As all writers know, prompts and exercises can be a good way to get your pen or keyboard moving. It makes no difference whether or not you stick to the subject at hand, or if your poem or story takes on a life of its own and moves beyond the parameters of the prompt. The main thing is to get writing and keep writing. Write what you love, write what you’re curious about, write what scares you, write what you know, write what you don’t know but have decided to learn about. But write.
If you like a prompt to move you in a new direction or get you over a hump in your current work, I will be curating a brief blog series with writing prompts over the Christmas break. I’ll post about once a week, for a total of three or four posts, each containing multiple prompts for poetry, fiction, and CNF. Not all of these will work for everyone, but if you keep an open mind, I’d be willing to bet that you could use one of these as a springboard into something good. Why not commit to choosing at least one prompt from each blog post and using it to launch a new piece of writing?
Here are this week’s prompts:
1) Write a 750 word scene in the first person from the point of view of a character in 9th grade in your hometown. Be sure to get the sensory details in place. Be vivid and specific. What does this young person see, hear, smell, touch, and/or taste? Who’s with him or her? What are they all doing and saying? How does he or she feel? What is he or she thinking about, but not saying aloud? What are the power dynamics in place between the students, and between the students and the adults (parents, school staff, etc.)? How can you show us these dynamics through characters’ actions and dialogue?
2) Go to The Prompt Machine and choose a character, a goal, and a conflict. Then start the story. Have fun and be playful. Write at least 500 words.
1) It turns out that a race of creatures inhabits the woods on campus behind Bergwall. What are they like? How do they look? How and where, exactly, do they live? In the trees? Do they sneak into the DC in the middle of the night for food? Does anyone know about them? Might a well-meaning Taylor student discover or encounter them somehow? Do some freewriting, then begin a 1000 word scene.
1) Learn about the great Miami chief Little Turtle, who was born in what is now northeastern Indiana and is buried in Fort Wayne. Read about him at Wikipedia or elsewhere, and don’t be afraid to go wherever your research takes you.
Find a vivid image that stands out, fascinates you, or at least sounds really interesting. Start a poem based on it.
2) The process of writing and reading poetry can help facilitate an intentionality and contemplative spirit that creates spaces for forgiveness, understanding, and self-awareness. Write a poem about a recent disappointment in your life. Be truthful about your feelings. (Adapted from a prompt at Poets & Writers.)
3) Find some coffee table books (any book that features illustrations or photographs will do) at the home of your parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, anyone you’re staying with over break, or the local library in town. Flip through until you see an image that is somehow compelling, one that makes you want to learn more about it.
Write a poem based on that image. (Learn more about techniques of ekphrasis here.)
1) The holidays can be filled with joy and also with pain, often at the same time. Write 750 words that describe a particular day of your Christmas break where you are interacting with many different people, and they are interacting with you and with each other. Write about the feelings, thoughts, and concerns experienced by the people you’re spending time with. Listen for how people talk with one another; hear the content but also consider the subtext.
2) Using vivid and specific details, write a short scene (at least 500 words) about yourself at Taylor on a typical day. What do you see, hear, smell, touch, and/or taste? Who’s with you? What are you doing and saying? How do you feel? What are you thinking about?
Now, using vivid and specific details, write a short scene about yourself back home with your family. What do you see, hear, smell, touch, and/or taste? Who’s with you? What are you doing and saying? How do you feel? What are you thinking about?
When both short scenes are in pretty good shape, see if you can braid them together in some interesting way. Keep the original drafts, but open up a new document, then copy and paste and play around plenty with the intersections of the two scenes until something cool happens.
Okay, get writing! PLEASE leave a comment (or join us on Twitter) to let us know how it went!