The following prompts come from the book Q&A A Day for Writers: 365 Questions for Creative Exploration. Enjoy!
Give a character immortal life. What are his or her main struggles?
Choose an artwork from which you can spin a story.
For his book In Cold Blood, Truman Capote could have written, “Nothing of note had ever happened here.” Instead he wrote, “Like the waters of the river, like the motorists on the highway, and like the yellow trains streaking down the Santa Fe tracks, drama, in the shape of exceptional happenings, had never stopped there.” Try to “Capote” a simple concept in a single sentence by creating an extended simile as he has done here.
Do pets have inner lives? Imagine a cat or a dog or another pet, and tell us what they are thinking about.
Imagine a waiting area of some sort. There is a person there, fidgeting. Give this person a reason for his or her anxiety, but in writing the descriptive scene, leave out the reason and see if it comes through anyway.
Research is often a crucial part of writing. Look up something you’re curious about, or use Wikipedia’s “random article” button until you come across something of interest. Write a brief summary of what you’ve discovered.
Can you think of a colloquialism that represents the informal language of a particular place and use it as dialogue? For example, a character from Down East Maine might say, “Just because a cat has her kittens in the oven don’t make them biscuits; she might have lived here ten years but she’ll always be from away.”
Take a God’s-eye view to describe yourself without using your name, physical qualities, or attributes assigned to you by family/friends/society. Who are you deep down?
It’s time to judge a book by its cover. Pull a favorite novel from your shelf and take in the cover design at face value. How would you imagine the story based solely on this impression?
If you were to write a blog devoted to a single esoteric topic, what would it be? Create a sample post here.
Record a story from a veteran you know or have heard about.
Write about a chance encounter between two strangers.
Find a friend’s status update on social media. Now build a brief story off that status.
A fight is taking place in the kitchen. Describe everything but the people.
Sylvia Plath said, “Everything in life is writeable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Write a positive affirmation for yourself today.
What was the subject and context of your last rant? If you’re not much of a ranter, when was the last time you made someone else really laugh?
You have a terrible taste in your mouth. What’s it from?
If you had your pick between writing a feature article for GQ, The Atlantic, National Geographic, or Wired, which magazine would you choose and what would your piece investigate?
Think of a route you often travel. Now describe the journey only through sound. If it helps, pretend as though you’re blindfolded in a friend’s car, or if a kidnapping scenario is more motivating, imagine that.
What have you done in the name of love? Something rash, silly, or bold? Or have not but wished you had?
Write a six-word memoir for yourself or someone else.
Finish this sentence: “You don’t know how difficult it was when…”
Groucho Marx was a one-liner king, giving us such gems as “I never forget a face, but in your case I’ll be glad to make an exception” and “I don’t want to belong to any club that will have me as a member.” Try out your own one-liner.
What time of day are you most productive and what conditions or rituals seem to help?
Say you come into a considerable sum of money. What is something extravagant you would do for someone else? Would you do this type of thing only for friends and family, or would you extend the act to strangers?
Write about a time you felt ashamed — whether or not the feeling was justified.
Describe a person through the marginalia of their life, either the kinds of notes they leave in novels or details from the edges of their life, like where they leave their keys at night or what their fridge or medicine cabinet looks like.
Think of a simple, physical act — throwing a ball against a wall, dropping a ceramic plate to the ground, etc. Now describe that act and its consequences in detail.
What kind of op-ed could you submit to your local paper? (Hint: it helps to pick a topic that you either know a lot about or have a personal relationship with.)
Use the phrase “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” as the jumping off point for a confession.