Writing Prompts

These 31 writing prompts were originally posted on my social media pages as a month-long writing challenge. If you'd like to rise to that challenge, do one everyday for a month and see your writing come alive. They can also be used on their own as the mood or need strikes you. Above all, have fun!

Set a timer for 10 minutes, write the prompt at the top of your page and keep writing until your timer rings. No stopping, no thinking, just let it flow. There, you wrote today. Maybe you kept on writing after the timer rang, maybe you stopped, it doesn’t matter…you wrote today. Keep it up. Be willing to begin again and again.

Do not forget that our characters hear and need to be heard. Sounds enrich the sensory environment that is our lives, we depend on them to help us interpret, communicate with, and express the world around us.

What better way to get in touch with your character than by getting into his skin? Think of all the varieties of pain, irritation, abrasion; all the textures of lick, pat, wipe, fondle, knead; all the prickling, bruising, tingling, scratching, banging, fumbling, kissing, and nudging a character might feel.

One of the most amazing aspects of the senses is how they span time. Our senses connect us intimately to the past in a way our ideas cannot, and the sense that does this more powerfully than any other is the sense of smell. A scent, regardless of how unexpected or fleeting, can open the floodgates of memory.

The sense of sight is probably the sense we use most often in writing, and if you’ve ever tried to describe something without referring to sight you’ll know just how challenging that is to accomplish. Perhaps this is because 70% of the body’s sense receptors cluster in the eyes, and it is mainly through seeing the world that we appraise and understand it.

Like pure emotions, music surges and sighs, rampages or grows quiet, and, in that sense, it behaves so much like our emotions that it seems often to mirror them. Isn’t this what we are striving for when we tell our writing student’s, show don’t tell? How can we use not only music, but sound in general, other than dialogue, to enhance our writing and flesh out our characters?

We see, not with the eye but with the brain. Think of a remembered scene from days or even years ago. We view it in our mind’s eye in great detail. And even better for the writer, we can picture completely imagined events. We see the embroidery on the bodice of her celadon dress, the glint of a knife as it moves in a murderous arc, a tearful reflection in a mirror.

While touch is a sense that often interacts with the world around us, taste is a more intimate sense, second only to smell for evoking memory. Try writing from a character's point of view.

One of the first things I talk about in my retreats is our tendency to compare ourselves with others, often to our detriment. Comparison keeps us separate; it keeps us less than or better than. Although healthy competition exists in Nature, it doesn't help us as women or as writers. I ask you to think about this for the next few prompts.

When we joyfully recognize ourselves in others, who've achieved things we wish to achieve, and we feel encouraged by their example- this is the true power of comparison.

No group, activist pursuit, or industry is immune to comparison. At best, it slows immeasurably our communal progress towards our shared goals. At its worst, it can keep us from showing up for each other, from accessing our own, deeply humanizing well of compassion.

Ultimately, comparison speaks to an overwhelming cultural feeling that there is just not enough... not enough room for us all to achieve our dreams, or even have our basic needs met.

Comparison halts the chasing of our dreams, of making change in the world, and of believing in ourselves and our writing.

Let's think about activating your settings for the next few prompts. Never give us a generic description. When we enter a new space, color it with mood and action.

Simple staging isn’t enough. A descriptive string like “There was a lake. There was a tree. There was a hammock,” orients us, sure, but it’s a passive construction. Make it active. Make it come alive.

When nothing happens, stories stall so make everything come alive. Animate your scene. Make the space is so physically active it might as well be a character.

Setting can go from being one of the most lifeless to one of the most lively and functioning ingredients in your stories.

If you'd like to try your hand at fiction use the following five prompts to create a story. The first step is to begin with action that is compelling enough to draw us in, make us want to know more.

Background is where you let us see and know who these people are, how they’ve come to be together, what was going on before the opening of the story.

Then you develop these people, so that we learn what they care most about. The plot—the drama, the actions, the tension—will grow out of that.

You move them along until everything comes together in the climax, after which things are different for the main characters, different in some real way.

And then there is the ending: what is our sense of who these peoples are now, what are they left with, what happened, and what did it mean?

The next couple of prompts provide an opportunity to delve a little deeper in to the yourself or into one of your characters.

What is your (or your character's) deepest desire? Or maybe this leads to a poem. Go where your first urge leads you.

Here's an opportunity to delve a little deeper into what you discovered about yourself or one of your characters yesterday? Or you could turn this into dialogue and see where it goes between two characters. Have fun!

Remember, if you are working with characters, you can write from their point of view (I) or from the narrator's POV (he/she).

We can't forget love, now can we?

"There is a crack, a crack in everything/ That's how the light gets in?" Leonard Cohen

Don't forget that you can use this as dialogue.

Sometimes, what you don't remember can be even more fertile than what you do remember.

And now we'll philosophize for a bit.

I am grateful that you have taken this writing journey with me.

Thank you for taking this writing journey with me. I'd like to leave you with this final thought. The older we get the more we say no. We are so used to saying no that we don’t realize we are saying it. We often say no to new and different because it’s scary and confusing not because its bad. Be mindful of your yes/no ratio. Resist the urge to say "Yes, but..." and try saying "Yes, and..." for a while. You'll be amazed at the places you go. You might even join me in Tuscany!

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