

A science fiction or fantasy writer would have the guy taking the girl out to a deserted field, she thinks for a bit of petting. Instead, he beams her up to a hovering ship and whatever fate waits.

Know your genre and then, as you read prompts, determine what appeals to the type of story line you wish to create. When a writing prompt rings true to you, it has the potential to enable you to realize an entire plot line in a flash.

Begin to make a list of story starters that you notice. They are innocent gestures and occurrences that you might find in any good novel or short story.

Make a list of anything that strikes your muse’s fancy.

Allow yourself to dwell on story ideas that may come to mind. Loosen your imagination. Do it now. You will need to free your muse to write any story. Begin with your writing prompts.

Any story starters that you discover can also be used as occurrences and highlights in a story already begun. Story starters need not only start a story. Starters can also flesh out story middles and endings.

Writing prompts, story starters, or story ideas, wherever you find them, can trigger descriptive writing if you will loosen the reins of your muse and let your mind wander on things sometimes best left alone. It’s only fiction, after all.

I have used many instances from my life and ancient family history as writing prompts. You might wish to read Grandpappy’s Cows on my website to see how my muse hilariously ran away with it.

Or you may wish to read what my muse made of seeing a boy out in the dead of night with a scissors in Boy at the Crossword.

These two stories are great examples of readily available writing prompts.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre.

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