Writing Prompts

66 articles found

Defrost

Winter is a time for stillness: hibernation, freezing, stagnation. Use a winter setting to represent these themes in a fictional story. Imagine a psychological or physical “polar vortex” that immobilizes a character and prevents forward progress. What causes the freeze? What keeps the character from reaching a certain goal? Identify what freezes your character—a clear …

Published: January 10, 2014

Writing resolutions

Before the clock strikes midnight, make a list of your writing wishes for the New Year. Will you find an agent? Complete the research for a nonfiction essay? Embark on a national book tour? Free write a list of your aspirations, no matter how big or small. Next, create a list of resolutions. What can …

Published: December 27, 2013

A midnight clear

A character steps outside on a snowy Christmas Eve night. The air is hushed, holiday lights twinkling, when he looks down and discovers something surprising on his steps. What does he find? How does it transform his perspective of the holiday? What happens next?

Published: December 20, 2013

Pin it!

When writer’s block strikes, swap words for pictures. Photo posting sites such as Pinterest, Juxtapost and WeHeartIt allow users to collect and organize images on a digital inspiration board. Find photos of your setting, like a gritty city street or the cool Appalachian Mountains. Pin photographs of people who resemble your characters, either in mood or …

Published: December 13, 2013

What’s your sign?

According to Western astrology, date of birth can affect a person’s emotional makeup. Explore the signs of the zodiac and the key personality traits that belong to each. Now imagine a character who embodies one of these signs. Is he an independent and impulsive Aries? A loyal but jealous Scorpio? A sensitive Pisces with a …

Published: December 6, 2013

Black Friday blues

The store doors are about to open, and a line of shoppers has formed out front. Get inside their minds. What items are they most eager to buy? What do those products reveal about their characters? What was their Thanksgiving Day like, and how does that affect their subsequent behavior? Describe the scene that unfolds …

Published: November 29, 2013

Turkey time

A family gathers around the dining room table for Thanksgiving dinner. The kitchen door opens, and someone (or something) unexpected appears. Who or what has arrived? Use dialogue to explore the tensions of the moment. Experiment with point of view. Is the story told best as third person omniscient or from the perspective of one …

Published: November 22, 2013

View from Above

A woman sits on her apartment fire escape, observing the busy city street below. What does she notice first? What does she not see? Explore her character through her perspective and observations. How do her observations influence what she does next in the story?

Published: November 15, 2013

A Veteran’s Tale

In the heat of combat, a soldier witnesses a love story. What does the soldier see? How does he or she react? Use setting and environment to influence the action. Is he exposed on a battlefield, flying a fighter jet or viewing the conflict from a different perspective? In what war is she fighting? How …

Published: November 8, 2013

He said, she said

Write the first draft of a scene using only dialogue: no speaker tags or actions. What can you convey about the characters through their voices or interaction? Avoid the temptation to use dialogue for exposition or back story. Instead, focus on developing character. Let what’s said—or not said—build tension and reveal the workings of a …

Published: October 25, 2013