Monday, July 25, 2011

Make a Splash with Summer Writing Prompts

by Stacy Tritt

Summer heat fried your writer’s brain? Bust through writer’s block with these fun prompts!

1. First Line Revamp:

Take the first line of one of your old stories, poems, novels or nonfiction piece and try to take it in a new direction. Or, borrow someone else's first line to get you started. Here are a few you can use, but please, don't get in trouble for copyright infringement; make sure to make these your own or credit the author.

· “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”—Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

· Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

· “I am an invisible man.” —Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

· “The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.” —Samuel Beckett, Murphy

· “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four Privet Drive were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” –J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

2. Favorite Words Shake-up:

Write down several of your favorite words on small slips of paper, put them in a bag and shake them up. Be sure to include different types of words (nouns, verbs, and adjectives are all good choices.) Draw two or three words out of the bag and see if you can create some fun new lines that will get you started on a new story. Here are some of my favorite words to get you started.

Scissors, Creepy, Eggplant, Ghastly, Skipped, Dropped, Awkward, Guffawed, Lost, Monster, Toe, Outraged, Dangerous, Wandered, Kitten.

So, let’s say you draw the words Scissors, Awkward, and Kitten. You could come up with the lines, “I kept telling Bobby Blackburn that if he didn’t stop running with scissors, a kitten would laugh at him for being awkward. But would he listen? Of course not.”

Now, these lines may sound a little silly, but they just might spark a story: Who is speaking? What sparked the idea that a kitten would laugh at a boy? Is the narrator trustworthy? What really happened? If the answers to those questions don’t spark a story, they might just spark a character—or another situation. The idea here is to get the creative juices flowing, and to get unlikely words to match up.

3. Down with the Weather:

Look out the window right now. Imagine being stuck outside with only three items (any three items you want!) in the current weather. How would you feel, what would you be doing, what would be your emotional responses and physical instincts? Get a vivid picture in your mind of what it would be like, then start writing a scene from one of your character's view point about being stranded in the weather you see outside right now.

4. Point-of-View Switcheroo

Take a story that you’ve already written and change either the point of view OR change the viewpoint character. So if it was originally written in third person, try writing it in either first or second person and vice versa. Or try it from an omniscient narrator. OR, pick a different character as your viewpoint character. Here’s one example:

“Sally ran to the corner, panting.‘Wait! Don’t leave, you jerk! We weren’t done talking yet!”’

This could morph into;

“I ran to the corner, breath tearing at my lungs. ‘Wait!’ I panted, clutching my side. ‘Don’t leave, you jerk! We weren’t done talking yet!”’

The point of this exercise is to revisit your old work and see it from a different angle so you can improve it.

5. Social Network Stew:

If you are a member of a social network like Facebook, Twitter, or even blogs and email, they are a breeding ground for interesting phrases and dialogue. Try to create a conversation between two characters by tweaking random friend’s status updates, tweets, or one-liners from your email inbox. You’ll be amazed at all of the great writing fuel that you overlook just because it appears to be just a normal part of your daily life.

Got your brain cooled off? Or is it just heating up? Now that you’ve got your wheels turning, go hit your word processor, quick! The heat of your summer writing is just getting started.

(c) Inspiration for Writers, Inc., 2011. For more writing tips and techniques, visit our website,