Because of the work I do, I pretty much write every day like all the bestselling authors will tell you to do. However, when it comes to sitting down and writing my own stuff, I usually have the urge, but I don’t always have the inspiration. I’ll sit there with the journal or the computer in front of me, itching to write something but unsure what I want to write about this time.
Writing prompts are a great solution. They are vague enough not to dictate your story’s every move, but they provide that spark. You may not like it at the end, but hey, you sat down and wrote it. And sometimes, it comes out golden.
When everyday life gives me an idea for a prompt, I will post it here. Come knocking if you need that push to put pen to paper or fingers to keys.
If you have an idea for a prompt, post it in the comments, and if I like it, I will post it here—giving credit to the creator, of course. If one of these prompts helps you write a story that you like and post on your blog, send me a link and I will reblog it.
Prompt 1: Canine Instinct
Yesterday, I was walking my dog at the park, and I saw a young guy who made me sort of nervous. He walked quickly, with movements that were almost violent. He was twitchy and erratic. He looked around at everything with his eyes, but never really moved his head. He kept putting his hands up beside his face and shaking them, as if he were doing jazz hands. In reality, he was shaking down the sleeves of his over-sized hoodie. When he got closer, my dog (an 8 month old, highly social Corgi) went ballistic: howling, barking, growling, and pulling on the leash. I’d never seen her act this way unless the human in question had a large foreign object, like a rake, in their hands. Before I could react, the man said “Shut up,” in a clipped voice, and though he was speaking to my dog, he looked everywhere but at her.
Who is this man? Why did he have such a strange effect on a very sociable dog?
Prompt 2: Treetop Sunglasses
Just outside my apartment window, a pair of cheap, hipster-looking sunglasses are hanging from a tree branch in the woods that run right into the back of my building. I live on the second floor, and the glasses are level with my window. There is a metal fence just below them, but the top is lined with barbed wire. I’m perplexed and intrigued by these sunglasses, and a little worried that I have been leaving my window blinds open too often, if someone has been that close peeping in.
Just how did those glasses get in that tree? Why put them there in the first place?
Prompt 3: Road Rage
I was driving my Corgi to the dog park in rush hour traffic and inevitably got stuck at a light. However, the wait turned out to be entertaining. At the light ahead of me, I could see the ramp leading off the interstate. A woman with crazy curly hair was stamping around with the door of her silver SUV wide open, and seemed to be yelling at the man in the old, blue sedan behind her. She was waving her hands and pacing, and I looked for evidence of a fender bender but couldn’t see any damage. Even more interesting, the extremely large bald man in the brown truck next to this woman’s SUV got out and started yelling at her. She completely ignored him. I wasn’t close enough to hear any words, but she and the man in the truck had to have been holding up everyone behind them during the green light because my light was red. Yet nobody honked until the woman and the bald man got back in their cars and started moving. Then the horns went off like crazy.
What was the woman so angry about? Did the man in the truck know her or was he a stranger? Did either of them know the poor guy in the blue sedan?
Prompt 4: Grab Your Shovel; Grab Your Gun
I recently visited my husband’s family in New Mexico, and I heard a lot of stories. One of them goes like this:
My husband’s grandparents’ house alarm went off while they were away. Their daughter and her son got the call and went to check on things. The back door was wide open, but when the grandson went inside and searched the place, he found nothing out of the ordinary. So, he and his mother went back around the front of the house, only to come face to face with two different gun barrels and a raised shovel.
“Oh, it’s just you,” one of the three weapon-bearing neighbors said.
They’d come to the rescue. It can take the police 2-3 hours to get out to their small town of Bosque, NM, so the neighbors had come to serve justice themselves. The daughter thanked them and said, “It’s awesome of all you guys to come out an help,” to which one of the neighbors replied, “Oh, this ain’t nothing; we’ve got six guys up on the ridge there.”
Sure enough, the daughter and grandson looked to the ridge to see six guys waving at them.
Now, maybe it’s just me, but I think that’s pretty badass, and it actually started the ball rolling on my new novel idea (something I haven’t had in a very long time), so I thought it might work to inspire some of you as well.
Why was the back door open? What’s it like to live in a secluded small town such as this? What are the people like? What would have happened if someone had been inside the house?
Prompt 5: Love Me Or Else
“Tell me you love me!”
It snapped my head up and ceased my constant worrying about what my corgi puppy will put in her mouth next.
It was a young blonde woman with her hair up in a disastrous bun, wearing a tie dye shirt and workout shorts. I could only see her back. Her head was in the backseat of a new red sedan. No head silhouetted in the back window of the car told me it was a child she was yelling at, a child I could not see or hear.
“Yes I do. Now tell me you love me.”
The woman’s other child, an infant probably not even six months old, was cuddled in the arms of an elderly woman with a perfectly permed grey bob, a sleek black pantsuit, and a pearl necklace. She bounced the child in her arms, both completely silent.
“Tell me you love me, or else I’m taking you and all your shit back inside.”
“Ashley,” said the old woman.
I thought it must have been the word “shit” that got her, her being an old Southern belle and all. She was going to tell Ashley not to use such language in front of a child, to quit yelling. I just knew it, and I was relieved.
“Ashley, I don’t have time for this.”
“I don’t care! You can wait.” Her head, momentarily pulled from the car to shoot a nasty look at the old woman, went back into the dark interior where the unseen child felt Ashley’s wrath again. “Say it…yes I do, dumbass!”
My dog stopped her sniffing, and I didn’t feel like I could stick around any longer without being caught eavesdropping.
“Yeah, you are dumb.”
I strained my ears as I rounded the corner to find out if the elderly woman would finally snap, say something, do something. I just wanted to get away from the ugly words, from the sick realization that that child felt their mother didn’t love them, but now, as I write this, I’m wondering…why didn’t I say something? Why didn’t I do something?
What’s this family’s dynamic? Was the child in the backseat a boy or a girl? Was the grandmother just taking the children for the day, or was it something more permanent? What do you think that child’s life is like? Why does Ashley feel this is the right way to show and receive love? What would have happened if I had said something?