Writing prompts are so helpful when you're in a writing slump or simply need some inspiration to write daily. I took several great creative writing classes in college, and found that prompts got my muse revved up, which he (my muse is a “he,” you see; I call him Judas) severely needed. Coming up with a new piece of fiction every week takes some work. Actually, coming up with new ideas each week is hard work, whether you write fiction or non-fiction. So, my fellow writers out there, give a few of these thought-provoking writing prompts a try the next time your muse is feeling a little fickle.
1. The Ugly Duckling Prompt
Don't worry, this prompt doesn't ask you to reinvent the story of the ugly duckling, although you might choose to do so. On the contrary, the idea behind this writing prompt is to take something ugly, whether it's a fight with a friend, the idea of war, the fear of global warming, or an instance of hate you've seen or experienced, and write about it in a way that makes it beautiful. This is one of my favorite writing prompts because not only is it inspiring, it can also help you vent your feelings when you write about a personal experience.
2. The Toy Story
Think about your favorite toy as a child. Your writing prompt is to write a story from your toy's perspective. You could go any route with this, whether it's a classic Toy Story tale or a Velveteen Rabbit kind of twist, wherein you describe how your toy feels about being replaced by something new. You could even base a story around a torrid love triangle between Barbie, Ken, Midge, and GI Joe. It's all up to you! Just remember that the more unusual your toy – a Popple, a Polly Pocket, a discarded doll's head – the more inventive your story.
3. I've Got a Secret
This prompt has several possibilities. You could go people watching for a while and make up dark, well-kept secrets belonging to the people you see. You could come up with a secret of your own and write about how it came to be. You could also write a spy-based story where you try to figure out a family secret, or some hidden mystery involving one of your friends or teachers.
4. A Game of Telephone
Do you remember the game of telephone? You whisper a secret, a story, a statement, or even a song lyric to the person next to you, and so it goes on down the line, generally getting more and more convoluted as more people try to share it. Use this concept as a writing prompt by composing a story where one character shares a piece of gossip with someone else, who shares it with someone else, who shares it with two more people, and so on. The key is to come up with something creative or even provocative by the end.
5. Your Ears Are Burning
Have you ever walked in on someone talking about you? Have you ever eavesdropped on a group of people who ended up discussing you? Use that as your story base. You could write down what you would have loved to say to the people talking about you, or structure the story around fictional characters to see how eavesdropping affects the life or behavior of your main character.
6. The Power of 7
This is one of my favorite writing prompts ever. Go to your bookshelf, or the nearest stack of books (if you're like me, your books have outgrown your shelves anyway). Pick the seventh book in the row and open it up. Turn to the seventh chapter, and then flip to the seventh page of that chapter. Read through that page, and pick out the seventh full sentence. Make that the start of your story – or the last phrase, or a phrase in the middle, or the idea around which you base your writing. Any option will help kick start your muse!
7. The do-over
Think about a period or scene in your life that you regret or think about often. It could be your first, imperfect kiss. It could be an argument with a friend. It could be an argument with an enemy, where you only came up with the perfect response to some insult or snarky remark after the fact. Whatever it is, turn it into a do-over. Rewrite that day or moment in your life the way you wish it had happened instead.
With the new year here, you might want to start writing daily in a journal, or perhaps you're writing a book, a memoir, or even a selection of poems. Whatever the case, giving your imagination a jump start can help you get back to where you want to be, subject-wise. What gets you writing? If you've got any fun or inventive writing prompts to share, I'm sure everyone would love to hear them!