Got Writing Prompts?

4 May

by Julie Eshbaugh

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There seems to be an on-going debate about the existence of writer’s block. Whether you believe in writer’s block as a full-blown phenomenon or see it as another way of describing “writer’s fatigue” or “writer’s fear” or even “writer’s laziness,” there are a few established methods of treating it. One of those methods is writing from prompts.
Prompts give you a chance to write based on an assignment, so you can worry less about getting it “wrong.” With a prompt, you just write. At the very least, it gets you putting words on paper in a very non-threatening way. And if everything comes together and magic is in the air, the right prompt might stimulate the right ideas, and you might find the seed of your next novel hidden in that free-write.
So here are some fun prompts. Each one combines an image and a scenario. You can stick with the suggested situation, (if you want to become a more disciplined writer, perhaps,) or you can just let your imagination run wild. It’s up to you. Have fun. Stretch your creative muscles.  And if you feel particularly inspired, please share your ideas in the comments.

Ready? Set… write!

You drive home. The day has been uneventful. But when you reach your neighborhood, you find everyone outside, and they are all looking at something. Look at the photo below and tell the story.


(Photo from http://www.danheller.com)

You have just signed up for a cooking class. You arrive at your first lesson, only to find the teacher being taken away by police. Inside, you learn that during his arrest, the police failed to find some contraband that they were looking for. A classmate presents a small container the teacher entrusted to him just as the police arrived. Tell the story.

(Photo still from the Korean drama KING OF BAKING)

It is present day, 2011. A note is left in your front door from your new neighbor, inviting you to stop over and introduce yourself. You go to the house next door and enter the scene below. Tell the woman’s story.

(Photo by the Los Angeles Times)

And I’ll leave you with this one…

You are driving to the airport when your GPS begins to malfunction. After a few turns that are clearly wrong, you begin to try to find your way home, but the road grows narrower and narrower. Eventually, you find yourself in the scene below. What happens next?

(photo from http://www.berro.com)

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Julie Eshbaugh is represented by Natalie Fischer of the Bradford Literary Agency. You can read her blog here and find her on Twitter here.

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11 Responses to “Got Writing Prompts?”

  1. Liz May 4, 2011 at 7:14 AM #

    Hi Julie,
    This was one of my favorite writing assignments a CW instructor gave me and I passed it on with great success to a CW class I led:
    “Go to a place with a lot of people (library, grocery store, city park, etc) and observe the people there for 30 minutes. You can focus on just one person or several. Observe their body language, actions, and behaviors. What are they doing? Why are they doing it? Most importantly, what’s their backstory? Create a character profile for the person/people you observe, then write a short story or scene about them using the information you gathered, focusing on character development and motivation. Note: do not observe anyone in a way that would get you in trouble with law enforcement or infringe upon other people’s privacy.”

    Besides giving you writing practice, it develops the all-important skill of observation (and, okay, let’s you pretend you’re a spy on a top secret mission…).

    • Julie Eshbaugh May 5, 2011 at 6:27 PM #

      I love this exercise! Thanks for sharing it. 🙂

  2. Carradee May 4, 2011 at 8:42 AM #

    I’m not saying this is the case for everyone, but I’ve found that writer’s block is my subconscious balking because something’s wrong with what I’m writing. The tone might be wrong, I might’ve made someone act OOC, I may need to do more research, or maybe the flow doesn’t quite work so far.

    If I can’t figure out what’s wrong, I try free-associative writing or hand it off to a beta. Free-associative writing tends to bring more results.

    Once I go back and fix things, the writing flows again.

    • Julie Eshbaugh May 5, 2011 at 6:28 PM #

      I agree that writer’s block can be caused by internal issues we have with our writing. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  3. Savannah J. Foley May 4, 2011 at 2:46 PM #

    Awesome prompts, Julie! Thank you for taking the time to make those!

    • Julie Eshbaugh May 5, 2011 at 6:29 PM #

      LOL I actually really like looking for pictures that make me imagine stories. 😉 Glad you liked them, Savannah.

  4. Cee May 4, 2011 at 5:36 PM #

    Kdrama? In my LTWF? This is an excellent post. I love prompts like these, they always help me out of a rut.

    • Cee May 4, 2011 at 7:02 PM #

      Oh! And another thing I do to get over “writer’s block” or at least keep myself in writing-shape, is I’ve joined the site 750words.com. It is exactly what it sounds like, and you try to write at least 750 words a day, not published anywhere, just for you. I like it b/c it has fun incentives, monthly challenges and uses what you’ve written to calculate hilarious things like your “moods”

    • Julie Eshbaugh May 5, 2011 at 6:31 PM #

      Hey Cee! Here at LTWF, we have it ALL – even Kdrama! But seriously, some of the best “what is this picture about?” images can be found looking through those stills. 🙂 Thanks for commenting.

  5. Rosie G. May 4, 2011 at 6:51 PM #

    These look awesome, i really want to do one now, but i think i am probably just looking for procrastination from the big pile of uni work i still have left to do! *sigh* Maybe next week when everything is done and handed in i can come back and have a go at writing with a prompt it sounds like good fun!! 😀

    • Julie Eshbaugh May 5, 2011 at 6:33 PM #

      Rosie!! I’m so glad you commented. And I’m glad you liked the prompts. I would love to see what you come up with if you take one of these on! 🙂

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