Creative Writing Prompts to Awaken Even Dead Creative People

If you like a little foreplay to get your motor running, have some fun with these. Don’t say we didn’t warn you that they are what we like to call, “outside the mainstream” where we live. Who do you really, really detest? Why, and what might you do about it someday. Think up your own version of The Great Train Robbery and write down the plan. Then build a novel around the heist. Sure, heist stories have been written before

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If you like a little foreplay to get your motor running, have some fun with these. Don’t say we didn’t warn you that they are what we like to call, “outside the mainstream” where we live. You may click here to go to some prompts for younger writers.

  1. Who do you really, really detest? Why, and what might you do about it someday.
  2. Think up your own version of The Great Train Robbery and write down the plan. Then build a novel around the heist. Sure, heist stories have been written before. Hell, after Shakespeare put his quill down, as they say, it was all written. But with strong characterization, complex plot twists, and taut suspense throughout, you just might write something good. I detest people who pigeonhole genre fiction because the best of everything written could be placed in a genre, and then so what?
  3. What part of your brother-in-law would you fix if you could? Would you fix him and then maybe do the same favor for your immediate friends? How about your partner’s flaws? Would you fix them as well if you could? How far would it all go?
  4. Since we are living 7 billion to a planet made for 3 billion, how will we solve the overpopulation problem, the elephant in the room that one no one wants to talk about? To what lengths do you believe people will go to curb the birth rate?
  5. Have you ever cheated on your partner? Describe what would happen if you were discovered.
  6. Invent a character with a secret, make it a horrible secret, and then write about how far you would go if it were your secret to protect.
  7. Imagine that you awoke tomorrow morning in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, or Libya, and you are the appropriate ethnicity for the country you choose, and you can speak the language. However, you have no money, you are ignorant of even the simplest customs, and you are very old and very infirm, so much that walking out of where you are is impossible. Find a way back.
  8. You went out in the woods with some friends to camp and your buzz on, and whilst you were wasted, one of your party went missing. You all search but no matter what you do, you can’t get a phone signal, and you can’t find the missing guy. When you return to camp, your camp gear is gone, and the spot looks untouched. What happens next?
  9. The love of your life loves someone else. Your love will forever be unrequited. An opportunity comes up for you to buy the house next door to your unrequited love and his or her partner. What do you do, and how does it all shake out? Is it more painful never to see the love, or is it more painful to be apart?
  10. You have just hit and killed a person walking alongside the roadway in the dark. You are a little buzzed. You stop and learn your victim is dead. You tell yourself that it was his fault for being on the road, and you drive away. Early the next morning, the sheriff is at your door because the walker’s phone recorded everything, including your face and part of your license tag. What happens next?
  11. You are living in your car in a major city. You have a job, but you can’t get a place to live until you get a paycheck. There is a perverse rich man who patrols the areas where homeless people can park their cars to sleep in them without drawing attention from the police, and he finds people like you who don’t know how to be homeless, who have just had a setback this one time, and he tempts them because they are economically helpless maybe for the first time and vulnerable in a way they may never be again. What are you willing to do for this man to get a safe place of your own to live and shower in? What do you think this man could compel others to do in exchange for getting off the street?
  12. You are a talented professional dancer in the prime of your career. Yesterday, you were in a wreck and your legs had to be amputated. Your drunken partner was driving. You thought your partner was sober. What will you do next?
  13. My Cherokee grandfather told a story about two wolves. These two wolves live within us all. One wolf is angry, hungry, snarling, and quick to fight. The other wolf is calm, a reliable part of the pact in hunts, satisfied with the pieces of meat he gets, and quick to mend riffs in the pack. These wolves struggle against each other inside of us. When asked which wolf wins the struggle, Grandfather said, “The one you feed.” Write a beautiful poem or story about that struggle.

As always, thank you for reading, and use these prompts in any way you like, by Ricardo Verde.  

