Give a writer a prompt and some time and you’ll be amazed

Lisa Jackson Haselton writerWriters and prompts, prompts and writers. This is a fun post, but let’s get a few definitions out of the way first.

Writer – individual who finds that getting words onto a page or screen is as satisfying as each new breath she breathes

Prompt – photo, word, sketch, phrase, color, idea, letter, last sentence, opening sentence, toy, piece of jewelry, location, and so on

Time limit – necessity if you want the writer to stop and take a breath

Give a writer a prompt and a time limit and she’ll create something from thin air. It could be a poem, a short story, a character sketch, or, who knows! There are so many options once a writer starts working. Some writers will stay within their favorite genre regardless of the type of prompt given, others will free write to see what comes along, and many fall in between.

Give a group of writers a prompt and a time limit and you’ll receive a variety of written creativity that will do no less than impress you. For instance, a group of 7 writers of varying ages, writing experiences, writing interests, moods, and a mix of men and women who each have their own unique life experiences, can be given the prompt “blue” and 25 minutes to write. For one writer, ‘blue’ could bring about a sad story, for another, the word could conjure up a new world (Smurfs, anyone? but I digress), another writer may craft a poem describing various ‘blue’ thoughts or things.

Give a mystery writer the ‘blue’ prompt and you’ll probably get a story where a key element is blue blood, blue ink, a blue footprint, blue eyes, blue nail polish, a bluebird tattoo, a rare painting, a blue candle, blueberries, blue chalk, any number of things that you probably wouldn’t relate to blue initially.

Writing prompts are great for keeping your muse’s fancy tickled, getting unstuck with a current WIP, playing with your characters, and having a good time with other writers gathered around a table. There are books of writing prompts and Internet searches give back numerous results. My personal favorite is a photo prompt. I love seeing an unfamiliar photo (especially black-and-white) and crafting a story from the image. Sometimes the story comes from the sense of place in the photo, other times it can be from a person’s look or style of dress. I may even craft a story around some object in the photo, it’s really all dependent on what leaps out at that moment – what attracts the muse the most.

If you’ve never tried a writing prompt, I’d love to know! If you have a favorite type, or one in particular that kick-started a memorable piece for you, I’d love to hear about that too.


About Lisa Haselton

Lisa Haselton has had several short mystery stories published and has a couple of novels in various stages of completion. She always enjoys learning new tidbits about other writers, and takes great pride as an editor when working with writers on polishing their manuscripts. She's living a life around her passions for writing, photography, volunteering, and anything related to New England, particularly New Hampshire.
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2 Responses to Give a writer a prompt and some time and you’ll be amazed

  1. A great post, Lisa – and a good reminder about time limits! My favorite prompts are ones around life in Vermont (my passion, my place), including weather. These exercises help me remember to include five (or six!) senses in my longer stuff, too. I love your example with “blue”!

  2. Lisa Jackson says:

    Thanks, Beth. “Blue” just came to me for some reason, but it worked, so I went with it!

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