Writing Prompts

Writing Prompts

Prompt: A relative, who left unexpectedly without telling anyone, shows up at your door.

     Writing prompts are meant to spark the mind, make creative thoughts flow. I’ve tried using writing prompts but for some reason my writers mind has a natural aversion to them. I feel like I’m writing someone elses story not my own. I’ve even tried it with poetry. No matter what, it always seems forced and unnatural. I’ve just resolved with myself that my mind doesn’t work that way and don’t push it.

Via Flickr by waterlilysage

     On the other hand I like visual prompts. I use a lot of images in my posts and stories and at some point during the week I often see one that sparks something. Usually I set it aside or note it for later. Take for example this image above. It’s a picture of sage. The moment I saw this I thought of my yard and all the growth that will be sprouting up-which also means the my battle with the weeds. An idea popped into my mind to write a flash fiction from the perspective of a weed and how it keeps getting dug up, when all it wants to do is show its splendor.

     I’ve noticed a lot of folks out there use writing prompts and was wondering if any of you find yourself in a similar situation as me?

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21 Comments Add yours

  1. Panda Wolf says:

    I can’t say I share your exact feelings, but I do agree that inspiration from other’s writing can quickly become plagiarism in our minds. I love a good writing prompt, seeing as they’re just ways to get you started, but I also understand your concern.

    It’s a much better feeling when the inspiration comes spontaneously, but I always think to myself that no matter what I write, there’s a big chance that in some other time, place or language my idea had already been born. Which isn’t a bad thing at all! As long as you believe that what you write is yours because you worked hard on it, it’ll always belong to you.

    1. laradunning says:

      Yes, I have heard that said at writing conferences that all ideas are based upon general stories-its only the characters that truly make them unique. I’ve noticed alot of #fridayflash lately has been inspired by writing prompts. I like what I read so it obviously works for alot of writers. You’ve touched on something I hadn’t thought of before. Maybe its the lack of spontaneity of the writing prompt that puts my mind on hold. That’s something to think on for sure.

  2. Charlotte says:

    I’m glad to know it isn’t just me. So many writers I know love writing prompts but they’ve never worked for me. I stare at a line like the one above and nothing happens.

    About visual prompts, though? I don’t know. I’m not even sure where half my ideas come from: sometimes they seem to just spring into my mind fully-formed, and while I know there must have been a source, I’ve no idea what it was.

    That means it’s hard to find a way to actively generate ideas. As a result, I keep notebooks and pens all over my house. When I get one of those odd flashes of inspiration it gets written down immediately. I then use my notebooks as my prompts.

    It works so far, though I dread the day my brain stops blessing me with these little bits and pieces and I dry up. Hope it never happens!

    1. laradunning says:

      Thank goodness I’m not the only one 🙂 I always seem to read a lot of flash from writing prompts and I was begining to feel like I was on the fringe. Your comment about the pens and notebooks all over your house made me smile. Brought to mind a scene from Little Women when the profesor said “When I first saw you I said now she is a writer” Joe blushes and says something like “Really? how?” He picks up her hand and points to her finger. Her index finger is covered in ink.

  3. Writing prompts are great when something clicks. Otherwise, it’s a bit like trying to remember something: the harder one tries, the more shrouded in the murk of obscurity it becomes. Occasionally, as is the case while trying to remember something, it is in the not-trying when that light bulb moment rush of thought comes. It is in that instance when writing prompts are most satisfying.
    Most of the ideas found on FlashTold started life in a 3×5 spiral bound notebook I carry with me much of the time. I suppose it’s a personal ‘writing prompt’ filing system.

    1. laradunning says:

      I haven’t had a writing prompt that really clicked. I took a POV class and the instructor had us write from his prompts in different POV. I did it, but it I took the longest out of everyone to write because it felt like I was forcing the words to come out. I like your personal prompt system. Mine is not quite as organized, but I like the idea of a small notebook.

