What is a writing prompt? It’s simply a word, phrase, topic, or idea that writers use as an exercise to help fuel their creativity. I think using a writing prompt can be a useful exercise for anyone who wants to practice writing.
When I decided to experiment with teaching a writing class earlier this year (very small: one pupil!), I decided to incorporate a few writing prompts each week. To my surprise, the prompts were my student’s favorite activity. One week, I came across a news item about a young woman in South Carolina who had just discovered that the woman who raised her was not her biological mother and had, in fact, kidnapped her shortly after the girl was born. I asked my student to consider the points of view of both the biological mother and the kidnapper mother. As you might expect, my student felt the most empathy for the woman who had had her baby stolen. I asked her, then, to write a few paragraphs from the point of view of the other mother, the kidnapper, simply as an exercise in empathy.
Another time, I was shopping out of town when I came across an intriguing portrait in the ladies’ room of a downtown shop. I snapped a picture with my iPhone and asked my student to write about the lady in the portrait, a woman whose slightly bloodshot eyes and wrinkled brow had a story to tell. Around Valentine’s Day, I showed my student three vintage valentine cards and asked her to choose one and use the names of the two people on the back as the basis for a five-minute writing activity.
Idea generation is not a problem for me, so I don’t think I’ll ever run out of ideas for prompts. Still, I get inspired by reading other prompts and visiting some of the many websites that offer such prompts. Writer’s Digest offers some creative writing prompts here, and if you’d like to have 365 writing prompts, one for each day of the year, you can check out the site here.
Finally, I received an email this week from Authors Publish, one of the many free newsletters for writers. They offer a free download of the book The Authors Publish Compendium of Writing Prompts by Emily Harstone, which has some fun prompts as well. If you’d like to check it out for yourself, click here.