Writing Prompts: Exercising the Writing Muscle

Writing prompts are a wonderful resource for exercising a writer’s skills. A prompt might add a new dimension to a work in progress, or create a new idea that the writer can explore later. I like to use writing prompts for the days I don’t necessarily feel like writing, or if I start writing again after a long break. The prompts help give me momentum for my own creative projects.

Most of the time, I try to fit a prompt to a character, idea, or plot that I’ve already begun. Sometimes several prompts will start to fit together and become a cohesive story idea. This way, I’m slowly writing dozens of stories at once, just very slowly. However, sometimes the prompt sparks its own idea. Later I may combine these ideas into a single story, or separate out the elements to distribute among other ideas. 

I have a slim notebook filled with short writing prompts, each of them numbered. Using a random number generator app on my phone, I pick a writing prompt for that day. Some prompts initiate a longer response than others, but on average they end up between 400 and 600 words.

Pictures can act as prompts as well. Pinterest, DeviantArt, and other websites hold a wealth of information in images. Beware the internet’s power of distraction! Making a dedicated board on Pinterest or saving a set of images to use for writing, even cutting out images from magazines, can act as an alternative to word-based writing prompts. If you take the journal approach like I did, images can be mixed and taped in alongside other prompts.

Picture prompts were my first introduction to doing writing exercises with another writer. My friend and I would take turns exchanging images, and both of us would write a story to go with the picture. This could easily be done with word prompts as well. Sharing your work, even if it’s just with another writer, can be beneficial.

Below I’ve shared a couple of my favorite writing prompts, both word-based and image-based. Feel free to use them to inspire your next writing session, and share your favorite writing prompt in the comments below!

  1. A professional secret-keeper
  2. “_____ doesn’t exist anymore.”
  3. Unexpected mail
  4. “Good things take time. Great things move quickly.”
  5. “Peddler of lies!”
  6. The immortal history professor
  7. Intergalactic Olympics
  8. Falling down the staircase
  9. There was a sword in the ceiling.
  10. Always find the silver lining

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