writing prompts

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #39

Here's the latest collection of prompts from my Tumblr.  Enjoy!

#267  It’s a beautiful, warm evening, what’s your character’s pleasure: dinner al fresco; a hike; taking the children to the park; ignoring the weather and turning on the TV or something else entirely?

#268  Is your main character a talker or a listener?

#269 And then, once the bill had been totaled and she had paid, the guilt set in.

#270  Happy Earth Day! Does your main character recycle? Drive a non-polluting car or take mass transit?  Or maybe he is just the opposite–throws trash in the recycling bucket and roars around town in a Hummer? Whichever the case, write about their green, or not-so-green habits.

#271 Write about your, or your character’s first kiss.

#272 What’s the worst thing your character has ever done? Murder, adultery, theft? Does the world know about this thing or does your character keep it secret? 

#273  What is the best thing your character has ever done? Raise a child up right, write a book, run a business, take care of an ailing parent, what?  

 How's your writing going?  And, as always, if you get inspired by one of these prompts and want to share in the comments, feel free.


I’ve Invented a Writing Machine

Everystockphoto-nasa-space-64361-hJust for you, because I love ya, I've invented a new writing machine.  Here's what it does: with a long metal robotic arm, it reaches out, grabs paper and pen, and plops it down in front of you.  You can also program it to grab your laptop, tablet, or computer keyboard.  There's an optional feature that will, if you so choose, chain you to your chair for a set period of time.  

Here's the rub: that's as much as the machine does.  After that it is up to you to start writing.  This may be a bit of a news flash to you, but in order to write something like a novel, a short story, or a memoir, you have to … write.

Dude. Imagine that.

But, you know what?  We forget that.  Even I, who have been making my living doing this for years, forget that.  Lately, I've been very stern with myself.  I've had so very many important things to get done.  Manuscripts to read, a rewrite to finish, workshops to plan.  And so I laid down the law. There is no time for writing.  We must work.  And work hard.  Nose to the grindstone and all that.

Yesterday I awoke in a brain fog, staring off into space, overwhelmed by the week ahead.  Out of the corner of my eye, I spied my pink journal which had been unopened for a couple of weeks.  I stared at it, with one eye squinting until it occurred to me….perhaps I should write. 

And so I did.

And it was exactly what I needed to do.

But my journal practically had to jump up and down in front of me to get me to open it and start writing, which is why I'm inventing the writing machine for all of us.  Because it's one of those crazy paradoxes: when you're blocked in your writing, the solution is to write. 

I think what happens is that we crank ourselves into perfectionist mode.  When I'm not writing, it starts to seem like this big impossible thing that I can't do because I start imagining that every word I write has to be stellar.  But if I can just get myself to write one word…and then a sentence..and then a paragraph, I remember:

  • All I have to is put words on the page.
  • I don't have to write well.
  • I can write crappy sentences
  • Nothing has to make sense.

Because once I do put words on the page, things start to flow.  Ideas form and spill off my fingers. Crappy sentences straighten themselves out.  Scenes begin to write themselves. And I am writing.

So, yeah, that writing machine should be going into production soon.  In the meantime, I've got the next best thing here.

What do you do to get yourself to write?

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #38

Here's this week's corral of my daily prompts:

#259 If only….she thought.  We all have a lot of “if onlies” in our life.  What is your character’s biggest if only?

#260  The wind blew and blew.  It blew so hard and so long she thought she’d go crazy from it.  And then, all of a sudden, it just stopped.

#261  A screen door slamming shut is an iconic sound of summer for me.  Do you (or your character) have any sounds that immediately provoke memories?

#262  So what?  I mean, really, so what?

#263  It’s tax day!  Are your taxes finished?  Are your main character’s?  While we’re at it, how does your main character deal with money?

#264  My father insisted, loudly and often, that the best way to live was to work for oneself.  Even though his business eventually went bankrupt, he at least upheld his own standards.  What about your main character?  Does he/she have the entrepreneurial instinct? Or does he prefer the structure of a 9 to 5 job? 

#265  The ways of the world are capricious.  Take, for instance….

#266  Ugh.  Being sick is the worst thing ever.  Except for….

 How's your writing going?  I'm still working on rewrite #2 with my agent.  And feeling really ready to be done with it and get back to some plain old-fashioned writing.  But I am NOT complaining!  Leave a comment about what's up with you.  And have a great weekend.


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #31

Here's the latest round-up of posts from my Tumblr blog, where you can find a new post every morning (well, sometimes it's the afternoon).  Happy writing!

#212 Two women have been friends for years.  One afternoon, one of them says to the other, “I have something to tell you about myself that you may not believe.”

"Of course I’ll believe it, because I know everything about you."

