Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.
QUESTION: Prompts – you can find them everywhere … on websites, on blogs, and in books. Do love them or hate them? Do you use them to fight off writer’s block or spark creativity? Or not? If you do use them, do you have a favorite source?
Jamie Wallace: I haven’t used them formally, and I don’t use them routinely, but I do like the concept. I usually have enough odd bits and pieces of my own creation and observation floating around that I don’t need to look elsewhere for inspiration. I keep my collection of “snippets” – scenes, images, people, dialog, and so forth – handy and can pick and choose which ones to work from at any given time. Usually, my mind will come up with a series of snippets for a single story idea – little pieces of the puzzle that I can play with to start to get a feel for the setting or characters. Other times, I’ll just have a single, random something that sticks in my head. Those are the most fun because there are no strings attached – no expectations. That feels more like “play” than “working on something.” I suppose that’s the whole point of prompts, right – to just have fun with them?
Lisa J. Jackson: I use prompts to exercies my muse, not consistently, but when I do write to a prompt, 95% of the time I’m happy with what I come up with. As I mentioned in my post on Monday, I love photographs as prompts. Especially black and white photos. There’s just something appetizing about an image captured at some point in time that lends itself (for me) to crafting fiction.
Wendy Thomas: Not so big on prompts. I have used them with my kids to demonstrate how to think outside of the box (don’t tell me the typically story, tell me something that you wouldn’t expect.) I don’t use prompts as much as I use triggers (and I may be splitting hairs here.) I am constantly jotting down ideas that have been triggered by something that I’ve read, heard, or seen, but other than that, except as a very occasional exercise – you’ll not find me working too much with direct prompts.
Deborah Lee Luskin: When I’m really hung up, I have a couple of prompts that never fail: “I love – ” and “I remember – ” They usually have nothing whatsoever with what I’m trying to write, but they do get me started, which always helps.
Julie Hennrikus: I don’t use prompts. That said, if an idea strikes, I listen. That means I may jump to another scene in my manuscript that is inspired by the idea. Or I may mull over something, and write a blog post about it. But prompts themselves? Not outside a writing workshop. Or not yet.
Susan Nye: Except for one workshop, I’ve never worked with prompts. There is so much that interests me, so many stories that I want to tell, I haven’t found the time or felt the need for prompts. I lead a memoir writing group and never use prompts in my classes either. Instead, I let people explore and find the stories they want to tell.
9 thoughts on “Friday Fun – Prompts”
I think it can sometimes be harder to use prompts as they challenge you to write about something you didn’t instinctively want to write about, which I guess can be good as it pushes you out of your comfort zone.
Recently, I entered a writing competition which required ‘Let me tell you about my first love…’ to be used as the starting point for a 900 word piece of writing. I was really glad to have a prompt in this case as I haven’t written creative prose in 4 years and it was just the kick-start I needed. I liked writing it so much I decided I needed to get back into what I love doing and so decided to start up my own blog as a way to vent my writing!
I’m a “trigger” person like Wendy. One of my writing teachers suggests to go where you feel the energy. While I have looked over long lists of writing prompts on various websites, I rarely feel pulled to write about any of them. But I can almost always find something during my day that triggers a memory, a feeling, or a fun take on things–and that’s where I find the energy to get moving.
Love how you differentiate “prompts” from “triggers,” Wendy. I totally get that and agree – I’m much more apt to want to write when I’m triggered than when I’m prompted. 😉
When I’m searching for something new to add to my blog, I usually read back thru rough drafts of previous posts, I tend to be so distractable that I often go “wandering off” while writing. I’ve learned that isn’t all bad ! Usually if I run through the pages and glance over the “strike outs” I find that the time has arrived to take up a previously dumped “distraction.”
Recycling at its finest 🙂
Kassie aka “Mom”
For about a year I went through a stage where I used prompts. I think I did it because I had the mistaken impression it was something “professional” writers did. Sometimes I got interesting results but nothing extraordinary came out of that practice. I stopped using them after I realized it was a forced and inhibitive way to tap into my own creativity. I agree wholeheartedly that “triggers” are the best way to get a jump start. They’re everywhere! Formal prompts can be useful for lots of writers, just not for me; however, a really fantastic photograph can get my mind rolling!
I have seen prompts and before I fully got what they were about I thought that responses to a prompt would lead to a continuation of a story created from the initial prompt. Each writer building on the one before his. But I haven’t really seen that. This might be a more interesting use of prompts.
Is not a trigger prompting one?
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