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Creative Writing Exercises for Advanced Writers

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Creative Writing Exercises

by Gwyni L’Pouh Green

Beloved Fellow Writing Fanatics:

The following really difficult writing situations are designed to get you thinking about how to apply the salient plethora of writing tools and strategies you have to various pretend real life writing scenarios. I made the situations sticky, tricky, awkward and hard on purpose. To be effective writers, you must be able to select and apply your writing skills arsenal in ever changing new ways or the skills will be of little use to you. I encourage you to think way outside the box on these writing and thinking assignments. Take risks.

Writing Prompts

  1. (Thinking about audience/tone)  You have been caught streaking through the Tiger Fountain in the middle of campus during Homecoming Week. Photographs of you in the act of streaking have been published in the campus newspaper. Without question, you are guilty. You did it. Now, working within these assignment parameters, compose a letter explaining your actions to one of the following persons or groups: 1. your pastor; 2. your parents; 3. the president of ECU; 4. your buddies. Then, make this letter a flashback to college where your protagonist met his or her friend who changed everything.
  2. (Thinking about persuasion)  You are a firm believer in extraterrestrial life forms having visited and taken up residence here on Earth. You want to persuade the National Science Foundation that you are correct in your belief, that you are not insane, and that the Foundation should fund your research. Your research is aimed at contacting and exchanging information with aliens. Write a persuasive essay that contains at least three well developed arguments in favor of your contention, one demonstrating pathos, one demonstrating ethos, and one demonstrating logos arguments (if you want to, of course). Note that this has more or less been done since we do have SETI and a continual greeting broadcast from our planet. This prompt was intended as an introduction to a science fiction novel, or a contemporary story about being sane in insane places, the power of belief, the power of staunch disbelief, but it could go anywhere your imagination takes it.
  3. (Thinking more about persuasion)  You are an unfortunate victim of neurofibromatosis, the Elephant Man’s disease.  You are lucky because only your face and hands are covered with 100’s of small, marble-sized tumors, which are harmless and not contagious. Other than the superficial disfigurement of your face and hands, you suffer neither discomfort nor disability. However, your most cherished dream is to work as an advocate for a small, remotely located Native tribe called the No-Uglies. You need the tribe’s invitation to relocate to the Amazon Basin where they live. Your degree is in anthropology, and you know more about the No-Uglies than anyone alive. You absolutely love them, and although you have never met any of them in person, the No-Uglies have your heart already. The No-Uglies are a simple and charming people whom, you realize, need your help because their ancestral home, previously remote enough to protect them from exploitation by others, is about to become adjacent to a superhighway. The first obstacle you must overcome is to persuade the No Uglies to hire you in spite of the fact that the No-Uglies believe character weakness and/or demons cause illness and disease and that these same demons or flaws can jump out of one person and into another, spreading flaws and disease throughout the entire tribe. How can they trust you in light of your obvious physical condition?  How can they admit you into their living quarters? The second obstacle is that the No-Uglies value beauty and physical perfection above all else and consider physical imperfections extremely unlucky. Thus, not only are you a Typhoid Mary to them, you are also every unlucky omen combined and multiplied by 100.  Now, write a persuasive letter of application to the No-Uglies explaining why they should set aside their beliefs and hire you as their advocate and let you live among them. Go anywhere this one takes you! Although it is circa 2006, it reads fresh and resonant today.
  4. (Thinking about tone/style) You must write a condolence letter to the parents of your best friend whom you accidentally killed in a car accident while you were driving drunk last weekend. Humor won’t work here at all, so don’t use it. Try to puzzle out a unique approach, but if you fail to do so, then write in a serious, heartfelt style that convinces me you are sorry and realize the gravity of what you have done. Only you know that you were drunk as you were not ticketed, so you may decide for yourself how much you are going to tell these parents, whom you have known all of your life. What if the story started there. . . .
  5. (Thinking about persuasion) You must write to the Dean of Forgiveness for failing to carry a 2.0 grade point average for three semesters in a row. Be creative here and try to come up with solid reasons for all of the failing semesters and for your overall uninspiring performance.  Use tone and style appropriate for addressing a Dean who controls your fate at college. Opportunities for irony abound.
  6. (Obsessively thinking about persuasion) You must write a letter either to a charitable foundation that funds sex change operations or to the Head of the Bureau of Federal Prisons because you urgently need a sex change operation or you will surely die within 6 months for reasons unknown and unchangeable but certainly accurate.  However, you have two large obstacles preventing you from obtaining your surgery: First you are imprisoned for importing exotic animals into the US; and second you are blind in one eye and can’t see well out of the other so written communication is especially hard and slow for you. You need others on your side to win your sex change. The Chaplain has said he believes you need the operation while the Warden has said you are just a mental case. The prison doctor is also blind in one eye and nearly deaf, so you don’t know if she has recommended that you receive your surgery or not. Written long before Chelsey Manning was even out of grade school, this prompt doesn’t seem to age, either.
  7. (manipulation of facts) You must write a Dear Terry (formerly a Dear John Letter) to your fiancé, who is serving min Iraq. Your only reason for breaking up with him or her is that you have been caught seeing his/her sister, and so you know you will be informed on soon anyway. You started cheating even before your fiancé went away for his/her tour of duty.  In fact, you were never faithful. You are not a nice or good person, but you are a person who cares what others think of you, so you must find a way to justify your behavior in the letter while at the same time breaking up and making the break-up seem to be your fiancé’s fault. Wouldn’t this make for a rip-snorting romance novel just rife with spins?
  8. You must write a letter to John Deere explaining why you think they should replace a very expensive tractor you bought from them. Your brother got drunk and drove the tractor into the pond after which it wouldn’t run like a deere anymore. You have no money to repair or replace it. You also honestly believe it is the company’s fault because tractors should be designed for such use and you explain why. Perhaps, in the spirit of Eudora Welty, a writer could use this prompt as a point of departure for a family-centered novel.

