Facing a blank page? If you’re struggling to get started on a project, need a break or find yourself bashing against writer’s block, these prompts will help kickstart your creativity.
This is part of our Early Career Writers’ Resources pack Beginnings, made possible by Arts Council England. Discover more here →
Blank pages, staring right back at us. The words refuse to present themselves. It happens to all of us. Sometimes, all you need is a little push. Or a prompt.
Try one or two of these per day and see where they take you. Think of them as being warm up exercises for your brain.
1 – “You are at the beach and find unfamiliar tracks in the sand. Follow the tracks.”
What might have made these tracks? A mysterious stranger? An alien creature? Or maybe it’s something less malevolent, the tracks of a column of new-born turtles, perhaps? Take time to familiarise yourself with the beach as you follow the path. You may not even want to get to where the tracks end.
2 – “The birds didn’t go south for the winter…”
It’s a question that you don’t necessarily have to answer. Are you thinking literally or metaphorically?
3 – “Two friends have a disagreement.”
Conflict forms the core of story: this prompt immediately creates a setup for an intriguing tale.
4 – “Begin a story by focusing on the setting. What is unique about this place?”
In some stories the setting is its own character, as vivid as the people.
5 – “The melody of the music box…”
Connecting with a reader through sensory experience is a fast way to gain their attention.
6 – “I probably shouldn’t be telling you this but…”
An fast route into almost any kind of story, hooking the reader with a mystery or big reveal.
7 – “Write an alternate ending to your favourite book.”
Good writers are also good readers, and it helps to engage with the writing of others to develop your own. Remixing a familiar work is a useful shortcut to experimenting with form and style.
8 – “There are sirens in the distance.”
The sound or the creature?
9 – “Invent a new language for your characters.”
Language speaks directly to the setting of a story. Don’t be surprised if this triggers a cascade of tangential ideas.
10 – “Out of the ashes rose…”
Writing prompts are intended to be short exercises: release yourself from your normal constraints and dive into unfamiliar genres.
11 – “Take three poems and merge them into a new poem.”
Start with three poems from the same poet, and if this goes well, challenge yourself further by merging the work of three different ones. This kind of remixing is fundamental to many musical forms; it can yield similarly fascinating results in literature.
12 – “She had a knack for getting to the bottom of things…”
What kind of things? What kind of person?
13 – “Write about the happiest day of your life.”
How can you share the emotions of that day with the reader? Do you want to give it a fictional spin? How does the day feel in the context of where you are in your life today?
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