Writing prompts are a staple of creative writing courses.. As an aspiring writer myself, I use prompts to fuel my creativity, but most of the time, I use prompts to have a little fun between essays and structured writing for my professors. Writing prompts are a good way to release any pent up anger or depression.
From the book, 642: Things to Write About, I’ve decided to write a flash fiction piece and give you an idea of how prompts work.
Step One: Pick a prompt
Step Two: Set a time
Step Three: Write
Step One: The prompt: “Write a scene that begins: ‘I killed a man once.’”
Step Two: The time: 10 minutes
“I killed a man once,” she says as she stretches out on the couch. “At first it was a game,” she says as she looks across the room, “but then it turned into something else. You know?” She asks, but no one replies.
It’s a small room she occupies with a bay window over looking the lake on a winter’s day. She turns to her side as she watches out the window and takes a deep breath, “I loved him,” she sighs. “He was a good man. Wouldn’t you say?” She asks, but no one replies.
“We could’ve had it all.” She says smiling towards no one. “The house, the family, the love,” she pauses, “but he ruined it with his stupid freaking self. You know what I mean?” She asks, but no one replies. “You know exactly what I mean.” She stretches out an arm and adds, “he never listened the way you do.” She smiles as she sits up on the couch and stares down at the wooden coffee table in front of her. “If he’d chosen to do as I say, we wouldn’t be in this situation. Would we?” She asks, but no one answers.
She gets up from the couch and heads into the kitchen, where she finds a ceramic bowl. She takes it from the cabinet and looks around for the bag of food that he was suppose to pick up from the story. She searches the kitchen and finds nothing. “Big shocker,” she mumbles as she fishes through the fridge from last night’s leftovers.
The plastic container holds the remaining meatloaf from the night before as she opens it and empties it into the bowl. She places it in the microwave and watches it go round and round as she glances at the floor.
“He should’ve listened.” She adds as she places the bowl on the floor. “Come.” She calls as she moves towards the table where her husband sits from the night before.
He doesn’t move. He doesn’t say a word. He’s just there, in the chair, slumped over like a sack of potatoes. “You couldn’t listen,” she says as she lays his head on the table and moves towards the cabinet where she left the bottle.
She stops short of the cabinet bends down to pet her dog. “It’s not that hard to listen, is it?” She asks, but there’s no reply.
Literary blogs are full of writing prompts and stories that involve those prompts, but it’s not easy to write a flash fiction story in 10 minutes and it’s not easy to make it sound good either. I’m not saying my story is good. If anything, it lacks more than I’d like to admit, but in order to be a good writer; you need to know how to fail. If you want to feel a little failure, try coming up with a story in five minutes or less. The great thing about writing prompts is that you’re never wrong with what you come up with and no one ever has to read them unless you want them to, of course.
If you want to try using writing prompts to make your creativity flow, or you just need ideas for a class project, here are a couple websites I find helpful. The first is a literary magazine that deals with submissions based on writing prompts called Prompt Lit Mag, and if that isn’t your interest, Litbridge, is another site that deals with writing prompts and can help you come up with prompts that might get you published in Prompt Lit Mag.
Or if websites aren’t your thing, Amazon will probably always have a copy of 642: Things to Write About, which is where I get most of my ideas. No matter what you choose, prompt writing isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.
Upcoming Events at Eastern Illinois University
Allen Neff Memorial Poetry Reading featuring D. Nurkse
Thursday: September 19, 2013
Doudna Fine Arts Center