End Note: JFYI I originally wrote these prompts for my college students to get them to both stretch their rhetorical legs and to painlessly instill a sense of consciousness about their own writing in them. I was trying for that sweet spot in teaching where you have pushed and peeled just enough to show them what they already know without leaving raw spots of resentment on them. I wrote just the first three or so and took the exercise into the classroom where it was so well-received and effective that I wrote a few more and made them a standard component of my composition sections. Later, I found that they work for all types of writers. I write all of this by way of an apology for the bossy, directive tone.

Narrative Writing Guide

<span style=”color: #000000;”>Narrative Writing

By Gwyn E. d’Pouh Green

Are you in the mood to kill your brother-in-law but he is a big, mean, SOB and you aren’t sure you can? Are short on bond money? Can’t run very fast anymore? Then narrative writing might be just what you need. Why not write a narrative about killing your bro? Change up the names and all that. You can even slow narrate the gory parts if you want to and it makes you feel better. In fact, you can do anything you can imagine in narrative writing. Once your brother—in-law is written out of the picture, you can massacre your whole family if they need it but only in your imagination of course! Simply put, narrative writing is writing that tells a story, and it is up to the writer to decide what that story will be.

There are several types of narrative writing that you might use to tell your story: historical, biographical, and personal narrative, which is divided into the nonexpository personal narrative and the expository personal narrative. Factual narratives tell what actually happened while fictional narratives tell what the writer imagined happened. Examples of factual narrative are news stories (some of them anyway) and articles in magazines and professional journals. Examples of fictional narratives range from simple fairy tales told to children at bedtime all the way to the alibi you gave your partner for being out late last weekend, and are often just as fantastic. Read ahead and learn which narrative type will best convey the mayhem and savagery of your own story.

Historical narrative, then relates past events and treats them as objectively as possible, maintaining a sense of distance through use of tone and telling the story of these events with exact, accurate historical detail.

