Even if you haven’t been using writing prompts in your adult writing life, you still probably remember them from your grade school days. Your teacher would put a sentence or two on the blackboard as a way for you to start your journal or notebook entry for the day, and you would have to come up with a few paragraphs to satisfy that writing prompt.
Believe it or not, writing prompts can be just as useful in your adult writing life, regardless of what you choose to write about. A writing prompt serves as a catalyst for creativity and can start the mind flowing in a new direction. While a simple two-sentence writing prompt won’t give you the full structure of a brilliant new novel, it can start the creative wheels a-turnin’.
Writing prompts are generally more useful for creative writers-short stories, novels and the like-but they can also help non-fiction writers if you can find writing prompts that cover your genre or subject matter. This can be a chore, but as they say, you can find just about anything on the Internet. There are plenty of useful sites on the web which list hundreds of writing prompts for your convenience.
One of the best websites for this purpose is CreativeWritingPrompts.com. Currently, they list 236 creative writing prompts, all of which are one or two sentences long. You don’t even have to click on links to get to them; just roll your mouse over the number and the writing prompt is displayed.
Some of the writing prompts at CreativeWritingPrompts.com are a little out there, such as Write a story from the point of view of the last tree standing in a forest. Others can easily be developed into a full-length novel, such as What would be going on inside the head of a young executive nervously biting her nails?
As mentioned above, a wring prompt is not meant to give you characters, a plot and a riveting climax; instead, writing prompts get your motivated toward a new story idea. Many famous novelists-Stephen King included-have inferred that a great novel idea doesn’t stem from a plot, but instead from a situation.
In fact, you don’t even need to use pre-designed writing prompts to get your creative juices flowing. Come up with your own writing prompts! Start asking yourself What If? questions, and eventually you’ll come up with something interesting. For example, what if you came home from work one day and found a mysterious old lady sitting on your porch? That could turn into a wonderful novel if you combine it with plausible circumstances and an interesting direction.
Once you’ve found an acceptable writing prompt-either from an Internet source or from your own mind-you can start to formulate a story. Given the above example, you’ll want to determine what the old lady wants. Is she a harbinger of good news or bad? What secrets does she have to tell your main character? And what kind of adventure are they going to embark upon together?
Sometimes, a writing prompt can be a relatively small part of your story; it doesn’t have to be the main situation. For example, maybe the woman sitting on the main character’s front porch is the opening scene of the novel. From there, the main character is woven into a strange sequence of events which puts his or her life in peril. The details are up to you.
If you are still struggling with finding decent writing prompts, you can also visit WritersDigest.com/writingprompts.asp. They have daily writing prompts which allow you to write your version and submit it to their forums for critique by other writers. While this is more of a journaling activity, you never know where a writing prompt might lead.