Revisiting Prompts

Note_creative_author_260972_lI've been writing a lot recently.  (On my own projects, I mean.  It's one of the ironies of my life that I'm always able to write for clients, no matter what.)

And, as always, the more I write, the more I'm able to write.  Pour it all out on the page and more keeps coming.  Another irony of the creative life. 

One thing I find that keeps the flow going is a willing to be open to a variety of ways to stoke it. This morning, for instance, I used a prompt to get myself writing a journal entry.  I often return to prompts when I want a nudge, do you?  Prompts are easy to sneer at, as if we are above them, and I'm not sure why this is when they are such useful little buggers.  (As a brief aside, I recently taught my grandson, almost two, to say "buggers,"  as in the kind you have in your nose. His mother loves me, yes she does.)

I've often thought that there are several different types of prompts and this morning, as I meditated, I came up with names for them.  (And, um, that meditation session ended almost as fast as it began when ideas for writing started flooding in.  I said out loud, "sorry, I have to go write" and jumped up to return to my computer.)

As always, the best way to work with prompts is to set a timer, and write your little ass off until it buzzes.  This means that you move your hand across the page.  You do not stare off into space and ponder what the next work might be. You write.  Period.

So here goes with the types of prompts:

1.  Random Prompts.  These are sentences about anything at all that are designed to be a starting point to get the pen moving across the page.  You might start out writing about the prompt and end up somewhere completely different.  These are the kinds of prompts you'll find on my Punch for Prompt page.  They are my absolute favorite.  Here are a few more for  you:

The autumn leaves were beautiful on her walk.

Last night they had friends over and she drank too much.

If only it were sunny.

He swore he heard the angels sing.

When it was all over, she cried.

2. Designated Prompts.  These prompts designate something for you to write about.  Bear in mind these can be open-ended starting points, also. Here are some examples:

Write about a time you wanted revenge.

Write about the best gift you ever got.

Pick one of the seven deadly sins and use it in a story.

Write about a man and a woman arguing over money.

Write about a time you were hungry.

3. Project Prompts.  Sometimes you're in the white heat of a WIP and you don't want to take the time to work a writing exercise or prompt.  But you're stuck.   It can be very helpful to use a prompt from your current project as a starting points.  Some ideas:

Take the last line you wrote and use it as a prompt.

Use any one of the character's names as a prompt.  Combine it with a verb to put them in action.

Open your WIP file and point to a sentence at random.  Use it as a prompt.

Take the first line of your first chapter and use it as a prompt.

Over the years, I've written a gazillion posts about prompts.  Here are some of them:

Promptitude: A Prompt of a Different Color

Character Prompts

On Writing Prompts

Promptitude: Whiney Baby

Promptitude: Wide Open Spaces

How do you use prompts, if at all?  Please comment!

Image by christgr.

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4 Responses to Revisiting Prompts

  1. Don 10/21/2013 at 18:37 #

    You know, I’ve never really thought much about prompts and after reading this post, which is, by the way, most excellent as usual, I can really see the value better, so this post is certainly food for thought, so thanks again Charlotte.

  2. Charlotte Dixon 10/21/2013 at 19:29 #

    Oh thank you, Don! Try one of the prompts and see how it works for you then let us know. 

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. Jessica Baverstock 10/28/2013 at 02:39 #

    I love writing prompts! (I am biased due to having a hand in Punch for Prompt, but I find that little tool so handy!)

    I sometimes use prompts to practice idea building. I take a prompt and roll it around in my head for an hour, or even a couple of days, viewing it from every angle and seeing all the possibilities within that sentence.

    Then I write at least one version of a story, if not a couple. Two of my favourite short stories come from the same prompt!

  4. Charlotte Dixon 10/28/2013 at 05:42 #

    Yes, as the architect of Punch for Prompt with your brother, I'm eternally grateful!  And I love that method of using prompts, I've never done it before.  Thanks for sharing it with us!

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