Writing Prompts

Writing Prompt 1: Hermit & Miner’s Lettuce

Prompt: This miner's lettuce keeps a hermit alive. What is his back story? What happened to make him withdraw from society? One day, he hears someone chomping on his miner's lettuce. Who? Why have they come? What do they want? What does the hermit want?

Weave in an interesting fact about California gold miners who foraged from this patch of wild lettuce​. Zoom your camera in and out - from the individual to the social/political.


Get ideas for verbs in the following lists:

Feeling or Appearing Confused

Touching a Thing​

​Sticking Out

Sounds Made by Fabric

Giving Off Smells


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Writing Prompt 2: The Red Door

Prompt: Sensory details serve as a springboard or a metaphor. What is behind the red door? Who mined the rock? Tell us about the mason who created the wall. On this first day of xx, who is peeking out the window? They see something drop into the fountain. What?


​Find verbs in the following lists:

​Physical Actions & Labor


Skills of a Tradesman


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Writing Prompt 3: Safety Pins & Ribbon

Prompt: "Dressed in safety pins and ribbons, she…"

Check out the following lists for evocative verbs:

Verbs That Suggest Peril or Suspense

Putting Clothes On

Resistance to Status Quo

Feeling Courage

Engaging in an Adventure


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Writing Prompt 4: The Abandoned Boat

By the time he noticed the boat tucked away in the woods, its name had smeared. Was it Bayhee? Baymer? Bajmer? He made out the numbers CF 2604 GL. On its last journey, what happened?

​Check out the following lists for active verbs:

​What Boats & Ships Do

What the Sea Does

What People Do to Boats & Ships

How Wood Reacts to Water

How Water Moves Things​



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Writing Prompt 5: Girl by a Structure

Prompt: A girl on a skateboard spins around this structure as fast as she can. What happens next? Who sees it? What is their reaction? What is the girl’s response?

Who designed this structure? For what purpose? How is it used by passersby?

Before the xx met for the last time, they gathered at the spiral rock, a place...


Find verbs in the following lists:


​Children's Dance & Music

Rotation & Curving

Mild Movements Using Most of the Body


​Hurrying or Speeding Up on Foot​


Killing Time & Hanging Out in a Group​


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Writing Prompt 6: Luray Caverns

Prompt: Place a metaphor in a setting that matches. EG Luray Caverns is in Virginia, so it makes for a good reference if your scene takes place in Virginia, but not in the Sahara.

You don’t have to understand more than basic geology to use a formation in nature as a metaphor. EG A chemical reaction of water and carbon dioxide with limestone liquified these mineral deposits. The mineralized rock solution dripped through the cave, reached air, and trickled down, solidifying into hanging stalactites.

Play with one of the following metaphors:

  • The stalactites look like icicles.
  • They exist because of a reversal in a chemical reaction.
  • They form into a column, a community, a crowd of dripping rock.
  • Would they change if the cave cracked open, warmed, endured an explosion?


Find verbs in the following lists:

Changes in Rock & Ice Over Millennia


Drifting Apart or Sliding Away

What Dim Light Does

Rockslides, Mudslides & Avalanches

The Sound of Moving Water


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Photo credit: David Kulp



Writing Prompt 7: Wires Across the Sun

Prompt: Develop a character who loves to gaze at the sun. Describe their upturned face. What do the parallel lines of the wires remind them of? Strings on a musical instrument? Played by whom? Lines on classroom paper when they were a child? What was the first story they wrote in school? What did the teacher assign?


Find verbs in the following lists:

What Strong Color Does

Forgetting or Daydreaming

How the Face Opens Up


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Photo credit: David Kulp



Writing Prompt 8: Paint, Hurdle & Frame

What was the artist’s mood when he painted this? What happened that day to inspire this piece? How does he hold the brush? Where does he want to exhibit it? What hurdles does he face before the work graces a gallery wall? Slip into your writing the shape of a hurdle. (It resembles a picture frame.)


Find verbs in the following lists:

Things One Does With Paint

Things One Does to a Canvas Other Than Paint It

Things One Does With Color

Wishing & Dreaming


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Painting by Russ Ellis



Writing Prompt 9: Past & Present

Prompt: Let the past bleed into the present. Imagine the ancestral past of the sculptor by piercing the figure with your insight. Could there be an indentured servant, an enslaved ancestor, a shy prince, a boy with aspirations studying in secret?

What do you see in the mesh, the white swirl, the cleaved oval?


Find verbs in the following lists:

Sculpture & Carving

Personal & Familial Connection With One’s Culture

Gaining Respect From People Outside One’s own Group

Self-Respect in Marginalized Groups

Sensing Into One’s Own Body

The Cost of Belonging to a Marginalized Group


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Sculpture by Russ Ellis