Monday, August 1, 2011

Beat Those August Doldrums: Prompts for Fiction and Poetry

Last week, I wrote this post about what to do if you're in need of Composition ideas or if you're a stymied creative nonfiction/memoir writer.  I wrote this post earlier with more general suggestions, but Composition teachers could find ideas here too.

Here are some ideas for stuck poets and fiction writers.  And again, many of these prompts could lead to interesting Composition assignments.  You could always have them attempt the prompt, then write the classic Process/How To composition or a reaction to having to write in response to a prompt.  It seems like a  much safer approach than having students write about any emotion they want to write about.

And don't forget that one of the classic ways to refill our writing wells is by reading and by going to readings.  If you're in the South Florida area, join me and two of my poet friends at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale at 4 p.m. this Saturday, August 6.  We'll be reading from our new work; I still have hopes that my new chapbook might arrive in time, but since there's been a delay at the printers, it may not.  Ah, well, one of the first lessons they teach you in drama class:  the show must go on!


--Are you feeling stymied because the thought of coming up with characters/plot/theme are just too overwhelming? Go to the work of others, work where a lot of the heavy lifting has already been done. Write a sequel or a prequel. Choose one of the characters and make that character the focus of a new story. Write about the landscape in the story, landscape inhabited by a new set of characters.

So, here’s an example. Let’s take Cinderella’s house. Tell the story of the previous owners—how did Cinderella’s dad come to have it. Or tell the story of the people who inherit the house several generations later. Is it a training house for women who want to leave their careers as housecleaners? An orphanage? Or tell the story of Cinderella’s wedding gown in later years. Does her daughter wear it and dream of a prince to call her own? Did Cinderella turn it into a quilt?

You'll find more ideas along these lines here.

--Revise one of your old short stories. Take out 1000 words. Or add 2000. If nothing else, this exercise teaches you the value of each word and forces you to analyze it. But you may find it sparks new ideas too.

--Take a minor character from one of your old short stories and make that character the focus of a new story. Do this enough times and you might find you have linked short stories.

--Take a main character from one of your old short stories and write a story about that character twenty years later—or 50 years later. Or x amount of time earlier. Again, do this exercise enough times and you might find you have a collection of linked stories.


--The suggestions offered first in the fiction section can also lead to great poems.

--A variety of poetry prompts can be found at these blog posts:

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