Whether you have writers block, looking for ideas for a new piece of fiction or blog post or just plain itching to write something, creative writing prompts and more importantly knowing how to use them can generate endless ideas.
These are my top ten creative writing prompts, that can drive a Panzer tank through any writer’s block.
Prompt 1. Random word generators
Go get your dictionary and a pin, flick through it and stick the pin in a page a few times to generate a few random words. Once you have these words use them as a basis for your fiction. If you don’t have a dictionary or don’t want to put lots of little holes in it, there are sites out there that can generate the words for you. I favour Creativitygames.com’s random word generator.
Prompt 2. TV guide mix up
Pick up your TV guide and your trusty pin and let it wander through the pages of the tv listings. Let your pin point out a TV program listing. The description of the program you selected is your prompt. Soap operas, and episodic programs work best for this as the descriptions are often quite small i.e.“Betty comes home from the clinic with a surprise for Oscar” etc.
If you randomly choose a film, especially a very well-known one it may be difficult to think around it and may be worth choosing again. Also, don’t feel confined by the program and what you may know of it think of only the words in the description. In the above example there’s no reason Betty can’t be a baboon space adventure coming back from a clinic on Zargon 5. It’s there to get your juices flowing.
Prompt 3. iPod shuffle
As demonstrated here on a Flash Fiction challenge by Chuck Wendig, another way for generating a creative writing prompt is to use the random function on your iPod, Spotify account, smart phone etc. to randomly choose a song. The song title or the lyrics of the song itself become your writing prompt, even the album cover itself could be used as inspiration. You could even play the song repeatedly while you write the fiction, and then get the band tattooed on your…. maybe not.
Prompt 4. Picture search
Hand-mash the keyboard in a Google/Yahoo/Bing image search and click ‘search’. This will give you a whole host of usually quite random images. Take the first one shown (or another one you can see if it really gets your mind running) and hey presto there’s your story prompt.
Prompt 5. Free-writing
A well-known technique for getting the creativity oozing is Free writing. Set your self a time that you will write for, set an alarm or timer accordingly and then write. No planning, no pausing, no spell-checking (that can be done later); you just keep writing until the alarm or buzzer goes off. Even if it ends up just being “Oh my god, I need a pretzel” written several hundred times on the page. The times are best left being quite short, like 5-10 minutes as you will not be pausing once you get going, and the longer the time the more likely you are to stop and think about where it’s going.
Prompt 6. Perspective Shift
The next two writing prompts rely on you already having a previously written piece of fiction, ideally flash as it’s easier to re-read and acquaint yourself with. The first is Perspective Shift. Re-write the piece of fiction but from an entirely different perspective. If the story was about the hero stopping a bank-robber, write fiction based on that but from the robber’s perspective, or maybe a cashier, or a Highland Terrier who’s just about to cock his leg when it all goes off. Find a different angle, and explore things in a new way.
Prompt 7. The Sequel
For this idea you need to continue from the end of a piece of fiction you’ve already written. It doesn’t matter if everything was all tied up into a neat little package, and continuing the story would be the worst idea ever. As long as it gets you writing, it’s a good thing. Using the example above about the bank robber; Once the bank robber has been caught by the hero, what does he do? Go home to his loving family, cry from the adrenaline still in his system or go and indulge himself in a night of S&M, drugs and banana milkshakes. This also works well with Prompt 6. Perspective Shift, you could continue the story but from an entirely different perspective as well.
Prompt 8. Impossible Situations
One of my favourites. First think of an impossible situation. It’s best to describe the situation as briefly as possible, so ‘trapped in a room with radio-active gerbils’ is usually enough info. Then, and you may need to refer to a random word generator for this, randomly write down the name of an object. Now all you need to do is write a character out of this situation using the object. You can be as sensible or as silly as you want with this.
For example, getting out of the radio-active gerbil room using only a banana could be as simple as having the gerbils being afraid of bananas, or the banana could be part of a huge string of chaos theory that ultimately ends in the escape of the hero.
Prompt 9. Change the ending
I think everyone has read the ending of a book, or seen the ending of the film and though ‘Pfff that’s rubbish it would be better if…’ Well, this is your chance to make things better. If at the end of Citizen Kane you want alien face-huggers to turn up and impregnate everyone write about it. Rather than Ripley getting into the mechanical loader and fighting the alien queen, you’d prefer it if they opened up their own Millinery shop together, the power is yours.
Best stated that the above should only be used as mind-lubricants rather than real novel ideas. I suspect people may object, if you mess around with classics. Then again Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a darn good read.
Prompt 10. Random story prompt websites
You’re still not unblocked? Well, if the above nine writing prompts don’t boil your pasta, there are a lot of websites out there that offer tools for generating prompts and random subjects. The one I favour is Seventh Sanctum but like I said there are a lot.
So there you have it, my top ten creative writing prompt exercises that are almost certain to get rid of any writer’s block you may have, and if not they are at least a distraction that can help you forget about it for a while. Creative Writing exercises like these can be used in isolation or mashed together to create one MechaGodzilla of an exercise, there are also far more ways than I could ever mention in one post. The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter which exercise you choose as long as it helps you to create something.