The following prompts come from the book Q&A A Day for Writers: 365 Questions for Creative Exploration. Enjoy!
Steven Brust wrote: “Because here’s the thing: No matter how much one tells stories of magical beasts or impossible worlds, in the end, it is always the world of here and now one is writing about. The better one understands that world, the more powerful the stories will be.” Write about your here and now to prepare for fantasy worlds in the future.
What associations does the world fall bring up for you?
Peruse jobstr.com, a site where you can ask real people questions about their work. Poke around until you find inspiration, and maybe even ask something of a private eye, a football official, or a forensic scientist. Record it here.
Do you know the old saw about dogs and their owners? Think up a dog and create an owner to match.
What is your strongest personal quality? Do you find this question hard to answer? Why?
Think of a susurrus sound (such as a whisper or the gentle rustle of curtains or palm fronds in a breeze). Free write about that sound here.
According to Christopher Booker, there are only seven plots: tragedy, comedy, overcoming the monster, voyage and return, quest, rags to riches, and rebirth. Try to list a book or a film that fits into each category.
Walking along a deserted street, you notice writing carved into the cement. What does it say?
Complete this thought: “The greatest tragedy is…”
How do you make someone else’s life better this week?
Take a stab at finishing these half-written proverbs: “One need not devour a whoel chicken to…” (China). “A smiling face is half the…” (Latvia). “A full cabin is better than…” (Ireland). “He who builds according to everyone’s advice…” (Netherlands). “An ignorant person is simply….” (Syria).
Can you grin and bear it? Look back on an embarrassing memory and try to retell it with humor.
Think about the littoral, the part of a beach exposed only at low tide. As the tide goes out, what objects do you discover?
What is a theme that often comes up in your writing and where do you think it is born from?
D.H. Lawrence once said, “I like to write when I feel spiteful. It is like having a good sneeze.” Write about a time you felt spiteful. (Spiteful: vengeful, mean, nasty…)
If you could personify your relationship to money as a relationship with a romantic partner, what would that be like?
Think about a familiar place in your day-to-day existence. If it happened to be haunted, what kind of ghost would inhabit this space?
“You have a great need for other people to like and admire you, which may be the root of the critical thoughts you have about yourself. Some of your aspirations are unrealistic, but confidence in your untapped potential means you won’t give up on your dreams just yet.” This is an example of a Barnum Statement (named after P.T.), which is vague and general enough to apply to most people. Try writing one yourself.
If you were to write a story about today’s zeitgeist, what would be its central conceit?
In either a movie or a real-life wedding ceremony, you’ve likely heard this line: “Should anyone here present know of any reason that this couple should not be joined in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace.” Sometimes it’s almost disappointing when nothing happens at that would-be climax. Rather than stopping a real-life wedding, do it here instead.
The Germans have a name for the feeling of solitude that only comes from being alone in the woods: Waldeinsamkeit. What does Waldeinsamkeit feel like for you?
Write about a narcissist you know. Maybe it’s yourself?
Can you recall a memorable birthday celebration — yours or someone else’s? What was at the heart of making it great?
“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it,” wrote C.S. Lewis in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Start a name bank to draw upon when you need a new character. Try to fill this space with first and last names that are evocative for you. Baby name generators and phone directories can help if you get stuck.
Do you think anyone can become a writer, or is there an essential quality of thinking, reflection, or something else that is innate in people who are talented writers? Has writing always — to some degree — come naturally to you?
“Speaking in tongues” is the fluid vocalizing of speech-like syllables that don’t communicate shared meaning, although some regard it as a divine language that’s known only to the speaker. How could you write a scene with glossolalia? How would you describe it?
Create a list of fortunes to be unwrapped in a fortune cookie.
Sometimes the truth is indeed stranger than fiction. What is the strangest, most coincidental, or hardest to explain thing that’s happened to you or a friend? Write it out.
“The Proustian memory effect” describes the phenomenon of scent triggering a flood of memories, so named for the evocative description of madeleine biscuits tied to Proust’s childhood in Remembrance of Things Past. (Look up the passage on madeleines for inspiration). Which scent has done this for you? Or work backward, thinking of childhood memories and trying to conjure scents with them.
What kind of associations do you have with the word activist? Do those associations change whether the person is male or female? Black or white?
As morbid as it may sound, the universality of death lends itself to great literature. To wit, in 2011, all thirteen novels nominated for the Booker Prize shared a death-related plotline. Your task today: write a death scene.