An example of historical narrative from follows.

“The Matterhorn, located on the Swiss-Italian border, is one of the world’s most famous mountains. However, its history, as far as mountain climbing is concerned, is fairly recent and fairly brief.”

Andre Ernst

The biographical narrative is of course a story about a person’s life. Stories told in this form usually focus on three things: 1. when something happened to the subject of the narrative; 2. where the subject was when the event occurred; and 3. why the event was important to the subject’s life.

This sample of biographical narrative is written by Richard H, Leggett about Joe Louis:

“Joe Louis, one of America’s most famous boxers, was born Joseph Louis Barrow on May 13, 1914 near Lafayette, Alabama. In 1921, he and his family moved to Detroit, Michigan. In 1933 and 1934, Louis entered the National A. A. U. boxing tournaments; he won the light-heavyweight title in 1934.”

The personal, or autobiographical, narrative has two general types, expository and nonexpository. Note that dialog, with its powerful ability to characterize and evoke place and time, is a useful tool in narration, adding interest and urgency to the story. If you have an “ear” for dialog, then use it, including such speech tags and vernacular as you can recall. The nonexpository personal narrative tells a story’s events in a linear fashion, but still needs a controlling idea to bind it together.

An example of nonexpository personal narrative taken from the larger work “Bells in the Night” by George Allen Simpson.

“A telephone ringing at about 3:00am has become such a thing with me over the years that I have developed an unconscious ritual in answering Ma Bell’s constant reminder of the joys of technological convenience. I am usually conscious after the first ring. My first thought is always that maybe my wife will answer the thing and break a twenty-year habit of sleeping though everything from two tornadoes to a small-scale war.”

This following example of expository narrative highlights the differences between it and the nonexpository personal narrative. The expository narrative tells not only what happened as the nonexpository narrative does, but the expository narrative also sets out an idea to be developed. Now, typically, idea development is best accomplished with a more formal writing type such as by example or by illustration. However, since the idea is personal and may be developed by informal or general points, the expository personal narrative form is appropriate.

This passage written by Jerry Winger called “the Mountain Climber” is a good example of this sort of personal narrative that tells a story and develops an idea:

“In the face of reality, dreams often change. One of my oldest dreams was to climb a mountain and to experience firsthand what goes through a person’s mind after he ‘conquers’ a mountain. One bright sunshiny morning, many months ago, I arranged to go mountain climbing with two of my friends. Envisioning myself on top of Mt. Everest, yodeling into the crisp wind, I never had a twinge of fear.”

Mind that you choose the right type of narrative to fit your story. Your idea are precious and unique. Rhetorical is simply a vehicle for your thoughts. Whatever the manner in which you choose tell your story, no matter what your story is, no matter who your story incriminates or may upset, tell it. Writing is the most power occupation of human beings.

Since narrative writing tells a story, it needs a lot of action, and it thrives on verbs, so use as many as you like. Topics for narrative writing vary widely since nearly any good story is a narrative. When brainstorming to come up with topics, try for topics that are vivid in your mind. If you recall an event vividly, you have a better chance at retelling it well.

For your edification, here are a few narrative writing prompts to get your narrative started.

  1. My brother-in-law had to die because. . .
  2. I learned that the saying that goes, “A friend will help you, but a real friend will help you hide the bodies” is true when. . .
  3. One time this guy told me that my car wouldn’t go over 85mph, and boy oh boy, was he ever. . .
  4. When Conestoga wagons full of settlers were rolling across the Kansas tallgrass prairie. . .
  5. I will never forget the night when I . . .
  6. The moment in life that I will never forget was when. . .
  7. My most famous last words were. . .
  8. My husband/wife/partner has this crazy idea that. . .and it got us in big trouble when. . .
  9. I have this uncle who. . .
  10. My friend took me to see. . .
  11. I didn’t know it was illegal at the time, but. . .
  12. My mother always told me. . .
  13. I knew there were risks, but I . . .