Writing Prompts Archive

Writing Prompt 1: Music

 

 

Prompt: What's happening here? What kind of music are they creating? What kind of action might take place in this setting? Why did the woman turn around? When she looks behind her, what does she see? Why is the man wearing a hat? Set the timer for 10 minutes. Go!

 

Check out the following lists for strong verbs:

Singing, Percussion and Sound Made on the Body

How Things Hold One's Gaze

Radiance in a Person

 

 

Writing Prompt 2: Rainbow

 

 

Prompt: Why are these two people walking at the mud flats? What does each want from the other? Describe the tension between them using a metaphor stirred by the photo. Who is the third person? Which of the three misses the rainbow? Why? Set the timer for 10 minutes. Go!

 

Check out the following lists for strong verbs:

Weather & Seasons

Walking & Running

Upsetting & Offending

 

 

Writing Prompt 3: David

 

 

Prompt: Who grew up near this statue of David by Michelangelo? How did the statue influence the posture and sexuality of boys in the neighborhood?

What kind of mischief did a teenager do to the statue? Did he get caught? Did he go to jail? Why? Why not?

OR: What kind of romance took place here? Set your timer for 15 minutes. Go!

 

Check out the following lists for strong verbs:

Lifting Something Up

Small Movements & Body Positions

What Police Might Do

 

 

Writing Prompt 4: Afternoon in Sarajevo

 

 

Prompt: What is this place? What are these men doing? What is their relationship?  Whose belongings sit on the bench? Where has that person gone? Why? What is the relationship between the absent person and the man wearing jeans? Set the timer for 10 minutes. Go!

 

Check out the following lists for strong verbs:

Plotting or Conspiring

Food & Smell

Feeling

Appearance

 

 

Writing Prompt 5: The Church

 

 

Prompt: The priest of this church has a secret. What is it? Who wants to know his secret? Why? What is their relationship? Why does he fear disclosure? Set the timer for 10 minutes. Go!

 

Check out the following lists for strong verbs:

Deceiving

Involuntary Body Actions

Peril, Suspense & Fear

Organized Religion

 

 

Writing Prompt 6: Burned Building

 

 

Prompt: Who set fire to this building? Why? Who was hurt in the fire? Who did the fire bring together? What happened next? Set the timer for 10 minutes. Go!

 

Check out the following lists for strong verbs:

Vandalism

Violence & Confrontation

Fire

Throwing

 

 

Writing Prompt 7: Refugee Settlement

 

 

Prompt: This is a refugee settlement. What did the refugees flee? What did they want? Twelve years later, what's happening here? Who left? Who stayed? Why? Set your timer for 15 minutes. Go!

 

Check out the following lists for strong verbs:

War

Wandering

Violent Persecution

Living in the Shadow of the Past

 

 

Writing Prompt 8: Birds

 

 

Prompt: It is 2024. Just before a woman is killed, she walks by these bird sculptures. What unusual thing does the murderer do just before he kills her? What role does a cyborg play in solving the crime? Set your timer for 10 minutes. Go!

 

Check out the following lists for strong verbs:

Plotting a Story

Plotting or Conspiring

Handheld Weapons

Wet, Cold, or Wintry Weather

 

 

Writing Prompt 9: Catastrophe

 

 

Prompt: What happened here? Why is the woman taking a picture? If you were writing text for a memorial plaque, what would you write? Choose verbs that imply goodness or guilt when plotting a story around this picture. Set your timer for 10 minutes. Go!

 

Check out the following lists for strong verbs:

Plotting a Story

Injuring Someone Using Violence

War

Physical Abuse

Spirituality & Goodness

 

Writing Prompt 10: Soldiers

 

Prompt: Why are these soldiers standing by the road? What does their posture tell you about their mood? What kind of threat requires their presence? Who is waiting to cause trouble? Why? What happens?

Start the segment with: "It all began with a rock."

 

Check out the following lists for strong verbs:

Ways of Standing

Protection Offered by Someone With Power

How Situations Come Undone

Trouble & Complications

 

Set your timer for 10 minutes. Go!

 

 

 

Writing Prompt 11: Ski Tracks

 

Prompt: Whose ski tracks are these? What kind of skiers skin and ski this far from a gondola? Why have they come to these mountains? Today, they spot a snow leopard. What did the leopard do when it saw the skiers? What did the skiers do?

Start the segment with: "Later, when..."

 

Check out the following lists for strong verbs:

Snow Sports

Animals

 

Set your timer for 10 minutes. Go!

Photo credit: Jef Desbecker

 

 

 

Writing Prompt 12: Avalanche

 

Prompt: This is the aftermath of a large avalanche. What did the avalanche uproot? Who was injured? Did someone die? What did the search and rescue team find? What sound does an avalanche make?

 

Check out the following lists for strong verbs:

Sound & Music

Search

Engaging in an Adventure

Snow Sports

Wet Cold, or Wintry Weather

 

Set your timer for 10 minutes. Go!

