Please Prompt Me

I am tasked with coming up with some writing prompts. I’m promptly challenged.

This is a topic I’ve talked about before, but keep coming back to. A wonderful, artistic friend, Lisa, over at sent me writing prompts on a regular basis and I had fun with those. What I found, though, was that I picked the topics that interested me rather than ones that challenged me as a writer. I’d grab something fun, scribble a little, and feel like I met my obligation. I learned that those fun little interludes were great for warming up my brain so I could then dive into whatever my work in progress was. Rather like priming the pump.

I can also see lots of uses for them. To warm you up, as I mentioned above. To make you think about specific ways to write something you might normally struggle with, such as setting, description, dialog, etc. To force you to try a different style than what your normally do, such as present tense, first person, and so on. So I see them as beneficial even though, as I confessed above, I might not take advantage of these as I should.

One conference I attended gave us prompts with five minutes to write each one. For a half hour session she gave us four prompts, which meant she only had ten minutes that she had to actually speak to us. Supposedly the prompts were to encourage us to free-style write, to release the subconscious. Personally, my problem has always been more reining in that rampaging subconscious and imagination. For this upcoming event, I definitely do not want the audience looking at prompts as filler for speakers who have nothing to say.

A more relevant question for me at the moment though, is what should the prompt be? Reminds me of a creative writing course I took many, many years ago. The teacher told us to write about a peanut. I thought that was silly until I wrote and had fun. But really, trying to come up with an original prompt that will stimulate the imagination, not be something that’s been done thousands of times before, and that actually challenges a writer…well, I’m clueless.

Though I’m fascinated by asking writers to write a scene in a tense they normally don’t write in, because writing in present tense is so difficult for the majority of writers. I do believe, pondering prompts in this blog has given me at least one idea.

And I’d love your thoughts on prompts in general.