The first woman heaved a sigh.  ”You don’t know this. And you may not like me much after I tell you.  Because here’s the truth.”

What does she reveal about her backstory? 

#213 It’s the morning after the biggest event your main character’s life.  (Like winning an Oscar, or a book award, or achieving some other huge goal.) How does he or she feel? Elated? Empty? Exhausted? Hungover? 

#214 She felt like she was hanging on by a thread.  There was the ______ and the ______, not to mention the __________.  And of course, the ___________! Taken together, they all threatened to overwhelm her.

#215 She couldn’t wait for him to leave—but she started missing him as soon as he was gone.

#216 Explore what your characters drinks.  Does he pound water all day?  Does she always have a Diet Coke at hand?  Is he totally against alcohol or an imbiber? Wine or beer or hard liquor?  Coffee or tea?

#217  All of a sudden, she became one of the cool kids.  Yet her position there was precarious, and nerve wracking.  Because one of the things they liked to do was…..

#218  It was the scariest thing he’d ever faced in his life. Every cell in his body told him to run from it. But instead he turned toward it.

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #28

Here is the latest collection of prompts from my Tumblr blog this week.  Happy writing!

#191 Thus began the ___________ that would last for __ years and affect so many people because ____________. 

#192  Happy Groundhog’s Day! What event in your life would you like to live over?

#193  Should she be nervous? She was indeed nervous.  What did she have to be nervous about? Well, for starters, there was….

#194  And suddenly, everything was different.  He had stepped into a new world. It was amazing and wonderful…and a bit scary.  What happened?

#195  There was excitement, yes, but also cold, raw fear.  It was funny how similar the two feelings were.  

#196 Use the words sigh, red, flash and desk in a sentence.  Now use that sentence as a prompt.

#197  She opened her eyes and screamed at what she saw.

 There you go.  I'm like the guy in #194. I've not gotten any writing done this week because this happened.  How about you?

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #27

Here is the weekly collection of prompts from my Tumblr blog.  Have at it!

#183  "To whom much is given, much is expected."  How does this manifest in your character’s life, or is she one to whom not much has been given?  If so, how does this affect her? How would her life be different if she had been given a lot?

#184  She chased the rabbit through the forest and it lead her to something she never expected.

#185 This poor prompt was lost in the ether somewhere.  Not sure what happened to it.  So write about something that was lost.

#186  Marker, stone, grub, reporter.  Use them in a sentence.  Now use that sentence as a prompt.

#187  "Let’s not do that," he said.  "Instead, let’s….."

#188 Angie sat down with a plop, gravity having her way with her.  And that was when she knew it was time to…..

#189  One day when I was out walking, I found a small white bowl, perfectly usable for cereal.  Later on that same walk, I found a small green toy frog that squeaked.  Write about something you’ve found.

#190  A thing we used to discuss as kids (or at least I did, but perhaps I'm just weird): freeze to death or die of heat exhaustion, which would you prefer?  

 And tomorrow is February, can you believe that?  Where did this month go?  Did you get some good writing done during January?


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #26

Here we are once again, at Saturday.  How does that keep happening?  Its a miracle.  And here are your prompts for the week.  Remember, for a dose of daily inspiration, check out my Tumblr blog, where I post a new prompt every day (except for the rare occasion when I forget).  Happy writing!

#177 The wind howled and the rain poured down.  She stared out at the falling water, mesmerized.  It reminded her of the time that…..

#178 It’s Martin Luther King day.  Write about freedom.  What does it mean to you? Your character? For some it is a very high value( i.e., having freedom to set your own schedule, do the work you want, etc.), others, not so much. Where do you fall on the spectrum?

#179 Write about a time when the clock ticked so slowly you thought you’d die of boredom.  Now write about a time when the minutes flew by—and you actually wanted them to slow down.

#180  That shiver of dread.  Because, when she looked out the window, she saw….

#181  Family, love it or hate it—either way, it shapes us.  Is your character (or you) part of a close-knit family, or one that could care less about each other? How did this affect him or her growing up?  How does it affect him now?

#182 She got so damn mad at herself when she wasted time that way, which was often.

#183  You're sitting in a booth in a bar, working on your laptop.  A man and a woman sit in the booth next door and you hear them argue.

"You always want to do such stupid things," she says.

"But at least I'm not a stick-in-the-mud like you," he answers back.

Write the rest of their argument.

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #24

Welcome to another round of writing prompts!  How has your writing gone this week?  I hope 2015 is treating you well–so far, I'm in love with this year.  But that's not the point of this post, is it?  The point is prompts, lots of them, so here you go (and don't forget, these come from my Tumblr blog, where you'll find tons more):

#164  Sometimes beginnings, like endings, sneak up on us and sometimes they are definitive.  What are you (or your main character), beginning as this year begins also?

