For Writers, Inspiration, nanowrimo, prompts

A Few Types of Writing Prompts

I absolutely love writing prompts. That’s why I use them in my classroom and have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to them. I have written a number of stories using prompts, but I’ve come to realize that not everyone likes them or uses them like I do.

Some of my students mentioned that they really disliked prompts because they felt like improvisation, on-the-fly type writing that didn’t resonate with them.

So, I wanted to start off by defining a few of the types of prompts with you. Next week, I’ll go over how to make prompts work for you and how, no matter whether you like them or not, you can use them to get your fingers typing or writing.

There are multiple types of prompts

One thing that people may not realize is that prompts come in a variety of shapes and forms. Here are just a few of the most popular types of writing prompts, many of which end up overlapping.

First Line

Just like the name indicates, these types of prompts give you the first line of your story. It is then up to you to interpret that and contextualize it into something larger. This can be really helpful for when you are staring at a blank page and feel stalled.

The ability to type/write something down that you didn’t have to stress about can be a great motivator to keep going. And, if you find the right one, it can be a great launching pad for a story that you love.

Premise

These types of prompts indicate a story’s overall premise or a specific situation that you place your characters in. Similar to the first line prompts, this can be a great starting point because you have some direction to get your creativity flowing.

Unlike the first line, though, this type of prompt allows you a little more flexibility since you aren’t tied to anything but a feeling, idea, or situation.

Found on Pinterest
Found on Pinterest

Picture Prompts

These are my favorite, which is how I get wrapped up in Pinterest bunny holes so often. A picture prompt can be anything, really, but there are some that are specifically staged and designed to help writers come up with stories.

While at first, picture prompts may seem restrictive, it can be really open-ended. It could be an “explain what happened” or even a “tell the story of” and many times, people instinctively place their POV as the person/object in the picture. However, it can be equally challenging and fun to imagine, setting up the photo, or seeing the events as a third-party bystander.

Found on Pinterest
Found on Pinterest

Dialogue

Dialogue prompts either give you a single line or possibly a short conversation between two or more characters. Most of these are fairly general and could relate to a number of characters and situations, but give just enough to get your brain started in a specific direction.

I sometimes find it hard to make the dialogue fit the character that I have in mind, but other times, it is that specific dialogue that gives birth to the character that develops onto the page.

Random

These types of prompts ask you to pair random things and create stories out of them. For example, maybe it is a “select three objects from this list and create a story using all of them.” Other times, it might be a genre, and some objects. And then at other times, these types of prompts are just a single word: an emotion, an object, an exclamation, etc. Another really fun one is also to just get a titled created for you and then have to write the story to go with it.

These are a lot of fun because they remove a lot of the choice for you and just allow you to create situations and scenes that you may never have even imagined.

Where to find prompts

1. Google (especially photos)

2. Pinterest (oh, how I love/hate you)

3. Story generators (here are a few: 1, 2, 3)

4. Title generators (here are a few: 1, 2, 3)

Stay tuned for next week’s post on how to make writing prompts work for you!

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