A post by Kristyn Fetterman, Writestream Publishing Contributor.
If you have ever taken a creative writing class, odds are you are very familiar with writing prompts. Although they are commonly used in classroom settings, prompts can be a great tool for writers of any genre or style. In fact, if you identify with a specific genre or writing style, writing prompts can help you expand your horizons and write outside of your comfort zone. They are exceptionally beneficial when suffering from writer’s block or blank-page syndrome. There are different kinds of writing prompts used to spark creativity. Most of them fall into the following categories:
This type of writing prompt is probably the most common one you will encounter. It is exactly what it says it is, the first line of your story. This type of prompt can be anywhere from a couple of words to a few sentences. The goal of first-line prompts is to start off your story. Using the content provided, you are supposed to finish the story. It can be interesting in a group setting to see the different perspectives and see where each person takes the narrative. An example of this sort of prompt might be…
She tiptoed up the creaky staircase that led to the attic. She could not ignore the knocking anymore. Hesitating at the top step, she reached for the handle….
Open-ended prompts can be compared to essay topics that teachers would give out in school. They often start with the words “Write about…” or “Describe…” and provide more information than any other type. An open-ended prompt would likely provide you with a scenario, character, setting, object, or situation for you to write about or include in your story. It is frequently used as a self-reflecting journal prompt or as a vehicle for writers to connect random objects, characters, or ideas within a single story. For example:
Write about your perfect world. Describe the place you would be, the people you would surround yourself with and the life you would be living.
This type of prompt is also self-explanatory. Question prompts will do just that…ask a question for you to answer within your story. These prompts may commonly provide you with some background or a situation for creative purposes but the questions are supposed to be the sole idea of your story. A question prompt may look something like this…
You are granted access to the only time machine that exists on the planet. You are able to go back in time only once for two hours. You can choose any place and any time you want. Where do you go, what date and time, and what do you do when you get there?
This type of prompt is simply just an image. Your goal is to write a story inspired by or based on that image. The great thing about this type of prompt is that they are all around you. Any image can inspire a story and every writer has at one point seen an image that made them spiral into a story. Try using this image to create a story…
While there are hundreds of sites out there that will provide you with thousands of writing prompts including this one, this one and this one, it can also be great to write your own! It could be a great opportunity to use all of those ideas scribbled on napkins. Remember, start in the middle of the action!