In order to overcome a recent bout of writer’s block, I sat down and brainstormed some weird ways to get my creative juices flowing again. I’d heard of some of them before, although I’d never tried them, and some I made up altogether.
While they ended up being unexpected and downright weird, these seven writing prompts—and my answers to them—were actually effective in getting my mind moving along creative paths again.
These are the ones that worked for me.
- If you had to wear a warning label, what would yours say?
I must have written dozens of these, but this is the one I liked the best:
- Write a scene that starts with the line, “I loved the way the sunshine trickled down her lips.”
I’m not sure where in my head this line came from, but it really sparked my interest, so I decided to roll with it:
I loved the way the sunshine trickled down her lips.
She’d removed the tiny box from her purse and placed it on the table between us, then spread her napkin across her lap with care. She was graceful, her movements precise but unhurried.
I wanted her.
Her delicate hands, tipped with saffron nails, opened the box. Sunlight spilled across her face, and she looked angelic in that bright light. She scooped the small yellow orb out of the box, I felt a wave of heat wash over my face as the sun emerged over the horizon of the lid.
I put my sunglasses on, but still had to squint.
She lifted the sun to her delicate nose, closed her eyes, and sniffed, relishing whatever it was she smelled in its tiny flames and dark red sunspots. I glimpsed her star-white teeth as they sank into the fiery flesh. The look on her face came damn close to ecstasy as liquid flames dripped down her chin, sizzling on the table top.
She was a woman of appetites.
Note: There’s no reason why you can’t come up with your own weird line to see where it takes you.
Hundreds of donkeys were crowding out traffic on Main Street . . .
The farmer’s dog was the only witness to the murder, but he wasn’t talking . . .
Smith’s last name was also Smith, and if there’s one thing I know about guys named Smith Smith, it’s . . .
- Describe this picture (or any picture) without using the most obvious words. For instance, the “illegal” words in this picture might be: pig, pink, snow, tree, and railing.
Here’s my crack at this one:
Oinker is outside eating winter’s poop again. The white flaky stuff that falls from the sky between November and March looks pretty for a while, but it gets dirty fast, and so to me, it’s winter’s poop.
One of my kids must have left Oinker outside on the deck after sledding yesterday, when they were pushing that damn toy’s face into the frosted blanket enshrouding the world and making it squeal, pretending it was eating. It never stops eating, and it makes a damn racket. All day long, it’s “Oink! Oink! Oink!”
If it were alive, Oinker would become Bacon. This thought beckons a murderous realization: I’m alone. I can push Oinker over the edge.
A two-story fall into the Great White Fluff, where Oinker will be smothered at least until spring. Quiet, blessed quiet, would come to my house, and all would be right with the world once again.
There’s no one around witness my betrayal, and I reach for the handle of the sliding glass door.
“Dada, I weft Oinky ow-side,” my toddler whines from right behind me.
“Holy Christ!” I shout, jumping about a mile.
My kid looks up at me with genuine puzzlement. “Dada, why you so scare?”
- You awaken to find a magic pen resting on your nightstand. Anything you write with it will forever etch your name into the annals of history as a writer to be revered . . . however, there’s only enough ink in it for nine words. What do you write?
To those who read this, know that I wrote.
- A natural disaster is about to strike, and you have fifteen minutes to prepare. What kind of natural disaster is it, and what do you do?
A comet is about to strike the earth, and assuming it’s not going to land right on top of me and I survive the hell that’s sure to follow, my best course of action is to hunker down at my house, because I’ll have no time to get to any place else.
First, since there’s a bathroom off my bedroom, I start filling the bathtub so that I have a supply of about one hundred gallons of water once the flow is inevitably interrupted by impending devastation.
While that’s filling, I toss as much food and water as I can into a trash bag, grab a bucket from the closet, and hurl it all into my bedroom. I’ll eat the perishable food first, the non-perishable stuff last, and the bucket will be my toilet when the water stops flowing.
Maybe you can already sense how awesome this experience is going to be.
I pile in as many blankets and as much warm clothing as I can, since all that ash and dirt is going to block out the sun for months and make temperatures plummet. I use some of the blankets to stuff the cracks between the windows and doors, and hopefully filter out the toxic air that’s sure to descend upon my little part of New England.
With just seconds to spare, I grab that magic pen from #5 and scribble my nine timeless words on the wall.
- Pick a random or obscure word out of the dictionary, and begin a story with it.
My word was “xanthous.”
Xanthous was the sun, and silver was the moon, golden beams and silver streams intertwining in a deadly, celestial dance.
- An extra room suddenly appears in your home. What do you do with it, and/or what’s inside of it?
Well, since my closets are still a mess, I could do a lot with an extra room. After all, a few years ago my wife and I sold our condo on a Friday, bought our house the following Monday, started moving in on Tuesday, and then had our second child on Wednesday.
Needless to say, stuff got shoved into random places and there it’s stayed to this very day.
The pragmatist in me says to use this new room as a staging area to organize all that stuff, so that I can finally pack it up the way it ought to be.
But the writer in me says, “BOOOORING!”
It looks like an ordinary room perfectly suited for my little house, with pine board floors and cream paint on the walls, a simple light fixture of frosted glass fastened to the ceiling, and a single window with cheap horizontal blinds (also cream) resting in the opposite wall.
But I know it’s really an anomaly of folded space-time, a pustulant growth caused by the friction between two universes rubbing together, almost like the earth’s tectonic plates . . . and earth—I mean, worldquakes are sure to follow.
I can hear things through the window, curious scraping and whispered chittering, like something insectile is trying to look into our side. My cat, Streak, is cringing in the doorway, his ears flat, yellow eyes wide with alarm. Every wisp of fur on his body is puffed up.
Is all that separates one world from another plastic and glass? Is reality so flimsy, so porous?
My heart pounding, I take a step toward the window, and then another and another, until my hand reaches for the drawstring.
I pause, unsure if I should really look.
“Better get out of the way, Streak. Rumor has it curiosity killed you.”
His survival instincts are more ancient than my mine, more honed; he’s already fled into some overlooked shadow of my house.
I lift the shade and see . . .
So, I guess that’s a wrap! I hope my offbeat writing prompts have started to transform your writer’s block into writer’s pebbles.
Please feel free to leave your comments below, respond with your own writing prompts, or answer the ones above. I look forward to learning what you put in that extra room, or how you prepare for a natural disaster, or what your nine special words are . . .