  4. Chuck Allen says:

    I think I’m the same way. I love photo prompts but really struggle with a word prompt. I try to do some of both just to push me a little bit, but I definitely prefer the photo. That’s also one reason I’m thankful for camera phones. I snap pictures of random objects with my phone when I find them interesting. That way I can mull it over and later write a story about it.

    1. laradunning says:

      Yes camera phones are great for on-the-go/instant shots. I’ve taken a few myself for that purpose as well.

  5. I use writing prompts as posts for my blog. A word or a phrase, an old story or poem and I also use a great deal of my daughter’s photography as prompts.

    So naturally, I love the way you use pictures for prompts 🙂 Great Question.

  6. Aidan Fritz says:

    I usually think of myself like Igor the Neanderthal. Idea smash. Idea smash. I’ll take multiple ideas and smush them together. Like recently I took the idea of Clowns in a hearse (like clowncar except with coffins), clowns are scary, and Westboro Baptist Church and mushed them all together into a nice bit of dark fantasy.

    I particularly like writing flash to work on improving craft and sometimes I’m just looking for an idea that will allow me to work on the specific point of craft I’ve decided to improve.

    1. laradunning says:

      I like to use flash to work on improving craft as well. The shortness allows you to get to the meat of what you are trying to accomplish.

  7. Pam Parker says:

    I tend to work better with word-based prompts myself, but I have several writer friends who are more sparked by images. It’s good you’ve found what works for you.

  8. Jimmy Stille says:

    I garner very little inspiration from writing prompts. As a matter of fact, I find that they hinder me more than help. I too use many photos in my blog posts. When I write werewolf action scenes, a good photo of a werewolf in an attack pose is virtually a necessity. Not a photo to include in the book, rather to keep me focused on the scene. It is easy to lose control of a werewolf in a frenzy, especially when you are trying to save your poor hero from being torn completely to bits. One of my werewolves was killed by a tall cypress knee that I just happened to have a beautiful photo of. Inspiration sometimes comes from unlikely sources.

  9. dannigrrl says:

    I like writing prompts. I’ve written several of my flash from prompts: phrases, a single word (like “Sorry”), or photos. I’m in the middle of my second series and I’m using “A Time For Everything” as my prompts each week. I used to have a hard time with them, but the longer I do flash, the more I love them. I like finding the challenge in them and have even had a few special requests for stories based on photos along the way. For flash, they work very well for me.

  10. Helen says:

    I do like writing prompts and I use them all the time. I do a little exercise a couple of times each week where the prompt is one word I have found these most useful. I also like visual prompts and write my Drabbles from these.

    Most of what I write in flash, short stories even poems come from either writing prompts or visuals – only my novels don’t. Long live the prompt I say :O)

    1. laradunning says:

      Visual prompts work well for me. One that you used for ballet shoes inspried me to write a short. I noticed that you used the word Drabbles. Never heard that before, I like it.

  11. Helen says:

    Oh you liked my painting of ballet shoes, please do go ahead and use it. A Drabble is a piece of fiction no longer than 100 words. I’ve just started doing them.

    1. laradunning says:

      Good to know, thanks. That might be something I could do this summer while it is more hectic with family stuff. I’m working on the end of my ballet piece. I really like how it is shaping up. Starting out warm and cozy and ending on a rather scary note.

  12. Helen says:

    Oh I shall look forward to reading it!

  13. You make a great point in this post.

    Writing prompts are a starting point. They’re great for avoiding the blank-page phobia that affects so many writers. But it’s so important not to let them dictate your writing. If you’re wandering away from the original prompt, that’s great! It means you’ve found your inspiration and are running with it.

    I love writing poems in response to prompts. Usually, the poem bears only a very small resemblance to the original prompt. The prompt is useful in generating ideas, but there is a lot of selective development that goes on after that.

    Images can make great prompts. It’s often easier to describe something you can actually see than something imagined.

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