Exercises, writing

Getting the Most Out Of a Prompt

Prompts are an incredibly useful resource for any writer or artist. Not only do they provide an idea to kick start the creative juices more effectively than coffee, they can have a different answer depending on how you’re looking at them and what sort of genre you feel like sliding them into.

For a sentence prompt like some of the long prompts posted here on the Written Vixen or scattered around Pinterest like confetti cannon leftovers, often it’s a case of looking at them and figuring how you can twist them to suit your genre. Try coming up with three sentences following the prompt, each one to make it fit a different genre. You might add in a question to help add an element of mystery, or a dramatic plot twist for a thriller.

In the case of dialogue prompts, try to think of three previous statements that might have prompted that particular response, and three statements responding to the prompt itself.

With one-word prompts, don’t forget that the definition can sometimes help you find inspiration. If a particular word just isn’t sparking anything, try looking up the definition, or even playing a word-association game and seeing what you come up with. Synonyms and antonyms might also be what you need to set off an idea.

Finally, picture prompts! That old saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ can frequently be true when trying to exercise your inspirational muscles. Look at facial expressions and body languages if any people are present as these can often tell us a lot about what’s going on in their thoughts. Background clues can also be vital, so don’t forget to look at the whole picture, instead of just the focal point. Ask yourself how this picture came to be–how did this building or landscaping feature get like this? How did this person end up there? How did these objects end up in their positions?

There are many different kinds of prompts out there, and sometimes it’s not necessary to try and break them down to get inspiration. Other times, looking at the idea behind them and asking ourselves how or why can give us more fuel to work with.


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