#165  Monday.  And not just any Monday, but the Monday after the holidays are over, once and for all.  Does your main character dread getting back into the swing of things—or love her/his work so much that she/he greets the week eagerly?

#166  Disaster.  The plan was thwarted.  What now?

#167  She was starting the new year with new friends and new projects, and her heart was full.  So much better than the disastrous events of last year.  When she looked back on it, she remembered the horror of…..

#168  Many people in western societies (especially the United States) are infected with the feeling of “not enough.”  It might be not enough money, not enough time, not enough love, anything and everything.  Does this affect your main character?  In what ways?

#169  When she came through the back door that afternoon, she realized that her indoor cat had gotten out.  Inside, she realized that a window had been broken.  But that wasn’t the worst of it, because she also found…..

#170  Her next-door neighbor knocked on the door late one night, asking to borrow some honey.  She invited her neighbor into the kitchen, where she told the most incredible story….

 There you have it, writing inspiration for the week!  Enjoy–and write tons everyday.  Also do check in and tell how the writing is going when you get a chance. 


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #22

Here we are again, having survived (I hope) Christmas 2014.  Maybe you're like me and still a bit foggy from so much going on and, oh yeah, the sugar content of every single thing we eat this time of year.  Maybe, like me, you're feeling a bit disconnected from your writing.  If not, more power to you. What's your secret?  If so, here you go–my latest collection of writing prompts.

But first, I would like to let you know that you can get a ton more prompts (like over a hundred of them and counting) on my Tumblr blog.  AND, do not forget that you can download a free book of prompts over at Noisetrade.  (And read more about it here.)

Okay then.  Here we go:

#150 The best time of day is ____________, because ________________, duh.

#151  Only three days until Christmas and so much left to do.  But for her, it wasn’t last minute Christmas gifts and activities that she obsessed about it.  Rather, it was…..

 #152  Alone.  He had never liked it, but being alone at Christmas was the worst. Now, with just two days to go until the big day, he determined to change his situation.  The first thing he did was….

 #153  Silent night, holy night.  All is calm, all is bright.  Or is it?  What is going on in the dark of this holy eve?

 #154  Write about what is happening in the photo below from the penguin's point of view.



#155 The day after.  What will you do with that ugly dress your husband gave you?  How will you return it without hurting his feelings? 

#156 Her brain felt cloudy and vague.  Too many Christmas cookies. Too much wine. To make herself fell better, she….

 That's it!  The next prompt round-up will be in 2015.  Crazy, man.  In the meantime, I'd love to hear what you did on Christmas.  Was it good?  Fun? Any crazy stories to share?


Photo by Jackie. 


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #21

Since I have you attention–big news!  You can download a whole book of prompts for free, free, free! I wrote the book for NoiseTrade, which is a really cool site.  I'll write more about it after Christmas, but for now, go check it out.  And don't forget that there are tons more prompts on my Tumblr blog, from whence the following came:

 #143 I lost (and found) these things this year: a necklace and a silver fork.  Put those words together with tape and bus and write a sentence.  Now use that sentence as a prompt.

#144 A man and a woman sit together at a holiday party.  Others are up dancing and chatting.  Suddenly the woman stands and throws her wine (red, of course) at the man.

What happened?  What did he say to her?  Are they husband and wife? Or coworkers? What did everyone else at the party do?

#145 I just read a novel in which the earth starts turning slower and slower and days and nights stretch to loooong lengths.  What would you (or your main character) do if you had an extra hour every day?

#146 Both gigs were pretty good, but overall he liked being an elf better than a Santa.

#147 Stuffed.  She had eaten way too many Christmas cookies at the party.  But she couldn’t drink alcohol any more, because, well, you know, and so inhaling cookies was the only way to deal with what happened.  Which was terrible.  It always was when…..

#148 Last night, after I drank two glasses of wine and ate a meat and cheese plate, I …. 

#149 The rain began softly at first, and then it came down harder and harder. Snow melted off the mountain and flowed into the river behind her house. The river became a raging torrent, creeping closer and closer to her beloved home.  Soon, it was time to evacuate.  She started packing boxes, but suddenly water started seeping beneath the doors.  She only had time to take one thing and flee.

What did she take? 

And now, just for fun, because it's Christmas, here's a bonus prompt in the form of a photo:

Trees-wreaths-christmas-439223-hWrite about what the scene evokes in your mind.  And enjoy!

Oh, P.S., I know this is a busy week but several people have asked me when I was going to write my "three words for the new year" post.  Look for it on Tuesday.

Photo is public domain.