The following prompts come from the book Q&A A Day for Writers: 365 Questions for Creative Exploration. Enjoy!
John Barth once remarked: “My feeling about technique in art is that it has about the same value as technique in lovemaking. That is to say, heartfelt ineptitude has its appeal and so dos heartless skill; but what you want is passionate virtuosity.” Use this to prompt a free-write.
You’re visiting a new friend’s house for the first time, and they’re making dinner. You find yourself alone in the kitchen and lift the lid off the pot on the stove. To your horror, ___________ is inside. Fill in the blank and the rest of the scene.”
Picture yourself on a path in the woods. Now something appears. Describe it all.
Write an apology as a short poem.
Try to place yourself at the moment of a baby’s birth. Focus on the emotions in the room during a calm birth, or create a scene of dramatic arrival.
An authority figure is drenched in water. What just happened?
Thomas Edison liked to use hypnagogia — the liminal state between wakefulness and sleep — to his benefit by dozing in a chair with a bottle in his hand. When his muscles relaxed (the transition from lucid dreaming to sleep), the bottle would thump to the floor, waking him up to take advantage of thoughts that would have otherwise escaped him. Try it and record the experience.
Let’s take a spin through the Seven Deadly Sins. Write what comes to mind after each prompt. Today: an eighty-year-old woman shocked by her own lust.
Let’s take a spin through the Seven Deadly Sins. Write what comes to mind after each prompt. Today: a woman petrified by gluttony.
Let’s take a spin through the Seven Deadly Sins. Write what comes to mind after each prompt. Today: a ten-year-old awakening to his greed.
Let’s take a spin through the Seven Deadly Sins. Write what comes to mind after each prompt. Today: a day trader with secret sloth.
Let’s take a spin through the Seven Deadly Sins. Write what comes to mind after each prompt. Today: a quiet bookstore clerk who is hired for “wrath channeling” on the side.
Let’s take a spin through the Seven Deadly Sins. Write what comes to mind after each prompt. Today: a man who obsessively — and awkwardly — names his envy to the person he’s envious of.
Let’s take a spin through the Seven Deadly Sins. Write what comes to mind after each prompt. Today: someone endangered by another person’s pride.
Beware the Ides of March. If there were a holiday for betrayal (or soothsaying), this would be it. Write about a moment of betrayal in your own life.
“A writer who waits for the ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper,” said E.B. White. Congratulations on writing today. Now go ahead and describe your ideal conditions.
Jot down something crazy you’ve seen a drunk person do, or something audacious (and perhaps ill-advised) you’ve done under the influence of liquid courage.
What does the phrase “an act of righteous defiance” conjure up in your mind?
A beautiful leather valise is sitting on your bed. You pick up the luggage tag and read: Emotional Baggage. What’s inside?
An ekphrastic poem creates a vivid depiction of an artwork, often with the poet amplifying or expanding upon the content of the original piece. This method can be applied to almost any medium, from sculpture to film. See John Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn” as a primary example, then attempt your own ekphrasis.
Spring has sprung. Listen to Antonio Vivaldi’s Spring and The Four Seasons and write what comes to mind as you do it.
In a 1754 letter, Horace Walpole explained his concept of Serendipity, coined from a fairytale called The Three Princes of Serendip (an old name for Sri Lanka), in which the royals were “always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.” Record one of your own experiences of serendipity.
What does your last name mean? Where does it come from? Imagine the first person who bore this name and write about how he or she got it.
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” — Joseph Campbell
Which of your favorite heroes from literature does this describe?
He yelled, “Do not try and play Ping Pong with a manic depressive!” Write more dialogue from this conversation.
Shel Silverstein built a whole book upon spoonerisms, in which the beginnings of two words are swapped. Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook features Runny, whose parents Dummy and Mad, often remind him to “shake a tower,” or “dash the wishes.” Have some fun coming up with amusing spoonerisms of your own.
If you could send a message to any deceased person, what would you say and to whom?
Think of a time when you were disoriented. Perhaps you were woken up from sleep, injured, or jet-lagged in a foreign country. How can you tranlsate this experience into a dramatic one?
Write an accelerated story — cram as much action and description as you can into an event that lasts just ten seconds in real time.
Search the word peace on Pinterest, and choose your own writing adventure based on something you find there.
Think of a major celebrity, and inhabit that celebrity’s mind on a day when they are dying to get a cup of coffee without being recognized.