Creative writing has its ups and downs. Some days, the ideas seem endless and it’s next to impossible to get them all down on paper. Other times, however, your mind seems to be completely blank and no matter what creative solution to writer’s block you try, you just can’t get your next story started.
Sometimes the easiest solution is the most obvious, but it’s one that you probably haven’t tried since elementary school. A writing prompt, though cliché, can be a great way to kick-start your creativity and get back into the flow of writing. Here are twenty interesting story possibilities to get your storytelling back on track.
20 Writing Prompts
1) It had never snowed in July before.
2) She studied her reflection in the glass.
3) They came back every year to that same spot.
4) The streets were deserted.
5) This time his boss had gone too far.
6) She woke to excited whispers.
7) I met a traveller from a strange land.
8) I always try to do the right thing, but…
9) Justice has caught up to me.
10) She’d always hated speaking in front of an audience.
11) She stood alone at what felt like the top of the world.
12) The yard was overgrown now.
13) He’d never noticed the door before.
14) She should have listened to them.
15) The asteroid was hurtling straight for Earth…
16) He turned the key in the lock and slowly opened the door.
17) He looked out across the sea.
18) The detective saw his opportunity.
19) And you thought monsters didn’t exist…
20) Top Prompt Voted on Reddit: An ordinary human being gets abducted into interplanetary Olympics that have a fun twist: The loser’s planet gets destroyed. All hope seems to be lost, until the last sport is revealed to be what humans do best.
The Three Elements Exercise
Rather than choosing a set opening sentence, sometimes it’s a fun stretch to craft a story around three seemingly unrelated elements. Why not try these out?
1) A stolen ring, peppermints and an annoying boss.
2) A flickering light, a half-eaten box of cookies and a mysterious stranger.
3) An old map, a paperclip and a nurse.
4) A love note, a filing cabinet and a ship captain.
If the three elements exercise doesn’t introduce enough randomness into the writing prompt challenge for you, here’s a surefire way to eliminate any subconscious grouping of three similar elements: Look to your left. Now to your right. Now craft an adventure story using whatever you saw as the main characters (or catalysts for events).
What sorts of writing prompts have helped you get past a creative roadblock?
Of the solutions to writer’s block presented above, I find “The Three Elements Exercise” to be the most engaging, and, for me, the most effective. It points to a factor that I think is at the core of what we call writer’s block, and that is that the mind, brain, and emotions “freeze”, a condition that sometimes occurs with computers. When one’s keystrokes are too rapid-fire, for example, the screen and sometimes the entire computer “freezes”. The solution is often simple, turn off the computer and restart it. In a sense, restarting the computer is similar to pressing a “reset” button so that the elements of the electrical device are repositioned and the appropriate contacts can once again work in sync.
Applying this metaphor to writing is the similar to saying that at minimum, the neurological connections are not functioning in sync, which for the brain means that some “connections” are “frozen” and therefore we are not “getting anything”. If connections are broken, then associations are negated, and nothing can transpire. A solution that has worked for me is similar to “The Three Elements Exercise”. What follows is akin to a “reset” button so that the mind, brain and emotions are once again in sync. However, instead of crafting the writing around 4 seemingly random elements of data, It is a matter of crafting 4 randomly selected words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs only) into one sentence, which has only one criteria, and that is, the sentence must make sense.
Example: I randomly selected4 words from a dictionary: [Motor – Kudos – Stroller – Condition] and crafted the following sentence: “The mother awarded kudos to her husband for improving the operating condition of her child’s stroller by installing a small motor that provide additional power on the long, steep hill outside her home.”
Grabbing four words at random from the dictionary is an excellent idea for a prompt; definitely takes the “Three Elements Exercise” to the next level! Love the sentence that you came up with.
Thanks, as well, for expanding on some of the physiological issues behind writer’s block. Better understanding of what’s going on our brains is a helpful step in surpassing these sorts of obstacles.
The Paperblanks® Team
Thanks for your kind reply.
When I originally wrote my reply to the blog, I neglected to add one other thought: This is a technique that I used years ago for purposes other than writing. Every morning my hand would randomly select 4 words, and following the sentence construction, I was able to address almost any pesky, knotty problem, such as re-organizating closets and storage spaces, planning a week’s menus, working on and around my “budget”, et al. It has worked for me whenever I have felt stymied by a circumstance.
That’s a great idea! It’s true that writer’s block isn’t the only sort of mental block we contend with. This sort of exercise can definitely help in decision making or improving your creative problem solving skills.
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