Friday, March 30, 2012

Writing Prompts: 5 Great Ways to Inspire Your Writing

While some of us are blessed with a muse that overwhelms us with ideas, some of us have moments of drought.

And then there are some of us who simply desire to keep our craft's gears well lubed with constant writing. We want to grow, learn, and build our skills.

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter which kind of writer you are, sometimes we could all do with a writing prompt or two to boost our creativity, add another element to our writing to freshen it up, or simply to get our creative juices going.

Writing prompts are fabulous for building story muscle. On occasion, I use writing prompts when I can't get to my computer to write. So, as I go about my business I build stories in my head. It's fantastic, error-free, muscle-building practice that keeps me entertained and thinking creatively at times when it would be easy for that side of me to fall out of practice.

Five Awesome Writing Prompts That Build Creative Muscle:

1. Images
If you are a visual type--or even if you aren't--images can be an awesome prompt for starting a story or for fully imaging what you are writing about. If a writer can fully envision their character and the scene they are building, they are much more likely to put meaningful details into the scene and really add that extra oomph to their stories that brings it alive for their readers.

This image really tweaks my imagination and gets the 5 Ws (Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How) burning rubber in my mind. What is the story behind this church? Where did it come from? How on earth did they get it here? When did it get moved here? Why is it there?

Where can you find good images? Try these:
Deviant Art
Google--search out strange and wonderful things in the image search

Have you stumbled upon (accidental reference to the online service!) some great images online?

2. The Storymatic
I got this game (The Storymatic) for Christmas and LOVE it. My daughter and I regularly use it to amp up our oral storytelling.

How it goes: One of us starts the story and we switch back and forth building on each other's additions to the story, pulling a card to add to the story at each turn. (The game is a series of cards that you mix and match to build a story. For example, you might pull a character card that says: "taxidermist" and a story card that says, "travel agent was wrong." You put them together and suddenly you have a very interesting story.)

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me reference this story on my casual "finish the story Friday."

Do you have a game you like to play that gets stories rolling?

3. Books
There are some great books out there for inspiring one's writing. For my birthday I got the book "Plotto" which supposedly references every story plotline ever written! Stumped? Add one of the elements listed to juice it up or continue forward. Or how about a book like: 350 Fabulous Writing Prompts.

Do you have a writing prompt book? Which do you/have you used?

4. Online
The Teacher's has a writing prompt for each day of the year. Wondering what today's is? Check it out. (It's about a pencil!)

If you are on Twitter, follow @writingprompt. (Sadly, the prompts have been a bit sporadic lately, but there have been some good ones making it worth the follow.)

Do you know of a good online source?

5. The Five 5 W's
Ask yourself Who, What, Where, When, Why and How.
About what? Look out your window. Go people watching. Channel your inner child--you know the one, he's that little guy who is always asking, "Why?" Channel that little dude and question the world! It's your oyster.

Now that you've looked at writing prompts from the write angle, you have no excuse for writer's block, a lack of story ideas, or general sluffing off. (Sorry!) So let's get down to it and let's get creative!! And… go!

Do you use writing prompts? Where do you get your best prompts? (Yes, in the shower counts.) Share them in the comments!Jean Oram has an inner child who demands to know "why" which works really well with her creative inner child who enjoys making up crazy replies. She tweets inner child stuff as @kidsplay and writing stuff as @jeanoram. So far she's kept the two from having a twittersation online, but it's been a tough battle. When she's not moderating the two inner children, she blogs about writing.


thenonwritingwriter said...

I love these! Number 1 is especially great because it works for specific projects too. When I'm stuck on my novel and having trouble moving forward, I open up one of my documents that profiles a character or a place, and add to it. For each setting I have a collection of images I've found online that add up to what I see in my head when I think of each place. Searching for cool new images inspires me to create awesome settings for my characters.

As for books, I have one called "Now Write!" that has some great prompts, as well as "The Pocket Muse" which is also good.

Thanks for the post!

Trisha Leaver said...

Great ideas. Thanks for sharing. That picture was amazing, just looking at it had the possibilities flowing.

Jean Oram said...

Thanks, nonwritingwriter. I have a copy of "Now Write" but my mom borrowed it before I got a chance to dive into it. I may have to borrow it back! Have you checked out what some writers are doing for storyboards on Pinterest? Lots of inspiring images there. :) I think it's pretty cool how images pop some writers back into their stories.

Trisha, isn't that picture something? It totally gets me wondering. It feels very sci fi to me for some reason. Like it's a ship that has landed there.

Tonja said...

My muse overwhelms me. Writing prompts are fun for me but tend to get me distracted. Great post.

Jean Oram said...

Tonja--I hear you! They can be a huge distraction. I like to turn them into verbal stories or 'mental' stories so they don't distract me too much, but keep those creative gears lubed. Writing them down is fun too though. :)

JeffO said...

My writing group uses prompts, usually from a book or play. It's a great way to 'prime the pump' as they say. Generally, my ideas come from anywhere and everywhere.

Jemi Fraser said...

I don't know if I've written down a story I've made up from a prompt, but I've made up a bunch in my head. They really are great for stretching the brain. I've never heard of Storymatic before - going to check that out! :)

Jean Oram said...

Jeff--they are fantastic for priming the pump--what a great analogy. I'd love to be part of a 'real' writing group, but there don't seem to be a lot of 'serious' writers in the area. Either that or they all hide out like I do!

Jemi--The Storymatic is a ton of fun. I'm such a sucker for those types of games.

Charmaine Clancy said...

I love this post! I am soo buying that prompt game - it looks awesome!
One of my (many) favorite prompt books is Nancy Lamb's The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children.
Wagging Tales

Jean Oram said...

Charmaine: That sounds like a ton of fun! I bet there are some great ones for kids--goofy, silly, and fun. :) I'll have to check it out. I think my kids would love it--and me too.

Angela Ackerman said...

I LOVE Pinterest for this. There are just so many amazing pictures out there both in read and fantasy worlds. I've started collecting pictures for writerly inspiration. :)


Selena said...

I also love pinterest because lots of people sharing great images on this site. It has different categories so you really find a fantastic and very creative images on their site. I love photography so, I am using digital slr every time I want to capture great images and share it on pinterest.

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