Using Prompts to Prompt You in the Writing Direction

At Winter Wheat (November 19) I gave a presentation on prompts.

What is a writing prompt? It is an exercise used to move the writer beyond the fear of a blank page and get something on the page. But how does the writer come up with an idea to write about? This quote from Stephen King’s “On Writing” “…two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun” (King 25) is crucial to prompts. At least two elements are needed, but the prompt may give the writer one or both elements. If the prompt only gives one, then the writer supplies the second element.

But what are these elements? Tangible Idea and Form/Limitation.

A Tangible Idea can be a setting, character, situation, or a combination.

A Form/Limitation can be time, a list of words to pick from, a word count, poetic form, short story, novel, etc.

To practice creating your own prompts, find a Tangible Idea, pick a Form/Limitation, and start writing!

The key to prompts is finding the ones that spark an idea immediately or don’t require much thought to get you writing. If a prompt doesn’t strike you, then alter it or go on to a different one.

You can also pick a story, novel, or poem that strikes you and pick elements as a Tangible Idea or a Form/Limitation.

Prompt Books I’ve used:

The Write-Brain—Bonnie Neubauer
The Pocket Muse—Monica Wood
In the Palm of Your Hand—Steve Kowit
The Writer’ Book of Matches—the staff of Fresh Boiled Peanuts
The Poetry Dictionary—John Drury
The Poet’s Dictionary—William Packard
The Book of Forms—Lewis Turco
Patterns of Poetry—Miller Williams

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