Posts Tagged ‘writing prompts’

Where to Find Ideas: Story Prompts

Today, Squiders, we’re going to jump into places to look for inspiration, either for specific purposes, to build up your story idea file(s), or just to troll around and see if anything catches your fancy.

And what better place to start than a whole category whose sole purpose is to get those creative juices running?

Story prompts are just that…prompts to get you writing a story. These are normally short, text-based prompts that offer a situation, an idea, a character, a first line to start from, a quote, etc.

Some examples off the top of my head:

  • Write a scene where someone learns something about their best friend that they’ve never known.
  • “Oh no,” she said. “They don’t come until the train arrives.”
  • Write a scene about dancing.

As you can see there’s a bit of a range in how they’re presented, so some will work better for you than others. Personally, I prefer ones that provide a bit of a story premise (like the one in the image, which I have pinned to my Writing Prompts Pinterest board).

So where can you find story/writing prompts? Literally everywhere.

Just googling “writing prompts” will net you tons of results, including ones for sites like Writer’s Digest. There are also several tumblrs, blogs, Pinterest boards, instagrams, insert social media of choice dedicated to writing prompts, so if you find one you like, you can follow it or favorite or whatever option is available on said media of choice. This can be helpful to make it easy to find again when you need it.

Additionally, feel free to copy prompts that strike your fancy over into however you’re storing your story ideas, whether it’s a Word file or a Google doc or Scrivener or whatever you’ve chosen. As we talked about last time, it’s good to have everything in one place. So, personally, I would recommend only copying over the ones that you’re sure you want to write, because due to the sheer volume of writing prompts out there, you can quickly overload yourself.

Writing prompts can be a good way to get started if you’re looking for a new story. They’re not terribly helpful for fleshing out one you already have, or for helping you fix holes in a story you’re currently writing. That’s not an absolute thing–nothing ever is–but if you’re looking for something to supplement an idea you’re already working on, elsewhere might be more effective.

(In the interest of full disclosure, part of the first scene of my novel Shards did come from a writing prompt activity.)

Writing prompts can also be useful if you want to get some practice in. I’ve seen authors set themselves a goal of writing a “drabble” a day (a drabble is technically a 100-word scene, but many people use the term for any short, informal type of writing) off of a series of prompts, just to make sure they’re getting some writing in regularly and practicing their craft. If you’re drabbling characters from a book or series of yours, this can sometimes be helpful for toying with fixes for problems you’re having in the larger story, or can provide inspiration for scenes or plot.

What are your favorite kinds of writing prompts, Squiders? Favorite places to find them? Favorite use that I’ve left out?

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Do Writing Prompts Work?

Ah, writing prompts. They’re everywhere. Daily ones, writing exercise ones, lists of prompts, music prompts, picture prompts. But how effective are they?

Well, it depends.

It depends on lots of things. What your goals are. What you’re hoping to get out of a prompt. What frame of mind you’re in.

Some people swear by them. Some people can only use a particular type–music, or pictures. Song lyrics or poetry. Short phrases or given beginnings.

Sometimes a prompt can be just what you need to get through a rough spot in a draft, or to jump start your writing after a dry patch. But I feel like sometimes people rely on them too much. But that goes back to the goal thing. If someone just wants to write something every day, for fun, for themselves, then good for them. Prompts work great for that.

And I feel like a lot of excellent short story ideas can also come from prompts.

But sometimes, I think, people get lost in them. They write and write and write, but never advance, never finish anything, never share anything.

If that’s your end goal–just writing–then great. But a lot of people want more, and they get bogged down.

Not all prompts work for all people. I prefer lyrics, but sometimes pictures work as well. Concepts work better, such as genre mixes or themes. If I can’t immediately see some sort of SFF connection to a prompt it normally doesn’t work at all.

How about you guys, Squiders? Do you like prompts or feel like they’re a waste of time? How often do you use them? What type works the best?