Feeling uninspired when you want to get stuck into a new project is fairly fecken demoralising. Some people eschew writing prompts, but like everything, there are the good, the bad and the ugly.
There are many online/appy resources offering writing prompts, but my pet peeves are the auto-generated ones or the ones that consist of a single word. The entire point of a prompt is that it moves you in some way. A machine generating groups of unrelated words and spewing them out, or a person opening a dictionary, closing their eyes and picking a random word with their finger isn’t going to cut the mustard.
The best prompts are generated by human beings who have actually put some thought into the exercise. Human beings can find something intriguing in the composition of a sentence, or the appearance of an object, or a picture. AI is yet to develop that gift. And so auto-generated/ lazy-human generated prompts are going to be the less effective ones.
I know, I know, I know. Some nutters like silly prompts because they like to write for fun. Not me. I like my writing like I like my coffee: potent, dark and utilitarian. No. I don’t want to write a story about a psychic ballerina whose arch-nemesis is a three-legged unicorn that works in Starbucks. No sirree. You might disagree with me on this, and if so you’re welcome to leave your comments below. Maybe you found a market for your romance novel about the lion-tamer that falls in love with the ghost of a near-sighted juggler until he receives a mysterious invitation to herd alpacas in Peru. I’d love to hear that silly prompts led to something good and publishable.
In terms of the benefits of using good prompts, when I first started writing this blog, I made it clear that I claim no expertise on anything but my own experiences. I find prompts great when I’m letting the novel rest and I want to work on other things. The idea of working on other things is great, but sometimes I can’t summon even the tiniest germ of an idea for a new project.
Thanks to the use of writing prompts I have the makings of five good short stories, two plays and a novel. I might go back to them after I’ve finished my novel, or I might not. ‘How can you afford to be so casual in your disposal of good ideas?’ you ask. Well, a happy side-effect of my success with writing prompts is that I’m confident that there’s no limit to the number of stories I can summon up from my imagination. If nothing comes naturally to me, I know that ideas can be lured out from their hidey-holes with the assistance of a writing prompt. There are loads of ideas knocking around up there, some of them are just a bit shyer than others.
Here are my favourite resources for fiction writing prompts. I’ve linked to them so that you can explore them at your leisure. As you’ve probably guessed the sites/ apps with silly/one-word prompts don’t feature.
There are about a thousand writing-prompt apps. Here are the best available on Android. Please recommend iPhone apps below:
- Writing Prompts Pro– I don’t usually promote apps that cost money, but this costs a bob. One piddling little bob. It’s worth it. It’s a good’un.
- Writing Prompts- Data Mixer
- Writing Prompts Short Stories- Invariant Labs
#WritingPrompt is a hashtag that will lead you to many wonderful things on Twitter. The prompts are generated by multiple people, so the quality varies. If you scroll through you’ll find a prompt that sparks something. I guarantee it.
Surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of great websites dedicated to prompts. Here are the best I’ve come across.
- Poets & Writers
- Think Written
- Creative Writing Prompts
- Gratis Graphy
- Think Written
- The Writer’s Digest
Tumblr has a load of really good member pages with great quality writing prompts. Check these out:
- Writer Prompts these are quite dark-leaning, which I like.
- I Dare You To Write
- Unblocking Writers Block
- The Writers Handbook
- Awesome Writing Prompts
These are the best accounts I’ve found on Instagram:
Pinterest is awash with great visual and written prompts. These are just some of the good boards I found after a quick scan.
- Mandy Corine Writing Prompts
- Fakerhead 47 Writing Prompts
- PS Literary Writing Prompts
- Explore Daily Writing Prompts
Most of the Facebook pages dedicated to prompts are, instead, a mix of inspirational quotes, memes, links to writing advice blog posts etc. I could only find one page dedicated solely to writing prompts, and it’s good: Writers Write
Some interesting things pop up when you type ‘writing prompt’ into Google, and click on images.