The Beauty of the Writing Prompt

2016-02-15 10.52.58 (1)A few months ago, when I was suffering through winter finals, I had this little image of how my summer would go. I pictured me, my laptop, birds chirping, and much needed writing time for those larger projects that had somehow fallen through the cracks.

With jobs, an internship, summer classes, and social life, the time I thought I’d have for writing was as non-existent as it ever was. The reality is that life gets in the way. You don’t always have the time you thought you would, and some of those projects you really wanted to push through end up getting buried under other responsibilities.

This summer, in order to keep my creativity flowing, I’ve started using writing prompts. There are a few things I love about them. The first is that they don’t take up a huge chunk of my time. If I have fifteen minutes before class or when I’m on lunch a work, I fill about a page and a half.

Second reason I love them is because there is no real commitment. When I start a prompt, I usually don’t really give it too much thought. I’m not trying to tie in plot or world build. I let all the crazy ideas that have building up flow out onto the paper. It’s usually in that moment when I get some sort of spark to boost a larger project.

Writing prompts are like the warm ups you do before playing the game. They give you the option to place your characters in situations they’d never find themselves. This will help you figure out who your character is what you want them to show your readers. You can even invent new characters and explore genres you don’t write. The most important aspect of these exercises is the fact that you’re training your brain. When it comes to creativity, sometimes you have to be able to come up with ideas on the spot or with little preparation at all.

Although there are dozens of them out there, here are three of my favorite types:

  1. Situation Prompt: These type will give you a mood or situation that your character has found themselves in. Usually the protagonist is referred to as “you”, but this doesn’t mean you have to incorporate yourself into the story.

You wake up to find a man sitting at the foot of your bed. He’s dressed in black and has a revolver. What he tells you has you fearing for your life.

  1. Dialogue Prompt: This can be a little tricky. There will only be one or two lines of dialogue and you aren’t told who’s saying them or what type of environment they are in. This is great for practice on character personality development and world building.

“You know this is crazy, right?”

“Isn’t it great?”

  1. Character Prompt: Here you are given the description of a character, or there might be more than one character. What you have your character(s) do and say will help with character development. This is also a good practice for character description.

Everyday a man in a brown trench coat comes to the same diner, sits in the same seat. Today, he sits at the counter.

These prompts are just some I came up with off the top of my head. If you want better ones, I’d suggest going to writersdigest.com. A daily writing prompt is loaded on their website every morning. This allows you to post a short story in the comments for other writers and editors to read your work. Pinterest is also a great place to find prompts. It’s where I find most of the ones I use.

You don’t have to dedicate yourself to a writing prompt. It’s merely a tool meant to help boost creativity and confidence in your writing, exercise your writing skills, and train your brain to switch on its creativity at any moment.

– Sharnita Sanders

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