Where do you find great writing prompts – or do you really need them?

Where do you find great writing prompts – or do you really need them?

by Virginia Williams

There are just flat times when you sit down to a computer screen and the screen isn’t the only thing to go blank. I really hate when that happens!

Writer’s Block – ugly words – but something that happens to most who would be authors.

 The recent 35-day Author Blog Challenge sponsored by this group ushered in a whole new Badge Virginiagoal for my personal blog. The major lesson to be gleaned from the exercise, I’m sure, was to get into the habit of writing. Not just novels or ebooks, but creating the habit of constantly looking for, and finding, the subject for that next article. Getting those words – and contact – out there.

Surfing the net can bring in a boat load of websites offering descriptions of writing prompts, lists of writing prompts, and how to use them. You have a wealth of your own writing prompts in living everyday from snatches of overheard conversation, headlines, signs, or even the cacophony of those birds I heard walking my dog a couple weeks ago.

One of the proffered prompt suggestions gleaned from a short meeting recently was the lyrics of a favorite song. We all have them – those words that have a special meaning for us. Easy enough to create a storyline of our own in our interpretation of the lyrics. Pinterest has a wealth in subjects, as do the photos on Flickr. Pick one.

I like the prompt, “She woke, shivering, in the dark of the night.” Ooh – where was she? Was she alone? Was it winter or high in the Rockies? Was it clear or rainy? Could she hear the thunder?

I really like the 5 writers’ prompts offered on The Write Practice, or the Writer’s Digest prompts. The prompt sites are endless. Probably my favorite one available for free download is The Authors Publish Compendium of Writing Prompts, by Emily Harstone. I particularly like the way she divided her prompts into separate categories.

  1. Quick, simple prompts
  2. Classic prompts
  3. For novelists
  4. For poets
  5. For creative non-fiction writers
  6. Focused on craft
  7. For groups

Ms. Harstone doesn’t offer a few prompts per classification but 147 pages of them, along with explanation on how they would best be used. These are prompts that can work for most writers, regardless of their genre.

I like the fact that they can be used for either a blog post, an article, or a novel. Obviously, there is a considerable difference between writing a blog post and creating a 70,000-word novel where the characters must be described so they move freely through your narrative as real flesh and blood.

Prompts are just as useful for a change of scene or plot twist. Many stories are built around a location, or a time in that location. A specific location creates numerous opportunities for bringing the story to life, fiction or non-fiction. (I really enjoy the descriptions of Hawaii in the Toby Neal books of her Lei Crime series. You can smell the fragrance of the flora in the salty air of the Pacific.)

Many of these ideas offer a perspective into an artful blend of fact and fiction. What historical novel doesn’t include some story-telling in the scene to flesh out the characters, either protagonist or antagonist.

Even better, perusing prompts often gives you additional ideas of your own – if you really need them.


Virginia WilliamsVirginia Williams inherited a steamer trunk full of her grandfather’s 90-year-old manuscripts, poems, short stories, and paintings. She is fulfilling a promise to publish his works. Look for Stanley McShane on Amazon.com and in your favorite eBook format, or contact Virginia directly: stanleymcshane@yahoo.com.

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