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What are writing prompts?
Writing prompts (or story starters) are sentences or short paragraphs, snippets of dialogue, character or setting ideas, or even images, that kick-start the creative process.
The purpose of the prompt is to inspire ideas in the mind from which you can start writing. There are literally thousands on the internet (Pinterest is a quick and easy place to find and save them for future reference) and you can take or leave what you like.
Not all prompts work for all people. What sparks you to pick one up might be a non-starter for me, just as what I’m excited about might be bland to you. It all depends on our different life-experiences, interests, and sometimes just the time of day or frame of mind we’re in at that particular moment. Images might be a stronger inspiration for you, or text might be your thing. Give both a go and use what really lights you up.
An effective prompt will give just enough to ignite your imagination without leading all those who use it down too narrow a path. There should be a multitude of avenues open for exploration so we don't all end up writing subtle variations of essentially the same story.
In short, a writing prompt is the spark that ignites an inspirational fire for your creative process.
How I use writing prompts.
In the beginning (when I was young and just developing a taste for writing), I thought prompts were just for getting started on a story. That's how they were used in my high school writing class after all. Now I've discovered different ways my writing can benefit from prompts:
The main use for a prompt is to either begin a story (like a first line) or drive the idea for a story (perhaps a dramatic event), but over my years of writing, I’ve discovered they come in handy in other ways as I mentioned above. Writing prompts can lead in a myriad of directions, and it’s all driven by you. You may choose to write a poem from a prompt, a piece of flash fiction, a short story, or a full-blown 100,000 word epic. Just choose something that really grabs you.
If you’re stuck, try a prompt exercise. I like to challenge myself with ‘close your eyes and point,’ set a timer for say fifteen or thirty minutes, and push hard to create a captivating piece. Whatever prompt on screen that I've pointed to is the one I use. This is a fantastic exercise to challenge your creative mind and may even lead to a publishable piece (it has for me).
I'm a big fan of Pinterest, and not just for writing. I'll talk about this more in another post, but there are a few resource boards I've put together that will be of great use to you when looking for great writing prompts. Feel free to use my Pinterest boards Write! Prompts By Emily, or Write! Prompts (collected prompts sourced from across the internet) for this. You can find links to them both below). Write! Images for Inspiration contains thousands of images separated into useful sections to help you narrow down where you want to go. The beauty of Prompts By Emily is that they’re all numbered, so you can use a random number generator or pick a random number yourself before you open the board and let the universe decide!
So what next?
Now it’s time to go hunting for yourself. I’ve added 34 of my most popular prompts to this post as an exclusive printable PDF. Feel free to save it, share it, and use it as you like. Also, pop on over to Pinterest to see more fantastic prompts. My original prompts are on my Write! Prompts By Emily board. At the time of publishing this post it contains 245 little gems. The found prompts I love and have collected over time are filed under Write! Prompts. There are over 650 story starters there from a wide range of sources and covering a myriad of genres. Write! Imagery contains hundreds of inspiring images that are sure to capture the imagination.
Most importantly, have fun, be inspired, and get writing!
Click the file download below to claim your FREE printable pdf. It contains 34 of my most popular original prompts. This resource can't be found anywhere else, it's available exclusively for my wonderful readers!
If you’d like to know more about writing prompts, or if you’d like some more ideas for using them, let me know in the comments below. If you have favourite prompts that you think I’d like, or other ways of using prompts, please send them on through too. Pop on over to my Resources page for thousands of useful writing tools on a range of topics from getting started in writing, right through to publishing and marketing yourself. I’m all about sharing and helping other writers with their creative process, so please get in touch!
Wishing you all an inspired writing day!
Three quick examples using different prompt types...
A found prompt (from Pinterest):
I struggled up through the fog of sleep, thicker than usual, and with an unusually bitter taste in my mouth. When I sat up on the edge of the bare mattress my head spun like I'd been on the teacups ride at a themepark. I needed a drink, badly. An old sink with rusted taps hung against the wall. I splashed water on my face and started at the feel of short stubble on my cheeks. The hairs on my arms rose, a chill shot down my spine as I gazed down. These were the blunt-nailed, rough-skinned hands of a man, not my soft, immaculately manicured, genetically female
hands. I gripped the sink for balance. I looked into the mirror and I didn't see me. I saw a young man...
A dialogue prompt of my own creation:
I'd only been at the bar a matter of minutes before I turned down the first offer of a drink. The next followed close after, an older man taking the empty stool on my other side. He ordered himself a beer and another lemon, lime and vodka for me. He didn't ask if I wanted it; he created obligation by placing it next to my still half-full glass. As he leaned close his hand brushed my arm. Moist breath tainted with hops and onion foud my ear. I leaned away and slid the full glass toward him; a clear message.
"Oh, don't be like that, Love, it's a free drink! I'd be all over a free drink," a brow raised as his fingertips found my thigh, just below the hem of my skirt.
"As you can see, I'm perfectly capable of buying my own drink, and I don't plan to be 'all over' anything to do with you." I pushed his hand away.
"Sweetheart, I think you need to work on your manners," the hand slithered back.
I turned my face slowly toward him, my jaw set hard, fists balled in my lap to prevent his upward creep.
"I didn't think I was in the mood to kick anyone's arse tonight. All I wanted was a nice, quiet drink at the bar, but I swear, if you touch my leg one more time, I'm going to surprise myself, and you."
"Woah, hey now, Darlin, don't get your knickers in a knot, I'm just being friendly, offering my services..."
"Friendly? Try a sleazy, unwanted advance I've already rejected twice."
He opened his mouth to contradict me and I snapped. I whipped off my stool and grasped his hand, the thumb bent back hard toward his wrist...
From an image found on Pinterest:
Somewhere ahead I heard running water. Not the trickle of a stream, but the open echo of a larger source flowing with intent. The close tunnel of bush cracked open ahead of us, the light harsh after the dappled dimness of the trees. When I reached that opening I stopped dead in my tracks.
"You can't possibly expect me to cross that? You know I don't do bridges, any bridges, let alone that death-trap!"
My boyfriend leaned close, his warm hand on my shoulder. "It's perfectly safe. I scouted this walk out last week and had a good jump on it. Look, I'll show you now," he strode onto the planks with supreme trust and confidence. I could hardly even look at him when he bounced and swayed and held out a hand toward me. The vines creaked and twisted, matching the feel in my stomach. I no longer cared about the proposal I suspected he'd planned. He wouldn't get me to step on that bridge for anything, not even if my life depended on it.
Click the images below to access these awesome Pinterest boards for writing inspiration galore:
Hi, I'm Emily,
I'm an indie-published author and busy mum working hard to make my dreams come true.
I'm passionate about helping other beginner writers find confidence and get motivated to give their writing dreams a shot with help along the way.
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