Writing Prompts and Challenges

These are some writing prompts and challenges that I have tried, done, invented, or learned over the years. For the challenges I learned in college and from others, I’ll give the proper credit.

Writing Prompts:

Here is a list of random writing prompts. 

Originals:

  • Write about a character who has a problem indulging themselves in something that has escalated a bit too far.
  • Write about a character who has just realized their dream or life goal will not come to past. Get into their emotions in depth.
  • A mechanic has just broken a car he’s been paid to fix. Does he fix his mistake, or cover it up and lie about it? What are the consequences of his actions?
  • An actor or actress has just been asked to play a role in a movie they aren’t comfortable with. What is this role? Why are they uncomfortable with it? Expand upon their backstory a little. What if this role/movie could earn them a lot of money? Would playing it be worth it?
  • A kid whose parents are divorced just walked outside to find a beloved pet dead. Write this scene.
  • They say love is the most powerful emotion of all. Write about a fantasy world where love is such a powerful magic, that it is now become forbidden magic. What is this society like?
  • In a post-apocalyptic earth, basic technology such as laptops, cell phones, iPods, Kindles, and even Google, has risen up and enslaved humankind. Write about a character living in this version of earth.
  • A character has just met an alternate version of themselves. The twist is that this alter-ego of them is evil – pure evil. A double twist is that the alter-ego thinks they are just as evil.

From Other Books:

These next three are from the book Write the Story:

  • Doctors off duty  (include the words goose, anatomy, Spanish, pitcher, topography, smoke, homeward, gritty, sailor, and salt in your story)
  • Living with chronic illness (include the words fever, weight, unpack, rollercoaster, surgeon, daffodil, Northern, patch, mossy, and tendril in your story)
  • Two best friends are Baristas (include the words coffee, molehill, insulation, sneakers, inspire, pencil, embroidery, justify, loveless, and pane in your story).

These next three are from the book Imaginative Writing by Janet Burroway:

  • The Greek and Roman method of comedy was to take an absurd idea and follow it very logically, very precisely, and straight-faced to its conclusion. If you have a good, really absurd idea, write a ten-minute comedy.
  • Take something you have written and rewrite it setting it in some altogether different space. If it took place in private, set it in public. If in the past, set it in the future. If on a playground, set it in a cemetery, and so forth. Does this displacement offer possibilities for enriching the piece?
  • A family is being evicted from their home and they have a couch, a stuffed dog, a fan, two trashbags full of items, a fuzzy chair, and a stool sitting in their yard. Who are they? How many are they Give them names. Whose is the stuffed dog? Why are they being turned out? Who do they blame? Where will they go? What awaits them there?

Voice Exercises

Developing voices for your characters can be a difficult task, especially if you have a lot of them. What are some exercises that you can do to make them each sound unique? Here’s a few that I did and learned in college:

Original Prompts (ones I invented):

1) Make up a sentence. It could be anything. “I love purple popcorn.” “The soldiers are coming.” “We need to be ready.” Or better yet, come up with an entire monologue. Then rewrite it in each of your character(s) voices.

“Fifteen soldiers approach,” Akari said.

“Uh… guys? We’ve got trouble,” Lynia said.

“Woops, I forgot a few,” Mythix said.

“Fifteen Corrupted are on their way,” Jared said.

You see how they each have a different way of saying things?

2) Along those same lines, take a picture of anything. A dog. A house. A medieval castle or fort. A fantasy landscape. Then describe it in each of your character(s) voices. Here is an example.

Original scene: A fort sits on a hill. Walls are 30 feet high. Front gate is made of steel. 3 guards patrol the south, east, west, and north walls. Each corner has a tower. At the front gates, 4 men guard it – 2 inside and 2 outside. The fort is surrounded by a moat filled with alligators.

Akari’s description: The walls of the fort stretched to the sky, sitting atop a beautiful hill, one of many that rolled across the countryside. Three men patrolled the front of the walls on top of the gate, where three guards stood inside and outside it. What was peculiar to Akari was that there was only one gate; quite different from the winding mazes and multiple gates back on her homeworld.

Jared’s description: Jared stretched out with his senses. Altogether, there were twelve guards pacing the walls on the long sides of the fort. Four guarded the single gate. In each of the towers at the four corners of the fort, Jared could sense dozens of more men inside. Many of them were focused on trivial things; one wanted better meals, while another hated being posted here. The Commander’s thoughts easily reached his mind and were focused entirely on his troop movements – far to the east.

These are the only two I’ll do, but you can see a good example here. Akari and Jared are both warriors who are technical, but they’re very different. Akari tends to elaborate on the beauty of a scene as well as the technical details of the layout and the men she notices. She makes comparisons to her homeland, which brings fourth her personal character, history, and past.

Jared, on the other hand, is blind, with powers to sense things around him. He uses that to find the basic layout, but he couldn’t tell that the gate was any different than the fort. He knew more details of how many men were inside, and was able to sense their thoughts due to his powers. It gave the two character’s voices differences. Even with just speaking and not focusing on their powers/extras, Akari speaks very formally, whereas Jared isn’t as formal as she is, but he also isn’t as informal as someone else might be, like Lynia.

3) Take a scene from another book that you really love. It can be anything from any book. Even just a paragraph. Then rewrite it from your own character(s)’ perspectives to fit into your world. How would your character see that if they were there? Remember about copyright; this is just for fun, not for you to steal other ideas.

4) Imagine that you’ve just woken up inside your own story. Write yourself getting to meet your own characters. For now, focus only on how you talk and act, versus how they talk and act. Use this as a chance to learn their character voices.

From College:

1) Take a passage from your book and rewrite it in the voice of Oscar Wilde, Pocahontas, Miss Manners, Donald Trump, Donald Duck, Hannah Montana, Jack Sparrow, or the Godfather. Does the idea compliment or complicate your ideas for the passage? Try reading out loud to a group of other writers, readers, or friends, and see if they can guess the different voices. – From the book Imaginative Writing by Janet Burroway. Feel free to add your own celebrities and famous voices!

2) Write a scene where your characters reveal themselves and their voices with the use of a prop/object – From the book Imaginative Writing by Janet Burroway.

3) Write a short story from the point of view of an object and change the voice to match what the object would know about. For example, a shoe would have extensive knowledge and opinions about flooring, but know very little about the human head or the sky. – From the book Imaginative Writing by Janet Burroway.

4) Pick an incident from your life. Rewrite it in the language of either a cowboy or a cop. For another try, write it in the voice of either a cultivated collector of books or a preacher.