Writing Prompts

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147 articles found

Sing it

  Take a line from your favorite song and incorporate it into a short story. Let the song’s style set the rhythm of your narrative. Dance to the song or sing it out loud (and with feeling) to get a sense of its spirit and rhythm. Can’t pick a favorite? Try these: “Every time when …

Published: November 4, 2016

Tricks and treats

In parts of the U.S. and Canada, Mischief Night – also known as Gate Night and Cabbage Night – is celebrated on the eve of Halloween with tricks and pranks. Use this setting to develop a conflict between two or more characters: neighbors, friends or lovers. Who tricks whom? How do the events of that …

Published: October 28, 2016

Graveyard shift

A character enters a cemetery, but not to visit a grave or attend a funeral. Why is the character there? Who or what does the character encounter? Create an unconventional graveyard scene with a surprising outcome. Describe the cemetery sights and develop atmosphere through sound and weather.

Published: October 21, 2016

1,000 words: Tunnel vision

Our “1,000 Words” writing prompts take a picture – beautiful, wacky, abstract, or otherwise – and ask the writer to write whatever comes to mind. Fiction? Poetry? Essay? The choice is yours, scribes. Just start writing.

Published: October 7, 2016

Masters of writing

Drawing from the lives of actual writers can add intrigue to a story. For instance: Raymond Carver, Marilynne Robinson, Frank Conroy, and Paul Harding have all passed through the Iowa Writers’ Workshop either as students or teachers. Imagine a scene in which this group – or other real-life writers in an academic setting – reveal …

Published: September 30, 2016

Think small

Write a short story or poem told from the perspective of this ant.

Published: September 23, 2016

Dangerous dish

  Write a story that begins with a neighborhood or family potluck. What dish does each person bring? What does the food selection reveal about the individual? What underlying or external conflicts arise during the get-together? Add taste, sound, colors, and climate to the picture.

Published: September 16, 2016

First day of school

The first day of school. We’ve all gone through it – getting lost in a new building, trouble with a locker combination, bad outfits, summer dreams coming to fruition (or not), new friends, horror stories. Write a first-person account of your most memorable first day of school, maintaining the innocence, naivety, wisdom and mind-set of …

Published: September 9, 2016

The core of the matter

“With an apple I will astonish Paris.” —Paul Cezanne Post-impressionist painter Paul Cezanne transformed the 20th century art world by making simple objects extraordinary. Write a scene or short story in which an ordinary object such as an apple or clothespin plays an astonishing role in your character’s future. How can you transform something conventional …

Published: September 1, 2016