Photo credit: Jef Desbecker

 

 

 

Writing Prompt 13: Shimmering Table

 

Prompt: Name three characters who will sit at this table. Each of their names starts with a different letter. What group occupies the remainder of the chairs? Flesh out a scene of natural disaster, crime, altercation, theft, relationship drama, or cheating. Keep the dialogue pithy.

Pick verbs that convey smells, sounds, sights, or textures. Use verbs that allude to the action about to happen. E.g. a spoon can brush against the side of a bowl, a fork could stab a piece of meat, an air vent might hiss, a plate shimmer, an odor reach up.

 

Check out the following lists for strong verbs:

Verbs that Suggest Peril & Suspense

How the Body Experiences Fear

Sounds Made by Things

What Sound Does

Smell

Creating the Appearance of Texture

 

Set your timer for 10 minutes. Go!

Photo credit: Jef Desbecker

 

 

 

Writing Prompt 14: Details in Chaos

 

Prompt: Writers find material everywhere. Try this exercise to hone your observation in each of your senses -- smell, taste, hearing, sight, touch.

Observe this chaotic photo, then select eight details to explore. Try starting at the far left and write about the man on a donkey or horse, the kiosk, the van, the place of worship, the birds, the pedestrian, the occupants in the apartment, the vendor in the market. Describe each aspect of the photo using specific details. Don’t settle for the generalities provided here to get you started.

This photo was taken in Kashmir. Google Kashmir to find out what kind of tree, animal, bird, fruit, place of worship you'd see here.

Repeat this exercise once a week for eight weeks using different photos and locations.

 

Check out the following lists for active verbs:

Horses, Mules & Donkeys

Walking & Running

Giving Off Smells

Spiritual & Religious Practices

Organized Religion

 

Set your timer for 10 minutes. Go!

Photo credit: Jef Desbecker

 

 

 

Writing Prompt 15: Miniature World

 

Prompt: Writers describe sensory details to create metaphors. An animal might call up fierceness, a painting can stand in for a lost love, an item on a street could suggest the rawness of urban life.

Try these exercises:

  • Describe this miniature world using ominous verbs.
  • Describe it using verbs that suggest whimsy.
  • Describe it from a child's point of view.
  • Explain the meaning of the objects from the point of view of a patient just released from a mental hospital.


Check out the following lists for active verbs:

Objects & Location
Children's Play
Peril, Suspense & Fear
How Joy Stirs in Someone

 

Pick one approach, then set your timer for 15 minutes. Go!

 

 

 

Writing Prompt 16: Piano in 2040


Who composes at the piano? What style of music do they write? Invent lyrics that foretell what will happen here. Put them in the mouth of the composer or on her score. Link the piano or the composition to something that happens in this room in the year 2040. What role will a drone play? What item stands in the spot the piano occupies?

Check out the following lists for evocative verbs:

Sound & Music
Physical Action & Labor
What Piano Players Do
Sounds Made by Wind Instruments & Keyboards
Composing & Arranging Music

 

Set timer for 15 minutes. Go!

 

 

 

Writing Prompt 17: Slot Machine

 

Prompt: On the first day of snowfall, what prompted these men to play slot machines? What do they hope to win with their windfall? Pick one detail from each of their lives that sets up this moment.

 

Find verbs in the following lists:

Gambling

Goals & Failure

Personal Relationships

Blue-Collar Work Under a Boss

Sounds Made by Things

What Factory Workers Do Other Than Operate Machinery

Wet, Cold or Wintry Weather

 

Set your timer for 10 minutes. Go!

 

 

 

Writing Prompt 18: CIA Map

 

Prompt: This photo was taken from a public wall ​of The War ​C​rimes ​O​ffice in Tuzla​, Bosnia​. It shows a CIA map from the mid​-​1990s. Use the troop movements to craft a bicultural war story.

Who stays? Who flees? Why?

 

Find powerful verbs in these lists:

Defending Territory in War​

The Moment Violence Breaks Out

Preparation for War

Attacking During War

Aftermath of War

Trapping People

 

Set your timer for 15 minutes. Go!​

 

 

 

Writing Prompt 19: Time Travelling

Prompt: A time traveler from the future comes back to change the course of history: Choose one of the following scenarios:

  1. USA election 2016

  2. The assassination of Abraham Lincoln

  3. The unsuccessful assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler

  4. The immigration of Einstein to the USA

  5. A major discovery or invention happens in a different country (detonation of an atomic bomb, discovery of oil, invention of the silicon chip, the internet...)

What is the time traveler’s motivation to change one historical moment? When they arrive, what smells, sounds and weather strike them? Set the scene. If they succeed, who will benefit and who will suffer?

 

Check out the following lists for strong verbs:

Listening to Sounds

Sounds Made by Things & Instruments

Giving Off Smells

How People Respond to Smells

Taking in Odors

How Objects React to Heat

What People Do in Nasty or Wet Weather

 

Set a timer for 10 minutes. Go!

 

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