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Five Ways to Use Prompts

Do you ever get stuck in your writing? Sometimes a simple prompt can take a sledge hammer to the wall that is holding you back.

1. Word prompts. These are simple one or two word prompts that can spark your creativity. One that I remember using was “tiny bubbles.” I thought about how to use that prompt and wrote a scene that started with a character staring into her glass of soda mesmerized by the tiny bubbles. Once I wrote the first sentence, using that prompt, the rest of the scene flowed smoothly. During NanoWrimo I use word prompts to help me keep writing. Sometimes the sentence with the prompt gets cut, but if it sparks an idea that makes it into your novel, then it was well worth the effort.

2. Sentence starters. These are similar to those memes you see in Facebook where the story is started in the meme and each person contributes a line to the story in the comments. The difference here, is that you take the role of all of the commenters. You get an idea from a sentence starter and run with it. “The roses were wilting. . .” is a sentence starter. It can be ended in so many ways. The roses were wilting from the intensity of the sun. It was time to get out of the blistering heat, but she didn’t want to go inside. OR The roses were wilting in the vase. Forgotten. Their owner lay dead on the floor. You can easily see how the two different sentence endings would result in much different scenes.

3. Picture prompts. This is a favorite of mine. I love to look at a picture and think of how to write the story for what I see in the picture.

cabin interior

I could look at a picture and have it evoke thoughts of a hermit disconnected from the world. And you could look at the same picture and see a hunter’s cabin.

 

 

 

 

 

railsThe picture of tracks reminds me of walking along the abandoned train tracks as a teenager. Sometimes alone. Sometimes with a friend. Sometimes with a boyfriend. Memories can easily be turned into stories.

I recommend collecting photos from online or magazines. Keep things that interest you and when the time comes that your stuck for a story or scene idea. Look through your file and find something that fits. Some writers use Pinterest for collecting picture prompts. Some prefer a bulletin board and others simply use a manila folder. Find what works for you.

4. Song prompt. Listen to a song, or a line in a song. Don’t use the lyrics in your writing or you could run into copyright issues, but you can use the title in your writing. See how you can work that song title or an idea from that song into your writing. Be careful here not to plagarize. We want to get ideas. Not steal lines. You can use bits of lyrics if the song is in the public domain. Many Christian hymns fall into the public domain category. Here is a good resource for checking to see if a hymn you want to quote is in the public domain. http://www.simusic.com/worship/hymns/.

In looking through the list I saw a song titled “A Pilgrim in this Lonely Land.” That title could spark the idea to write about a Christian who feels out of place because his values conflict with the world around him. In trying to escape his turmoil he goes off to a mission field and finds that the loneliness and sense of not belonging only increases. Eventually he comes to realize that this world is not his home and he has been trying to fit in instead of stand out.

5. Life prompt. This could be so many different things. It could be something you went through as a child. It could be a friendship you still have or one from your past. It could be your church ministry. It is something from your real life that can transform itself with a little creativity into a story or scene in your novel. When I was young I took off for Florida. I used that premise to write a fictional account for the character in my first novel, Stella. My first children’s book came from an idea my husband had. Our goat Vicky was always on our porch and he said “you should write a children’s book and call it ‘There’s a Goat on My Porch.’” I did. It is a fun book about the adventures of Vicky Van Goat. Yesterday the goats all got into the hay barn where we keep the sweet feed and rabbit food…I sense a story coming.

Do you see how something as simple as a picture, a word or a song title can spark an idea? Give it a try.

Leave a comment telling me where you get your prompts and which ones are most effective for you. Alternatively write a sentence from the word prompt: brown bananas. Have fun with it!

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