Writing Prompts

If you could have a fashion line what would it look like? WordPress, bless its little heart, has started including the world’s most inane writing prompts on the screen that come up after you publish a post. What is your favorite color and why?

I adore a good writing prompt. It’s hard to be brilliant, creative, and incisive all the time. (Trust me, I should know.) Sometimes you need an external nudge. You know you want to write a poem but you have nothing to say. You are stalled in your novel because you’re not exactly sure how to get your main character from the couch watching TV to fighting villains in a blue superhero cape.

But stop and think of how god-almighty-boring prompts can be. Write a poem about October. Write about a person you admire. Write a love letter to yourself. There is no way you can follow these prompts and not write boring, cliche dreck. And if they are not banal, they are overly specific. Write a poem in terza rima about how you felt in the third grade about boys, do not use the word “I.”

So, in honor of good writing everywhere, I’d like to suggest some prompts and prompt sites. My favorite poetry prompts are here. This site is uneven, but has some potential, especially for writers of prose. The other thing I like to do is take a godawful prompt and make it better. Write about October but do not mention the weather or Halloween. Write about the flaws in someone you admire.

Another great exercise, from the Practice of Poetry, is to ruin a line in a famous poem in as few steps as possible. “The proper study of mankind is Man” becomes “The proper study of Mankind is, man” or “Whose woods these are I think I know” becomes “I think I know who owns these woods.” I’m sure you could ruin first sentences of great novels this way as well.

What are your favorite external nudges?

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